Question re: Red tape review - May 4, 2015

Mr. Silver: Last week, Statistics Canada confirmed what many Yukoners already know. We are in a made-in-Yukon recession. Under this government, Yukon has the worst performing economy in Canada and our GDP has shrunk two years in a row. No other jurisdiction in Canada can claim that dubious honour.

In last year’s budget, the Premier promised to undertake a red tape review for the regulatory burden facing Yukon businesses and provide a report on measures to reduce this burden. That commitment is now over a year old and has not been acted upon. Given our dismal economic performance in the last 24 months, small businesses need all the help they can get.

So Mr. Speaker, why has this commitment from last year’s budget not been met yet?

Hon. Mr. Dixon: As the Minister of Community Services — we oversee the business legislation that affects Yukon businesses. I should point out that the Yukon government has brought forward numerous amendments to a number of business-related pieces of legislation, including some of the ones that are before us today, including the Personal Property Security Act.

We’ve made a number of changes to reduce red tape for businesses. We have brought forward legislative changes and regulatory changes to improve the competitiveness of Yukon as a jurisdiction to operate a business, to start a business and to invest in businesses.

We’ll continue to make those changes to ensure that Yukon is an attractive place to do business.

But, of course, as I’m sure my colleagues will explain, the red tape review was something that was led by the Department of Economic Development and it is well underway and a number of businesses have been contacted to explore new opportunities to improve legislation as well.

Mr. Speaker, we have a strong record on this front. We have made changes, we’ll continue to make changes and we’ll continue to make sure that Yukon is a great place to do business.

Mr. Silver: So I guess for the time being, we can consider this review to be added to the list of promises not kept, as of yet, for this government.

In January of this year, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business — CFIB — released its annual red tape report card for 2015. The Yukon received a D-plus — not exactly a good grade, Mr. Speaker.

Now, it is an improvement over the D that this government received in 2014; however it was on the strength of the commitment to actually conduct a red tape review that actually improved our grade. I’m sure when the CFIB sees that this government has not lifted a finger yet — that the announcement — our score will actually be negatively affected. The CFIB has asked every government in Canada to measure red tape and publicly report at least once a year on its finding. This government has made no effort to do that.

Mr. Speaker, does the government have any idea how much red tape businesses are forced to contend with? Is it willing to take a look at what that amount might be?

Hon. Mr. Hassard: The short answer, I guess, is yes, but I think it’s important that the member opposite remember that while we have been working on this, we’ve modernized business corporate legislative — we’ve done tax cuts, we’ve increased small business deductions. Those were all part of that same package and part of those promises that the member opposite seems to forget.

Mr. Silver: I believe it’s this government that forgot about the review, but I will continue with my questioning. Last year, the government promised a red tape review. It has not delivered it and it has brought us two years in a row of negative economic growth. The CFIB has requested that the government measure red tape and publicly report at least once a year on its findings. The Yukon has not done this yet.

Given the GDP numbers released last week that have shown that we have one of the worst economies in Canada, I am surprised how little attention has been paid to the issue of red tape. Another recommendation from CFIB is to set targets on red tape reduction. This is in place in half of the jurisdictions across Canada, so I’ll ask that question: Is this something that the government is willing to look at — which is setting targets on red tape reduction?

Hon. Mr. Hassard: While, yes, we do continue to look at red tape, our focus remains on growing and diversifying the private sector economy, providing jobs and opportunities for Yukoners.

Mr. Speaker, we’re doing that by investing in strategic economic infrastructure, by improving our regulatory regime in Energy, Mines and Resources, by increasing training for Yukon jobs and education, and by attracting business and investment to the territory, and that’s done through the Department of Economic Development.