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Life, love and language

Rules and regulations and small businesses.

“Time to go to bed”; “Don’t talk with your mouth full”; “Chores first then play”; “Pack away your toys”.
Remember the rules from your childhood? At the time we all chafed against them. They restricted our play and got in the way of fun. As we grew up we came to realize, reluctantly at times, that there was some need for a regulated life.

Rules and regulations

There is no doubt about it, rules and regulation are a big part of what makes society, certainly a civilized society, work. Although most of us have complained at one time or another of the restrictions caused by rules with which we don’t agree, we are quick to complain if we perceive ourselves to have been hard done by due to someone ignoring or blatantly flouting the law.
Rules and regulations set a standard for what is acceptable and the law clearly states the consequences for breaking them. In the same way as a young child left to his own devices is quite capable of destroying a well-organized household in record time, we only have to look at a country where the rule of law has broken down to realize how much we need rules to keep our baser impulses in check.
However, you can always have too much of a good thing and to be acceptable rules have to be relevant and practical. Having been involved in policy writing myself I know how easy it is to thumb-suck regulations for a number of issues which could easily have been left to the common sense of the business owners. One problem is that, as new rules get added, the number keeps escalating until it is almost impossible for the average business man or woman to keep track of them all.
For example, how many regulations do you think are practical for the running of one Canadian province? Well, apparently, in Manitoba in 2016 there were 906,824 regulations in 12,393 documents! Despite this, Manitoba is one of the few Canadian provinces which seems to be trying to get it right. Between January 2017 and March 2021 for every new regulation which is promulgated the Manitoba government will remove two existing ones. Thereafter every new regulation will replace an old one.
That can only be a good thing, particularly for small business owners in Manitoba. According to the Canadian Federation of Independent Business the cost of regulation to businesses last year was $36 billion, with small businesses, those with less than five employees, paying up to five times more when considered on a per employee basis. In Alberta, where I run my business, this includes an increase in minimum wage of up to $15 in fall, an increase in EI payments and, coming next year, an increase in CPP , all of which means that my fees will have to go up just to keep the books balanced.
Important as the financial impact is, however, the way in which rules and regulations can affect the ability of a business to offer its customers any personal service is unacceptable. I’m pretty sure any business owner has their own examples of this but I’ll end with the following quote, by a former vice-president of Western Canada for CFIB, and I’ll quote it verbatim:
“… a high-end men’s clothing store … used to give their customers a cup of coffee while they browsed for a suit. The regional health authority came in and told them they had to send all their employees to a training program to ensure they knew the safest way to handle the coffee and mugs. They had to install an industrial dishwasher for $5,000 to clean the mugs. And they were required to pay an annual fee to show that the business and the employees had passed food services certification.”
I’m guessing, but I imagine that those customers no longer get coffee as they browse!



  1. https://www.cfib-fcei.ca/en/advocacy/manitoba-regulation-red-tape-reduction-regulatory-accountability
  2. http://business.financialpost.com/entrepreneur/0110-biz-dk-cfib-fpe
  3. https://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/economy/canada-competes/whos-regulating-the-regulators-small-businesses-want-to-know/article9440935/


May 3, 2018 - Posted by | Working

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