Excerpt from the Official Report of
DEBATES OF THE LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY

(Hansard)


October 1, 2015

Bill 34 — Red Tape Reduction Act

S. Simpson: I’m pleased to stand and speak to Bill 34, the Red Tape Reduction Day Act. This is a piece of legislation that I think, all in, is about 12 or 13 words, something like that.

The challenge with this bill is, of course, when we talk about red tape…. I heard the Minister of Jobs say that this is all about small business. But this talks about red tape. It doesn’t talk about small business.

What we know is deregulation, something this government has been pursuing for 14 years, apparently not particularly successfully, since we keep reintroducing the question of deregulation. But what we know that it has done — deregulation, across the government — is hurt a lot of people and hurt the environment.

When you look at workers compensation, when you look at worker injuries, when you look at the things that underlie coroners’ juries on matters like Babine and Lakeland…. When you dig deep on those tragedies, you will find that deregulation played a role.

When you look at employment standards and you look at workers who were hurt, you will find it is deregulation and moving to the self-help model that has hurt workers who are unorganized and who are often at the mercy of their employer. You hope their employer is positive and not negligent.

When you look at the environment and you look at deregulation around the environment, it is the regulatory regime and those cuts that have hurt the environment. Often, it’s a matter of the government — this government — slashing resources in those areas and then saying to industry, “Well, we’d kind of like you to do this, but it’s a self-regulatory model. So do whatever you’re going to do, but we’d kind of like to you do this,” and then not having the ability to do the oversight or the enforcement to ensure that happens.

I listened to the Minister of Jobs say that this is all about small business and not about those things and that she wouldn’t allow that to happen. Well, the reality is that it has happened, time and time again. Workers have been hurt and the environment has been hurt because of deregulation. There were decisions to streamline things, and people went too far and the government went too far.

The government has an obligation to regulate where it makes sense. Nobody is looking for unnecessary regulation. Nobody wants unnecessary red tape. Nobody wants to hurt small business. Everybody wants that success. I have small businesses in my constituency. Obviously, they want help. They’re looking for help from the government, and frankly, they never talk about these things when they talk about the help that they need.

They want help, and presumably, we all want to help small business to succeed. It’s good for us. It’s good for job creation. But this kind of stunt, as was noted…. I mean, I think that we had a Small Business Week not long ago. This kind of stunt, like yesterday’s stunt, is not about dealing with substantive issues. It’s not about dealing with the matters that are important to us. It is about playing a game.

I don’t have any problem with saying that we need to do what we can do for small business, but this doesn’t say that. When you read the content, it’s says: “The first Wednesday in March is Red Tape Reduction Day.” It doesn’t say it’s reduction day for red tape for small business. No, doesn’t say that. If it meant that, then it should say that.

It says this. That says to me: that’s a reduction in regulation for workers’ compensation. That’s a reduction in regulation for employment standards. That’s a reduction in regulations for environmental protection. The reality is that we have seen every one of those things over the last 14 years.

There have been significant reductions in safety for workers, in safety for the environment. We have seen it continually, the erosion in those areas — a combination of accommodating people who asked this government to do that and of slashing the resources necessary to put the people on the ground to provide the oversight and the enforcement. That’s the problem that we face today.

If we want to talk about red-tape reduction for small business, then let’s talk about that. And let’s talk about it in a way that’s meaningful. This piece of legislation is not going to do anything for anybody. It’s one day a year when we’ll probably have a debate over how we did. Again, it is instead of being something substantive, instead of being something meaningful.

It would have been good for this minister and her first step on this file to have done something meaningful or substantive. She didn’t do that. She put this up. One sentence — a piece of legislation that is one sentence that says nothing and that does not deal with any of the substantive issues.

If this minister of deregulation was serious, she would have brought forward an approach that said, “Let’s talk about how regulation works. Let’s talk about good regulation and what happens there,” versus negative regulation. We could have that discussion.

This isn’t simple math. The silly, absurd comments by the government of: “If we put a regulation in place, we have to eliminate a regulation….” This is silly. You put in place regulatory controls that you need to protect the public interest, and if you have regulations that make no sense, you get rid of them. It isn’t about one for one, but this government has chosen to play this game around the regulatory regime.

I will go back again and say we have seen far too many workers injured or killed because the regulatory regime didn’t work. We have seen workers exploited because the regulatory regime around employment standards didn’t work. We have seen the environment compromised, our habitat compromised, because the regulatory regime doesn’t have the resources behind it for the oversight and enforcement that are necessary.

What we really need to do…. We should have a meaningful discussion about regulatory regimes. It’s certainly not the Red Tape Reduction Day Act, certainly not this one sentence that we’re calling a piece of legislation.

The minister, when she gets up to close this debate at some point, should explain to this House what she understands about how the regulatory regime should work in this province. She should explain to those workers who’ve been injured how she was committed to improving the regulatory regime for those workers. She should explain how she’s going to work with the Minister of Jobs and for Labour to fix that. She should explain how she’s going to work with the Minister of Environment to fix the situation there. That’s what the minister responsible for red tape should be talking about.

I guess maybe she can’t do that. I notice here that she’s not the minister for the regulatory regime. She’s the Minister of Red Tape Reduction, not for the regulatory regime. I guess it’s a one-way street. All you can do is erode the regulatory regime, whether it’s good or bad to do it. That’s the only option she has, presuming…. If this title means anything, that’s the only option she has. That is never good public policy.

Yes, regulations that are duplication, that have unnecessary amounts of bureaucracy attached to them…. I’m the first one to say: “Let’s move them along. Let’s streamline them. Let’s change them.” But regulations that protect the public interest, that protect our habitat and where we are and that protect the people who go to work each day…. Let’s make sure those regulations are as strong as they can be, are as firm as they can be, with real oversight, real enforcement and real consequences for those people who are not prepared to play by the rules.

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