MASSE IN THE HOUSE: C-21: Reducing Red Tape for Small Businesses


January 26, 2015

Mr. Brian Masse (Windsor West, NDP): Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Surrey North, and I am pleased to do so.

    I am pleased to speak about Bill C-21. It is an interesting issue, no doubt. The vast majority of Canadian businesses are small businesses. It employs millions of people. Some small businesses employ just one, sometimes two and sometimes more. It is a vital part of the economy that we have to take care of.

    The government website says it all with a picture of nice cute little scissors cutting red tape and talking about the one-for-one rule. I want to address that first. What is red tape?

    Red tape can actually prevent yellow tape, being sickness, death or something else. Regulations have been put on products, services and the way we go about doing business, because of problems or issues that have come up. We have seen that most recently with food health safety, rail and aviation.

    A number of times we have needed to bring in rules. Some of those rules are important. In fact I want to point to an example of something I worked on when I first got here in Parliament, the tax deductibility of fines and penalties. It used to be the case in Canada that people were able to get a tax credit of up to 15% for a fine or penalty they incurred and which went through the judicial system.

    For example, if my memory serves me correctly, there was a drug company that got $11 million back from a $40 million fine. That is unfair, not only in terms of taxpayers but it is also a problem for the companies that are actually following the proper regulations and rules, doing the right thing. It would be akin to getting a speeding ticket, going to work and being able to write half of it off.

    The reality is the rule is the rule. If people are caught breaking the rule, then it is a problem. There are two ends to this. The regulation is in place and it is an issue for some businesses to actually get the paperwork done and to get through the process. However, there is also the unfair competition aspect where people are breaking the rules and regulations, taking shortcuts and putting people's health and safety at risk, and those people are rewarded for that type of behaviour.

    We end up paying for it in a couple of ways. We pay for it on the front end with the loss of revenue that could go to other types of things, and we also lose by paying for the damage that improper product or service caused. It could be a health care cost or an insurance cost.

    This is a problem with the ideology of the one-to-one. The one-to-one ideology does not take into account new product development, innovation and change that is necessary at different times. Let us look at how far our electronic products have come over the last number of years.

    We have also had changes in the types of materials we have. Sometimes it is quite positive, for example dealing with mercury. If we did not have regulations in place, we would end up with more of it in our landfills and our dumps.

    I would argue it can also protect some of our trade. We know from the work we have done in the industry committee that some illegal products, often those coming from China or other places, do not follow some of the regulations, which ends up costing us. Mercury in batteries is a good example. We end up paying for that at the end of the day. There are even cases where knock-off products were used in hospitals. If the regulatory process is not in place, it can actually create other problems.

    Where the government can help small business, I want to point to products and services that it could actually bring in and implement that would be a benefit for them. On the services aspect of the government, small business is hurting really bad. I will use a couple of examples from my constituency. There is the closing of the sorting of mail and the raising of the price of stamps.

    Right there, we have a significant issue that impacts small business, far greater than filling forms.

    When small businesses do their transactions now, their banking, their outreach to the community, often small business uses door-to-door delivery. They will use the postal system, whether it is a pizza place or whether it is a business that is getting going. It could be another restaurant., often those flyers are the ones that hit our doors, and the postal service is used for that.

    The door-to-door delivery that they have is one of the greatest assets for outreach, because if two or three people are working in a small business, or maybe five or six if it is a pizza place and a person is starting out, they do not have time to deliver those flyers. They do not have time to do the outreach. However, the post office delivery system offers an economic alternative and a worry-free service that gets a business' flyers at least to somebody's door right away.

    The Conservatives will argue those post office boxes will do the same thing, but it is not the same thing. It is not having a person go there. It guarantees that it gets into the customer's hand.

    Sorting the mail in London, Ontario is not helping our small businesses in Windsor, Ontario. We now have a built-in delayed systems, and we throw all these trucks onto the highways and the 401. They go up to 401, get sorted, come back and get distributed, which is another delay in service.

    Another one affecting our area is the closure of the counsel general services in Detroit. It used to be we could fly into Detroit, and if we needed to come across to Canada, we could get a visa right there from that service, and that was a lot of small and medium sized businesses that arrived in Detroit and realized how close Canada is and wanted to investigate opening a business. However, now they have to go to New York or wait three weeks. Closing that service did not help my constituents and my small business. It put them at risk.

    Another thing employers talk about is employment insurance, not having the proper staffing at Service Canada and delays of cases. That hurts on two fronts. That hurts the employers who are trying to deal with employment insurance and the lay-off of somebody for perhaps the first time and also delays in the casework files processing, the person with employment insurance being able to get that cheque and buy local groceries, local products and services. That is a delay as well. Those things in particular hurt small business.

    There are also credit card fees. Small business has been gouged on credit card fees for many, many years, and they continue to do so. The government's program has not resulted in any significant reduction in credit card fees. A little will finally be released, but not nearly anywhere they should. They still collect billions of dollars in fees. I will conclude with this: Adding new products to the market will help small business. Like C-290 It is a simple sports betting bill. It has been stuck in the Senate for three years. That would allow convenience stores and other small businesses a new source of revenue, taking it away from organized crime and offshore nefarious businesses, and put that money back in the pockets of Canadians.

Questions& Comments

    Mr. Brian Masse: Mr. Speaker, there are always going to be changing circumstances as products and services enter and leave the market. The issue is making sure that the regulatory processes, municipally, provincially and federally, do not duplicate themselves, and that requires working together, something the current government has been incapable of doing. In fact, the Prime Minister has not even wanted to meet with some premiers. That is the way we have to go about approaching the overlaps.

    The reality is that at the end of the day, things change. Every single day there is a new product on the market and the ideology of the one for one fails from the get-go because it does not take into account the changing world we have.

 Mr. Brian Masse (Windsor West, NDP): Mr. Speaker, I would like to say that I appreciate the member's comments, but I would add a “d” to the end of his “TIRE” for a done government, and it is a tired argument.

    We see in the legislation before us the ideology of one to one versus that of proper regulation when it comes to new products' entry into the market.

    I would ask the member, when a new product comes in, and it could be a new Tablet, a device, or something different, why would we apply the one to one when we actually have to build in regulations that are new?

    Mr. Brian Masse: Mr. Speaker, absolutely the member is correct. Regulations can be changed at any point in time. A good example is when I tabled a bill on invasive carp in this country. The government stole those regulations and changed them, and I am thankful that it did that. It was an improvement. It is a good example to show that it can be done if it is right and without this legislation and putting all the eggs in the basket of the Treasury Board.

Mr. Brian Masse: Mr. Speaker, I would point back to my experience with the transport sector. When I was on the transport committee, I was a transportation critic at that time, and the Liberals brought in the safety management system. It was reviewed and what we found was that the two actually connect because of the fact that self-reporting by the railway did not take place due to a culture of fear and intimidation. That is in the Wilson report itself. That meant that in the end, the paperwork did not get done and the inspections diminished, especially with the reduction in the staffing of Transport Canada.

    Therefore, they do blend at the end of the day if the system is not accountable, and that is what I worry about. The safety management system is a classic example. If the system is not healthy, then the other does not get taken care of either.