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"Red tape" frustrates entrepreneurship, raises prices and reduces choices for consumers. By impeding growth, red tape lowers people's incomes and standards of living. It is a hidden tax on all Canadians. In the words of the 2011 federal budget, "businesses, especially small business owners and entrepreneurs, have told the Commission that the government must act now to begin addressing these concerns and to promote growth and competitiveness," and that is what we intend to do.
Under the leadership of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, the Government of Canada is working to put in place the conditions that enable businesses all across our country to succeed—conditions that must involve the reduction of red tape. This objective became fully evident in the "one-for-one rule" respecting regulations that was introduced in the government's recent election platform. The focus was continued in the 2011 Speech from the Throne, which committed to cutting red tape for small businesses so that they can focus their attention on growing their businesses and creating jobs. Budget 2011 also included many significant initiatives to reduce unnecessary costs and frustrations related to complying with regulations or other mandatory requirements such as filing taxes. We are on track to cut it even further through the work of the Red Tape Reduction Commission. Moreover, these aims will be achieved while maintaining the highest standards to protect our environment and the health and safety of Canadians.
The 2011 election platform statement, Speech from the Throne, and budget are key documents for this government. They set out, in clear and concise terms, our promises to Canadians—promises that we take seriously. The inclusion of red tape reduction commitments in these public statements indicates the importance that we are giving to regulatory red tape burden and the effort we are willing to put into addressing it in ways that work.
The government is committed to fostering a climate that supports small business development. The reality is that 98 percent of all Canadian businesses have fewer than 100 employees, and 75 per cent have fewer than 10 employees. They account for about a quarter of this country's gross domestic product and, to stay focused on their growth, they need governments to take an approach to compliance burden that reflects an awareness of its impact on business, in both domestic and global markets.
When Prime Minister Harper announced the creation of our Commission in January 2011, he asked us to listen to the businesses that are confronted with red tape and to the associations that represent them. Through this listening process, we were to identify business concerns as well as ways in which the government might address them—in both the short and long term. To clarify, we were asked to seek out information on immediate irritants and to solicit opinions on some practical means of addressing them. At the same time, we were asked to think about the systemic causes underlying many of the immediate irritants and to request input on solutions for these more deeply seated problems. It is this two–pronged approach—one aspect of which moves into the area of systemic changes—that we believe sets this initiative apart from other red tape reduction endeavours.
Our Commission has finished its consultations which, collectively, made up the first phase of the work. Through points raised at roundtables across Canada as well as in written submissions and comments sent in through our website, entrepreneurs gave us an array of experiences and observations to consider. They identified many examples of the challenges they face due to red tape—challenges that affect their ability to concentrate on their businesses and compete fully in the marketplace.
This report offers an overview of what we heard, faithfully capturing the core issues that were expressed. It also indicates how our Commission, the secretariat supporting us, and federal departments and agencies are beginning to analyze and address the comments we have heard. Our final report, due later in 2011, will include our analysis as well as recommendations on reducing red tape. We encourage all those interested in this issue to visit our Red Tape Reduction Commission website to learn more about the Commission's work so far.
A team effort got us to this point and I want to thank my fellow Commission members for their commitment. We share a sense of common purpose respecting cutting red tape and freeing business to grow. I should also note the support of the Honourable Stockwell Day, who was Lead Minister for this initiative as President of the Treasury Board until his retirement from Parliament, as well as the work of the Honourable Rob Moore, who ably chaired the Commission through the consultation phase. Above all, I want to thank the men and women who took the time to meet with us or to provide comments in submissions and online. You have paid us the compliment of sharing your experiences and suggestions for change. We will work hard to respect your contributions and deliver what Prime Minister Harper has asked of us and what Canadian businesses and citizens deserve.