Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Parry Sound—Muskoka for his insightful comments earlier on the importance of Bill C-21. I would also like to extend my gratitude to the House for allowing me to rise today to speak to why I think it is important to support Bill C-21, the red tape reduction act.
As members know, Bill C-21 is an important piece of legislation when it comes to how the government relates to and engages with one of the drivers of Canada's economy, which is small business.
As one of the members of the Red Tape Reduction Commission, I feel privileged to rise to speak to this issue today. One of the key drivers of the commission was that helping businesses succeed in Canada requires doing all we can as a government to decrease the administrative burden that regulations impose on businesses. Bill C-21 represents a strong step toward accomplishing this goal for many reasons.
In my time today, I would like to focus on one of those reasons in terms of the importance of enshrining into law the government's one-for-one rule. This rule, which has been in effect since April 1, 2012, has already proven to be effective in controlling and even reducing red tape regulations that hurt small business. It works by placing strict controls on the growth of regulatory red tape for businesses by applying a very simple principle: for every new regulation that is added that imposes an administrative burden on businesses, one must be removed. In addition, regulators must offset any increase in the administrative burden as a result of regulatory changes with equal reductions in existing regulations.
Canada is one of the first countries in the world to give the one-for-one rule the added muscle of legislation, making it the most aggressive red tape regulation in the world. What is more, we know that it works. The one-for-one rule has already proven successful in system-wide controls and regulatory red tape that impact businesses. Specifically, as of June 14, 2014, it has resulted in a net annual reduction of over $22 million in the administrative burden imposed on businesses, estimated annual savings of 290,000 hours in time spent dealing with regulatory red tape, and a net reduction of 19 federal regulations taken off the books.
By giving the one-for-one rule the added muscle of legislation, this Conservative government has clearly demonstrated just how committed it is to reducing unnecessary regulations for businesses. We know that time spent navigating red tape is valuable time that small-business owners could otherwise use to grow their operations and create jobs.
When I speak about red tape, I am referring to the unnecessary and undue compliance burden placed on small businesses. A compliance burden is exactly the time and resources spent by businesses to demonstrate compliance with federal government regulations. It can include planning, collecting, processing, and reporting information; completing forms and retaining data required by governments; inspection costs; and time wasted waiting for regulatory decisions and feedback.
There are many areas of Canada's economy that benefit from discreet regulation, like safe food, air space control, workplace health and safety, and so on. However, every regulation that requires paperwork, equipment, or training imposes compliance costs on a business. At some point, regulations get into diminishing return territory when the cost, time, and effort required to comply with the regulations outweigh the benefits conferred by the regulation.
Our Conservative government recognizes this red tape problem, and through measures like the one-for-one rule, it is taking measures to curb it.
A couple of years ago, I participated in the Red Tape Reduction Commission, which consulted a wide cross-section of Canadians for ideas on reducing the onerous administrative overhead for Canadian businesses. What I heard was the feedback of hard-working small-business owners who were absolutely fed up with over-regulation, tedious paperwork, and valuable time wasted.
This past week, I stood proudly by our Prime Minister, fellow members of Parliament, and the executive vice-president of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, the CFIB, Laura Jones, in the Niagara region. Through talking to and hearing the stories of small businesses within my riding as well as Canadian small-business representatives like Ms. Jones of the CFIB, one thing becomes immediately clear: red tape heavily limits the ability of small businesses to grow.
I would add that the CFIB had Red Tape Awareness Week last week, from January 19-23. This is actually very good timing as we introduce this legislation. I would also mention that I had a chance to work with Ms. Jones on the red tape reduction round table, and it was a great experience.
To put it in the words of our Prime Minister, red tape and administrative burdens all represent “a silent killer of jobs” in this country. Although Canada has been recognized by the OECD as having a sophisticated and mature regulatory system that continues to maintain high levels of health, safety, security, and environmental protection, the OECD has also recommended that reducing undue regulatory costs would help to improve Canada's economic performance.
Let me be clear. Applying the one-for-one rule and giving it the legislative shape it requires to fulfill its mandate does not in any way compromise the presence of important health and safety regulations. Put simply, we are not repealing health and safety standards. We are making it less of an administrative nuisance to comply with them.
Canadians can count on this government and its regulatory system to uphold the public trust and to continually enforce the health and safety standards that protect everyday Canadians.
