Regulating Smarter, Regulating Better

Regulating Smarter, Regulating Better

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Ian Munro, Chief Economist, Halifax Partnership

Our friends at the Atlantic Provinces Economic Council (APEC) unveiled their latest annual economic outlook recently. In their presentation they noted that the recent cuts to the US corporate income tax rates eroded the once substantial advantage that Canada held on this front.

The reduction of that tax advantage means that we must pay even closer attention to our competitive position in other dimensions, such as the efficiency and effectiveness of our regulatory regime.

While Canada’s general stability and reputation for fairness are important assets, on some measures of regulatory burden we have work to do. Recent reports from the World Bank and the World Economic Forum show us trailing our major trading partners on several metrics.

Admittedly these national comparisons can be misleading. A significant portion of the range of regulations that any business in Canada may face is imposed at the provincial level. Think here of occupational health and safety regulations and fire safety regulations. Municipalities also account for their share: signage permits and building codes, for example.

For both Nova Scotia and Halifax, this brings us to the good news.

Earlier this year, Halifax Regional Council adopted a Charter of Governing Principles for Regulation. This Charter compels our municipal government to consider, among other things, non-regulatory alternatives, costs and benefits, and how performance will be measured before enacting any new regulations. Halifax’s Charter was modelled on the Province’s own regulatory Charter and the two levels of government are collaborating closely on red-tape reduction actions for business and implementation of regulatory reform and reporting of results.

It is important to recognize just how unique this is. Both our provincial government and our municipal government have adopted clear and specific guidelines to improve the regulatory climate in their respective jurisdictions. Both governments have created staff positions devoted full time to this work. Both governments are rolling out regulatory impact assessment tools to better understand the cost burden that any new regulation will place on businesses. Both governments are working closely together on these initiatives.

Regulation is critical to our well being, our health, our environment, and the functioning of our markets. This is not an exercise in deregulation, but one of learning how to regulate smarter and regulate better. There remains much work to be done, but through these efforts Halifax is taking an important leadership role in improving the climate for business and investment.

Ian Munro is Chief Economist at the Halifax Partnership

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