Opinion: In Budget 2024, Ottawa Needs to Let Business Do Business

Opinion In Budget 2024, Ottawa Needs to Let Business Do Business

As Canada faces economic stagnation, it becomes increasingly clear that excessive government interference in the form of regulations and bureaucratic red tape is hampering businesses’ ability to thrive.

With the upcoming federal budget for 2024, Ottawa must reevaluate its approach and consider a paradigm shift to simplify regulations and allow businesses more freedom to operate. This benefits the economic landscape and enhances Canadians’ overall affordability and quality of life.

Current Economic Climate and Policy Challenges

Canada’s economic climate remains bleak. According to recent data, the GDP grew by a meager 1.1 percent last year, with forecasts predicting even less growth this year. Moreover, in 11 of the last 12 quarters, Canada’s productivity has seen a decline. This stagnant growth highlights a serious issue: without gains in productivity, living standards cannot rise, and the nation’s competitiveness on the global stage continues to slip.

The root of these problems often lies not within the business community, which regularly faces criticism from Ottawa for the affordability crisis and lack of quality jobs, but within the many regulations and constraints the government places. Politicians frequently pledge to foster business investment yet enact new rules and taxes that render investment cumbersome and less appealing.

The Negative Impact of Government Overreach

The continuous expansion of government regulations and taxes is not without consequences. These policies introduce significant inefficiencies into the marketplace, pushing businesses to navigate through unnecessary complexity that drives up operational costs. These increased costs invariably trickle down to consumers, exacerbating the inflation rates that the government aims to control.

In a landscape where affordability is a central concern, it’s imperative to recognize that businesses are not charities; they operate on profit motives. When new red tape inflates their operational costs, these are not absorbed but passed on to consumers, fueling the very inflation the government claims to combat.

The Misguided Approach of Increasing Government Spending

The prevailing strategy in Ottawa to address economic and social issues often revolves around ramping up government spending on new programs. However, history and evidence suggest that government spending cannot adequately replace the innovation and investment the private sector naturally brings to the economy. Instead of paving the way for economic growth, increased government spending often leads to more bureaucracy and inefficiency.

Need for a Regulatory Reform

Given the challenges outlined, there is a clear and present need for regulatory reform. The federal government should aim to create an environment that allows businesses to produce the goods and services Canadians desire not those that ministers think they should have. This involves not only reducing unnecessary regulations but also streamlined approaches to how businesses are allowed to operate.

Canadian agriculture, critical minerals, liquified natural gas (LNG), and hydrogen are sectors that could benefit from such reforms. These are all areas where Canada holds significant competitive advantages yet is hindered by restrictive policies. For instance, uncertainty about policy directions and overly cautious regulatory frameworks discourage investment and slow down project approvals that are critical for growth.

Case Studies and Comparative Analysis

A closer look at different industries provides a clearer picture of the impact of government policies. Industries less burdened by regulations show more dynamism and innovation. For example, the technology sector in Canada, particularly in regions like Toronto and Vancouver, has seen considerable growth thanks to relatively lighter regulatory impacts compared to the energy sector.

Comparatively, nations like Singapore and New Zealand, which emphasize regulatory efficiency and business-friendly environments, consistently rank high in global competitiveness indexes. These countries demonstrate that supportive policies can lead to robust economic growth and innovation.

Recommendations for Budget 2024

For the 2024 budget, the Canadian government should consider the following recommendations:

  1. Reduce Red Tape: Simplify the regulatory environment to make it easier for businesses to start and operate.
  2. Speed Up Approvals: To avoid unnecessary delays, implement faster processing for business-related project approvals.
  3. Economic Focus: Prioritize economic goals over political considerations to ensure policy effectiveness and attractiveness for investment.

These steps would aid in economic recovery and ensure that Canada remains competitive internationally.

Policymakers must understand that the prosperity of Canadian businesses is inherently linked to the prosperity of Canadian households. By allowing businesses the freedom to operate efficiently and profitably, the economic landscape will improve, and Canadians will also enjoy a higher standard of living. The upcoming federal budget presents an opportunity for significant policy redirection that should focus on enabling rather than inhibiting business success.

Source: https://financialpost.com/opinion/budget-2024-ottawa-let-business-do-business