One of the aspects of the red tape reduction plan I am most proud of is the level of public consultation and transparency that informed its approach. As a government, we listened to the advice provided by small-business owners from across the country, and we reflected very carefully on that advice.
We understand the necessity of enforcing regulations that maintain Canada's high standards for safety and protection. We believe that regulations can and should co-exist with freeing businesses from unnecessary, costly, and time-consuming red tape.
I would like to remind my hon. colleagues that reducing regulatory red tape was one of the commitments we made to Canadians in October 2012, when we first announced the red tape reduction action plan. This plan is one of the most aggressive in the world today for reducing red tape, and with its implementation, Canada is bringing a new level of discipline to how we regulate and create a more predictable environment for businesses.
I would like to update members on the progress we have made in this important effort. In all, the red tape reduction plan introduced six system-wide reforms to the federal regulatory system to limit regulatory creep and to free up small businesses to focus on what they do best, which is to grow and create jobs.
This plan has helped businesses meet challenges in the areas of payroll, labour, and trade. It has further introduced time-saving measures, such as single windows and electronic submissions.
We have made substantial progress in implementing the reforms outlined in the plan. As well as the one-for-one rule, a number of other reforms are advancing well. For example, federal regulators have stepped up efforts to ensure that new and existing service standards are publicly posted, making the approval process for complying with regulations more transparent for business. In addition, departments have posted 40 forward regulatory plans on their websites, providing early notice of upcoming regulations so that stakeholders can provide input and prepare for their implementation.
All of these initiatives are proving their value and are further demonstrating this government's commitment to a transparent and safe system for business growth that is not weighed down by unnecessary red tape.
We have also saved small businesses in Canada $75 million annually through the application of the small business lens.
In the fall of 2014, the government published the administrative burden baseline, a key commitment of the action plan that clearly tracks the total number of requirements that impose administrative burdens on businesses.
Finally, we have also put into place a regulatory advisory committee. This committee's main task is to provide the President of the Treasury Board with advice on the fairness and reliability of the government's annual scorecard report.
We recently published our second score card report during Red Tape Awareness Week. It shows that we continue to eliminate unnecessary rules and costs that have been a source of frustration for Canadian businesses and entrepreneurs across the country, while maintaining high standards for the protection of the health and safety of our citizens.
The bottom line is that this report confirms that we have made tangible progress in cutting red tape for Canadians and businesses.
Let me now turn to a few examples of how departments are putting the red tape action plan into action. There are numerous examples. I am thinking of the launch of buyandsell.gc.ca at Public Works and Government Services Canada and the modernization of food safety regulations through the Canadian Food Inspection Agency's Safe Food for Canadians Act.
There is also the launch by Canada Revenue Agency of the new online mail service for Canadian small businesses. The service allows businesses to communicate with CRA online, helping streamline their interactions with the agency.
CRA also launched My Business Account, the online enquiry service where business people or their representatives can ask the agency tax-related questions about their accounts online and receive answers online. I know one of the things we heard over and over again was the frustration of business people to call and not be able to get anything actually in writing. That made it difficult for them when they called someone, were bounced around, and went to different people. This is a very direct response to what we heard in talking to small business people.
As well, CRA introduced a one-stop web page for businesses, allowing them to easily find information and service options relevant to their tax situation.
In addition, Statistics Canada has improved communication with survey respondents to better explain the purpose of business surveys. The changes include redesigning printed material and improving a section of its website.
These are just a few of the many departmental actions that are under way to reduce red tape. The one-for-one rule and other red tape reforms demonstrate our resolve to improve Canada's regulatory system and help businesses focus their energies on seizing new opportunities. They are part of the broader commitment to ensuring Canada is playing its A game when it comes to creating the right environment in which businesses can grow and create jobs.
Bill C-21 is smart legislation that would help Canadian businesses become more productive and succeed in an increasingly competitive global marketplace. The red tape reduction act would require that regulators take seriously the requirement to control the amount of red tape imposed upon businesses, and the related costs. The legislation is also designed to be tough. It would challenge regulators to think through how regulations could be designed and implemented in ways that would not impose unnecessary red tape on businesses. While it would be tough, it would nevertheless offer a great deal of flexibility. The government's commitment to maintaining Canada's high standards for health and safety is unwavering and will not come at the cost of helping small businesses succeed.
