The Yukon’s efforts to cut red tape was given a failing grade by the Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses, this week.
The territory should have seen it coming, said federation vice president Laura Jones.
For the last five years, the federation has met with Premier Dennis Fentie on an annual basis to try to convince his government to make it easier for businesses tangled in red tape.
Fentie’s reaction to the idea was “tepid” at best, said Jones.
He expressed “lukewarm interest,” she said.
“Followed by no action.”
So this week, the federation gave the Yukon government an F.
“It’s disappointing to see the Yukon the lowest in Canada,” said Yukon Chamber of Commerce chair Andrew Stouffer, who agrees with the federation.
“Excessive red tape is a deterrent to business,” he said.
“And in the Yukon, where a large percentage of businesses are small, it is particularly impactful.”
The average citizen doesn’t come across a lot of red tape, said Jones.
“Maybe when they do their taxes, or if they want to put an extension on their house.”
But businesses deal with it on a daily basis, she said.
“And it creates a lot of stress.”
In small jurisdictions like the Yukon, business owners are afraid to speak out for fear of repercussions, said Jones, mentioning one owner who received a letter telling her she owned $90,000 following a tax audit.
“She was going to lose her house or her business, and all she was doing was following the advice government gave her,” said Jones.
It took a year to sort it out.
In the end it was a government mixup.
“But that’s a year of stress,” she said.
“And I bet the government employee who wrote her the letter didn’t lose one night’s sleep.”
In the Yukon, the government bends over backwards to assist with economic development, especially in the mining sector, said Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce president Rick Karp.
“But in other sectors it’s quite difficult to do business in Whitehorse because of red tape,” he said.
The federation of independent businesses would like to see provincial and territorial governments across Canada measuring red tape and taking steps to reduce unnecessary regulations.
British Columbia has been measuring its red tape since 2001, has introduced a red tape awareness week and has committed to reducing regulatory requirements for businesses.
It got a B plus.
The Northwest Territories, Alberta and Manitoba were the only other regions with failing grades.
The Yukon needs to measure its red tape and set targets to reduce it, said Stouffer.
But red tape is only part of the problem, said Karp.
The Yukon needs to become less reliant on Ottawa and develop its private sector, he said.
Part of building the private sector means being more business-friendly and reducing red tape, he added.
Fentie did not return calls by press time.
Contact Genesee Keevil at