Cutting through the red tape 

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I don't know about you, but I can be driven insane by red tape and the seemingly endless steps one has to go through to do everything from adjusting a bill, to something important like adjusting a will.

I recently wanted to change something around my cell service and the steps I had to go through with the online chat portal were never-ending, taking over an hour of my time, and then in the end, the email confirmation showed that the request I had made had been ignored and a secondary request was the only thing honoured.

It's a small thing, I know. But it reminded me of the red tape every one goes through, including our many small businesses in Whistler, and the frustration levels it can cause.

So I had to laugh out loud last week when the Canadian Federation of Independent Business' (CFIB) annual "Paperweight Awards" announcements popped into my email.

These awards honour the worst examples of red tape in Canada. And guess what, B.C. took the win for the province's B.C. Employer's Health Tax regulation.

The Employer Health Tax is especially burdensome to business owners because it forces them to pay quarterly instalments based on estimates of their payroll, not their actual payroll.

Local economic conditions, consumer demand and the labour market are all unpredictable factors beyond a business owner's control that can influence payroll costs. If a business is found to have underestimated their annual payroll, they have to pay the difference with interest.

"We can laugh at the absurdity, but these rules are a huge waste of time, money and energy for citizens and small business owners. Most of them also have a pretty clear fix, which we're suggesting to the governments and agencies responsible," said Jordi Morgan, CFIB's vice-president for Atlantic Canada, in the email release.

The federal government also got a call out for "Canada's Labour Market Impact Assessment requirement for businesses applying to the Temporary Foreign Worker program, including costly non-refundable fees, excessively long application forms and a six-to-nine month wait to receive a decision."

This is red tape Whistler can relate to as the business community here, with the Chamber leading the charge, has been trying to create change on this for years now.

And I love this one: British Columbia's Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure's "Community Benefits Agreement" got the nod for forcing employers and employees to comply with 336 pages of complex, inflexible union rules, which go as far as outlining what kind of meat and condiments are acceptable in sandwiches.

Other favourites of mine are:

• The Colleges of Physicians and Surgeons and provincial governments, for making it excessively difficult for doctors to move their licences between provinces or travel to provide urgently needed services in provinces experiencing shortages;

• Municipalities across Canada, for out-of-date, redundant, and slow business and residential permitting processes. For example, until recently, the permit process in Winnipeg only allowed booking electrical inspections by phone between 8:30 and 9:30 a.m.;

• Newfoundland and Labrador's Department of Finance, which requires any convenience store selling beer to only accept as many empties returned as bottles sold in the same transaction.

Please, governments at all levels, give your heads a shake.

We are only a few weeks away from one of my other favourite award lists—this one from the Canadian Taxpayers Federation (CTF). It hands out the Teddy Awards to call attention to projects that egregiously waste taxpayers' money.

Last year's list included the City of Vancouver for its "email a tree" initiative. The idea was part of a project meant to highlight local artists. The city posted signs with ID numbers and email addresses on about two dozen trees in the Jericho and Point Grey areas, inviting visitors to get in touch via email. The CTF said five artists were given $10,000 each to respond to those emails "within a week," acting as the trees.

I wonder if the federal government's Global Affairs Department will be named this year after it was revealed last summer that it had spent $127,000 on crystal glass and stemware since 2016?

Could Whistler be named for the $6.7-million Gateway Loop project, which saw $2.2 million spent on the roof alone?

Maybe the proposed $4.5 million public, pavilion-washroom plan will make the list, too? And before you point out that the money is coming from the Resort Municipality Initiative fund paid for by visitors, let's remember that 40 per cent of visitors are taxpayers from Canada and 28.5 per cent are B.C. taxpayers.

All taxpayers to every level of government expect accountability and reasonable decisions to be made about spending our hard-earned dollars.

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