Want to help entrepreneurs? Make Nova Scotia a leader in regulation again, and make it the law.

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Regulation is necessary. Some regulation is quite positive, supporting efficiency, business and consumer protection and ensuring the health and security of citizens. Business owners understand this and have no objection to needed rules being administered fairly. Unfortunately, small and medium size businesses are feeling the brutal impact of unnecessary regulation and red tape and it’s killing the entrepreneurial spirit in Nova Scotia.

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) has released its 2015 Red Tape Report Card, comparing the relative merits of efforts to reduce red tape across the country. Nova Scotia’s mark? A dismal D-. This mark may deserve an asterisk but that depends on what action will be taken by the government over the next few months.

Last week, an announcement from the office of Minister of Municipal Relations and Service Nova Scotia, Mark Furey, showed some signs the importance of doing something about measuring red tape and being held accountable for the damage it causes to small business is taking hold in the public service.

Service Nova Scotia will now have two branches, one focused on service excellence and the other focused on program modernization and red tape reduction. A Deputy Minister has been assigned and it looks like an administrative framework is being created to start tackling the problem.

In fact, a great deal of work has already been done with Service Nova Scotia’s Access to Business (A2B) initiative over the past couple of years, unfortunately there’s no way the public can measure either its impact or effectiveness. While these moves are very encouraging, tinkering with the bureaucracy is simply not enough. Regulatory reform must be politically championed and enshrined in legislation.

In both last year’s pre-budget submission and our Tax and Regulatory Review submission, CFIB provided the provincial government with clear criteria in five specific categories used to grade regulatory accountability. It includes political leadership, public measurement, putting constraints on regulators, legislating the commitment and demonstrating momentum in red tape reduction.

When Laurel Broten presented her Tax and Regulatory Review in December, almost every suggestion brought forward last spring by CFIB on red tape was adopted as a recommendation. The government is now holding another round of public consultations on the report. On the regulation piece, CFIB is asking the government for prompt adoption of these sensible improvements and make it law.

We’re asking the Premier and the Minister of Finance to step up and state clearly this is a priority for government and bind any action with the discipline of legislation. Not only would this be a low-cost political win, it would be a meaningful improvement in conditions for small and medium size business in Nova Scotia.

Of all the issues of concern to Canadian small business owners, government regulation and paper burden is second only to the overall tax burden. We are very pleased to see Minister Furey working on the mechanics inside Service Nova Scotia, but when the next budget is delivered, both the Premier and the Minister of Finance must also step forward and plant the flag for regulatory excellence in this province.

Additionally, as cabinet prepares for the spring budget, every Minister around the table should be arguing to do what is necessary to show the Nova Scotia government takes red tape as seriously as it is taken by our entrepreneurs.

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