Think about it, what restrictions and regulations have been brought into place in just the last ten years? What regulations affect your daily life?
Government has gone from serving the people, to supervising the people. Canadians are now wards of the state, for the most part viewed as irresponsible individuals who have to be taken care of from cradle to grave, and told how to behave in society. Government regulation takes from our pockets as surely as taxes do, but regulations typically do it under the radar. Every product or service that you purchase almost certainly has regulations attached to it, regulations that incur costs for the provider, manufacturer, wholesaler, retailer, and in many cases all of them at differ points in the path to the end user, which are in turn passed onto you as the consumer. So, just how bad is it?
Lets start by looking at our own Federal Government. There are now close to 70 departments and agencies that have regulatory authorities under law, but the bulk of the activity comes from about a dozen or so departments. The Feds have regulatory authority in about 14 areas, from the banking sector to inter-provincial trucking. This encompasses some 2,600 federal regulations, which require the efforts of 13,000 federal employees to manage. In 2007, the government began work that, ultimately, identified approximately 400,000 paper requirements and information obligations under existing regulations and programs. Now keep in mind that we are only looking at the Federal Government at this point.
2600 regulations, 13,000 employees , and 400,000 paper and information requirements! Surely this must cover virtually any conceivable act that requires regulation. Not even close, we still have the provincial and civic governments with their own regulation. Unfortunately at times the different levels of government regulations seem to be working at cross purposes.
The agriculture sector and the family farm takes their hits too under the umbrella of regulation. Research conducted by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) found Canadian farmers are drowning in a sea of red tape. Sadly, a survey had 23 per cent of farmers stating that if they had known about the burden of regulations prior to going into farming they may have chosen another form of livelihood. Farmers listed a number of regulations and agencies they have to deal with on an ongoing basis including land use restrictions and by-laws, product labelling, traceability and age verification requirements, Canada Border Services Agency, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, Statistics Canada and the Pest Management Regulatory Agency. All so that they can work the land and grow the food on our tables.
On an individual basis we all deal daily with a myriad of regulations. From the start of our day the very food we eat for breakfast is heavily regulated, eggs, pork, and dairy are regulated by marketing boards, orange juice is regulated as to whether it is "fresh" or from concentrate (right down to the levels of sugar), the electricity for your stove is provided by a regulated utility, and so on and so forth. Off to work we go in an automobile that is regulated from bumper to bumper, the buzzer in your seat-belt, daytime running lights, crash test worthiness, the materials allowed in its manufacture, even the type of fuel it will run on, etc, etc, etc. At work we are subject to regulations specific to our particular field, banking, securities, manufacturing, food service, hundreds if not thousands of regulations imposed at different government levels. At night in our homes it continues, what we watch on television is regulated by the CRTC as is the provider of the signal into our TV, if we have a drink of alcohol we have been told what we can purchase, when and from who. Unfortunately what I just described is only the tip of the regulation iceberg! Some regulation is to the point of being ludicrous and would almost be comical if not for the fact we are the ones being regulated.
Now don't get me wrong, I realize that some regulations have to be in place to protect society, but when the zeal for regulations goes from being helpful to hindering we have problem. When the burden of regulation becomes a deciding factor for business on a regular basis, something needs to be done to streamline the process. Get rid of regulations that are redundant at different levels of government, combine regulations, and think twice about every proposed new regulation before moving forward on it. Here's a great example at the provincial level of creating regulations for the sake of creating them. Our province has had "distracted driving" legislation for years, yet they felt the need to pass specific legislation to deal with talking and texting on cell phones while driving. Correct me if I am wrong, but does it really matter if when you are behind the wheel you are applying makeup, shaving, reading a book, or talking on a cell phone, all of them "distract" you from driving. So why the need to regulate them separately?
Here's an example at our local civic level, Smoking Bylaws. First we saw bylaws enacted to prevent smoking in public indoor spaces (restaurants, offices, etc), to the point that a business could not be designated smoking or non-smoking (great for cigar stores and bars). One size fits all. As of earlier this month we saw council attempt to pass a further amendment to the bylaw, banning smoking within 10 meters of playgrounds, sports fields and other child-friendly outdoor areas. Fine concept, but even prior to making it official our civic government admitted it would be very difficult to enforce. So why pass bylaws that can not be enforced? From where I sit it is a tremendous waste of time and resources. As well a law should always be something that citizens respect, passing laws that by default they can simply flaunt is a bad precedent. My suspicion on this one is that it is good public relations and politicking.
Unfortunately, I suspect that over regulation will only get worse with time despite promises made at all levels of government. After all, if they are not creating, enacting, and enforcing regulations, what on earth would politicians and bureaucrats do with their time?