Few claims by budding or existing politicians carry a gloss as cloyingly agreeable as "I want to cut red tape."
Being against red tape is like being against Satan, pedophiles and earthquakes.
Saying you are against red tape has become akin to saying "murderers should be punished" or "B.C. in the 1990s under the NDP was a nightmare we don't want to relive." (This last example sponsored by the BC Liberals.)
In other words, you don't have to back it up, it's just an understood fact.
But I'm going to single-handedly sabotage any future election campaign I might participate in by stating that red tape, as I understand it, is a good thing.
There, I said it. Red tape=good. The BC Government announced Monday it had jumped on the Canadian Federation of Independent Business's (CFIB) red-tape bashing bandwagon and declared this week, Jan. 21 to 25, 2013, Red Tape Awareness Week.
This is the fourth year the CFIB has held this week to raise awareness about red tape.
Let's be clear: What is red tape? This is almost never explained.
The government press release talks about "unnecessary red tape," which is either redundant or implies that some red tape is necessary.
The CFIB does talk about "too much regulation" and rules that are "unfair, overly costly, poorly designed or contradictory."
Clearly, this type of red tape is costly and should be curtailed.
The CFIB likes to say the red tape it's talking about is rules that make no sense. In reality, however, it appears the organization is talking about all regulation that affects business and all regulatory bodies that have rules that have to be followed. Even taxes.
Red tape is described as "death by a thousand paper cuts." What the CFIB count as red tape is the time it costs employees to comply with regulations. The methodology for estimating the supposed $30 billion in the cost of red tape to business in Canada was to go through 6,000 surveys and count the "hours spent weekly doing paperwork related to regulatory compliance."
Nothing is said about that regulatory compliance being unnecessary or contradictory or wasteful in the methodology. But the CFIB seems to makes the leap.
According to the CFIB's own survey data, the seven most "burdensome federal regulations" are, in order: GST/HST, payroll tax, income tax, records of employment, Statistics Canada surveys, business registration/reporting requirements, border rules and the environment.
Note the first three examples of things that "obstruct" and cause "stress" to businesses (according to the word cloud on the cover of the CFIB's red tape report) are taxes.
If businesses just didn't have to deal with HST, payroll tax or income tax, things would be so much simpler. Well, yeah.
The CFIB's December release about farmers who are "flooded with red tape" warrants some deconstruction. A few areas of regulation the CFIB deem too obstructionist for those trying to make a living in the agricultural sector include: Land use restrictions and bylaws; product labelling; Canadian Food Inspection Agency; Canada Border Services Agency; and Pest Management Regulatory Agency.
But I don't think we want farmers burying creeks, mislabelling food or importing illegal products that may contain invasive species.
Regulations are touted as unnecessary by those who don't like them. They're like taxes that way; taxes that are slammed by people driving on the road on the way to drop the kids off at public school.
Most supposed red tape is not some Kafkaesque burden cast upon unwitting business propriet-ers who want nothing more than to hammer out a few shillings to feed the family.
Most "red tape" is how we protect our country.
If you want, for example, to run a pipeline through pristine wilderness and drive tankers down B.C.'s coastline, then you'll quickly find out that wild salmon, clean water, old-growth trees, the folks living in small towns and Canada's aboriginal people are all red tape.
Just ask Enbridge. Get rid of employment insurance, income tax, the GST, those pesky environmental, health and safety regulations and the CFIB are bang on: Business would run smoother . . . for a while.
And then I'm not sure what would be left.