The legislation would also be timely. As members know, one of the government's top priorities is creating a climate in which businesses can innovate, invest in the future, and create economic growth and jobs. That is why, despite what is happening in the global economy today, Canada has and continues to post one of the strongest job creation records in the G7, with more than 1.2 million jobs created since July 2009.
I would add that over 85% of those jobs created since July 2009 are full-time positions and almost two-thirds are in high-wage industries.
Looking ahead, this government believes Canada is positioned for sustained economic growth. We are one of the few countries that can boast of having both declining taxes and low debt. Our government remains committed to eliminating the deficit. This would ensure we continue to create a business climate here in Canada that invites investment, prosperity, and growth. Canadian businesses have to be playing at the top of their game to succeed and to compete in a global economy. This is especially true in uncertain times, such as those we have faced since the 2008 global recession. By reducing debt, we could free up tax dollars that would otherwise be absorbed by interest costs. We could then reinvest that money into things that matter to Canadians, such as health care, public services, or lower taxes. I would add that reducing debt would also strengthen the country's ability to respond to economic shocks, such as global financial crises.
It is worth remembering that, when the hard times arrived in 2008, Canada was in a position of economic strength compared to our international partners. This allowed us to put in place one of the most comprehensive stimulus packages in the world. At the time, international observers such as the International Monetary Fund were predicting that Canada would have one of the fastest recoveries. I am proud to say that these predictions have come true, given our relative economic, financial, and fiscal strength.
Our red tape initiatives all demonstrate the government's ongoing commitment to helping Canadian businesses succeed, and they are part of a broad strategy that is present in almost everything we do. We only need to look at the recent PricewaterhouseCoopers study analyzing the ease of paying taxes in 189 countries. The study, called “Paying Taxes 2014”, found that a business in Canada takes 25% less time than a business in the United States to prepare, file, and pay its taxes each year. Furthermore, the study said that Canada is the only G7 country to rank among the top 10 countries based on the overall ease of complying with tax obligations.
Balanced budgets and responsible fiscal management have been keys to helping small businesses succeed, as well as to our success as a country.
Through real action such as enshrining the one-for-one rule in law, we are making the regulatory system more conducive to economic growth. We are creating a more predictable environment for businesses, particularly small and medium-sized businesses, and we are freeing entrepreneurs from the burden of regulatory red tape.
Our government is focused on the drivers of growth and job creation—innovation, investment, education, skills, and communities—underpinned by our ongoing commitment to keeping taxes low and returning to a balanced budget. This is our plan for Canada. I hope members of the House will join us in enshrining the one-for-one rule into law to help Canadian businesses succeed.
I talked about how this all fits together and I look at the acronym TIRE, which this government has used: T is for taxes and trade; I is for infrastructure, investments, and immigration; R is for R and D, red tape reduction, and relationships; and E is for entrepreneurship. If I could just go through those, members will see how it all ties together. I talked in my speech about how we look at reducing red tape, but that is just one thing in a large array of things that the government has done to make Canada more competitive.
I will start with the T for taxes and trade. Our government looked at reducing taxes for business to make us more competitive on the world stage. In addition to that, we have fostered additional trade deals—the European free trade deal and all the numerous deals that this country is working on right now—because we realize, as a net exporter, that we need to sell our goods and services around the world. There is no way that 35 million people could sustain the type of GDP that we have come to enjoy without the ability to trade. That is the T in TIRE.
I is for infrastructure, investments, and immigration. We have continued to move forward on immigration reforms to make sure we look at bringing the best and brightest people into this country. We have looked at continuous investments. We look at the Detroit bridge that stalled under the previous Liberal government. We have worked hard to make sure we can get our goods and services to the U.S. in a timely way given the fact that it represents one of our largest trading partners at over 75%. We have spent money on massive infrastructure, and we will continue to commit to infrastructure over the next 10 years as we realize that is important for the sake of our country.
I talked about R and D and trying to make it more targeted, more specific, and more timely. I have just spent my whole time talking about red tape reduction, which is absolutely huge.
The last letter is E for entrepreneurship. Our government has started a venture capital fund, or we have set aside $400 million where we could try to attract, realizing that it is tough sometimes for companies to get started. One of the issues that continues to be there is access to capital. We believe we can continue to create the climate in this country. We will not only continue to lead the world in development but will continue to lead the world in jobs, and Canada will be the best country in the world in which to live, to work, and to play.