The federal Red Tape Reduction Commission, which tabled its report in January 2012, considered 2,300 red tape irritants.
It looked at 2,000 federal regulations in 14 different sectors and proposed systemic changes to the way government manages regulations and regulatory activities. It offered 90 specific recommendations associated with requirements of 18 federal regulatory departments and agencies, as well as 15 systemic recommendations aimed to reduce the overall administrative burden of all federal regulators.
In broad terms, the Commission recommended reducing administrative burden on businesses by trimming information demands, enhancing the use of electronic services to reduce compliance costs, improving coordination of compliance activities, reusing information already provided by business and improving regulatory information on web portals.
Recommendations also suggested fostering a strong service culture among regulators, connecting the dots for business that must deal with many regulators, and strengthening the use of plain language and definitive interpretations. The Commission also recommended increasing predictability for business through regulatory plans, improving assessment of risks and better understanding the impact of regulatory requirements on small businesses. Finally, the Commission made recommendations to ensure accountability for progress on reducing red tape.
In tabling the report, the government announced the “one for one” rule, which requires regulators to remove at least one regulation each time they create a new one that imposes administrative burden on business.
Here are key lessons the Secretariat learned while supporting the Commission during the process:
Ensure, up-front, clarity of mandate and an effective governance mechanism. Clear terms of reference were issued with specific objectives and a defined timeline. A focused project charter and broad consultations and work plan were developed. An effective governance model, with distinct roles for the lead minister and chair and supported by a senior executive, was put in place. A secretariat was quickly established, and drew regularly on an advisory committee of ADMs in regulatory departments. This ensured that the work of the secretariat linked to departmental regulatory agendas. A working group drawn from all regulatory departments and agencies was used to provide input, advice and fact checking.
Seek advice from a broad range of stakeholders as well as independent experts. Previous exercises began internally, with regulators drawing up lists of administrative burden reductions. In contrast, the Commission reached out to business to identify where red tape priorities lay. Between January and March 2011, the Commission held 15 roundtable sessions in 13 cities, attracting nearly 200 participants. Online consultations – including with regulators – enabled hundreds of participants to give their views on where to cut federal red tape and how to ensure that lasting changes were made to ensure it did not creep back. Reported in the “What Was Heard Report” (September 2011), comments helped frame the Commission’s recommendations. The Commission engaged independent experts to assess the merits of the lasting, systemic changes proposed during the consultation phase. Their advice was in turn tested with two roundtables with businesses to ensure alignment with their concerns.
Be transparent with stakeholders and regulators. The Commission made every effort to be open and transparent throughout its process. Voices of stakeholders who appeared before the Commissions were faithfully transcribed in the “What Was Heard Report.” Participants in the online consultation had the option to share their submissions publicly, and all summaries of the roundtable sessions, lists of written submissions and the names of consultation participants were posted to the Commission’s website.
Executive summaries of all the policy option papers written for the Commission were made public, providing further context to recommendations. Engaging the federal regulatory community was critical. Federal regulators were given full access to consultation input and helped analyze the 2,300 top-of-mind issues, striving to identify the “root causes” behind the irritants, and validate and cluster the irritants. Involving federal organizations concurrently allowed for grounding stakeholder input, commencing the change process to respond to the concerns of business, and identifying measured and realistic recommendations.
Provide leadership to remain goal oriented. Effective leadership was critical to the Commission’s success. The prime minister set the tone by launching the initiative. The minister of State for Small Business and Tourism championed the work of the Commission. The president of the Treasury Board regularly engaged his ministerial colleagues in regulatory departments to advance the Commission’s work. Commission members contributed views from an entrepreneurial perspective and from that of Members of Parliament. Assistant deputy ministers and directors general in all the involved departments played an active role in providing advice and support to the Secretariat.
Roger Scott-Douglas is the assistant secretary, Priorities and Planning Sector, at the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat. Previously he served as the assistant secretary of the Red Tape Commission Secretariat.