Red tape is being cut.
At the helm of the scissors is our provincial government and even Cochrane’s town council. We’re being told that the reducing red tape will result in cost savings and streamlined operations. Some of us are buying the rhetoric, some of us are a bit skeptical.
Town councillor Alex Reed might fall into the latter group.
At last week’s (Feb. 10) town council meeting Reed spoke freely about his hesitancy to jump on the red tape reduction bandwagon. Council ended up passing a revised day home bylaw that would permit day homes in residential areas in Cochrane.
Mayor Jeff Genung said the province has day home regulations in place already and town council doesn’t need to be a second layer of government. He applauded council for finding efficiencies and removing barriers for current and future day home operators.
Reed was the only councillor to oppose the bylaw and warned that reducing red tape would make it easier to open unregulated day homes in the community. He was also concerned that the revised bylaw lacked an appeal process and pointed to neighbours who wouldn’t have the option to appeal a day home in their neighbourhood.
He asked if town council is “implicit” if it gives blessing to an unregulated day home.
Jason Kenney’s UCP has also been selling Albertans on reducing red tape. In 2019 the provincial government launched the website www.alberta.ca/cut-red-tape.aspx and invited the public to point out unnecessary regulations and share ideas on what can be improved, remain status quo or scrapped. Kenney says his government is going to take Alberta from being “the most over-regulated to the freest economy in Canada”.
Last month the UCP received a grade of ‘B-’ on the Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses’ annual Red Tape Report Card. In previous years Alberta earned an F in 2019, 2018 and 2017 and a ‘D’ in 2014 and 2015. A ‘B-’ is an improvement, but still trails behind an ‘A-’ for B.C. and Ontario and an ‘A’ for Quebec, Saskatchewan and Manitoba.
In late January Municipal Affairs Minister, Kaycee Madu announced Alberta will now allow wood-building construction up to 12 storeys following the next edition of the National Building Code set for publication at the end of this year. Madu claimed this initiative would support the province’s forestry sector and land developers, but the Alberta Fire Chiefs Association felt left out of the conversation.
After the announcement the association said they weren’t consulted by the government and outlined concerns with 12-storey wood construction. The association claims a more thorough review of safety standards, best practices, emergency and resource planning along with fire safety recommendations during construction needs to be applied to address public safety.
Red tape refers to excessive bureaucracy or adherence to rules and formalities which can sometimes result in delays in getting things done. Red tape also serves to protect worker’s lives, preserve the environment and protects vulnerable citizens from commercial predators. Finding a balance is key, and probably the most difficult job for any government.
In the case of the provincial government, curtailing the sticky red tape might reduce costs for Albertans, create jobs and make life easier. It might also create loopholes and problems down the road that might require more than a simple fix.