Prime Minister Stephen Harper has established a commission to reduce government paperwork for small and medium-sized businesses - a move that's already being characterized by the Liberals as "more red tape to deal with red tape."
Navdeep Bains, the Liberal critic for small business, doesn't believe the Conservatives are serious about cutting red tape. He said the government has had five years to tackle this issue, but only announced the commission in its last budget and then took almost another year to get if off the ground and appoint the commissioners.
"It is an important issue. There has been no action on it whatsoever for the last five years and now they've punted it for another year," Mr. Bains told The Globe on Thursday.
The Prime Minister announced the creation of the Red Tape Reduction Commission at a Toronto printing plant earlier in the day. "Small and medium-sized businesses are a critical driver of the Canadian economy," Mr. Harper said. "This will help ensure that they can grow, prosper and create jobs without being impeded by unnecessary government regulations."
The commission will be chaired by Rob Moore, the minister of state for small business. Catherine Swift from the Canadian Federation of Independent Business is part of the group as are several other businessmen. Five Conservative MPs, including Quebec Tory Maxime Bernier, are also on the panel, but there is no opposition representation.
The group will hold online consultations with Canadians - a process that will continue until March 31 - as well as draw ideas and comments from a series of roundtable meetings it is planning to host across Canada.
"Before one more piece of red tape is cut, this new commission will take its time traveling the country at great expense but won't report back till next fall," Mr. Bains said, noting there is no real action plan and no impetus to get something done before this year's budget.
Reducing the burden of paperwork and red tape is vital for small-business owners in Canada. Mr. Bains said, for example, that some businesses have to hire consultants to help maneuver through the paperwork simply to apply for government tax credits.
In addition, he said there are a whole range of tax-related dealings with the Canadian Revenue Agency in which red tape could be reduced. "What bothers me is the fact that Canadian businesses and Canadian families are the ones that will suffer - another year of inaction because of a missed opportunity," Mr. Bains said.