By Trevor Busch
Since their election in 2019, Alberta’s UCP government has placed a strong emphasis on cutting red tape, even creating a specialized ministry to focus on the issue and perform a deep dive through the province’s regulatory environment.
Headed by local Taber-Warner MLA Grant Hunter, the associate ministry of Red Tape Reduction tabled Bill 48 (the Red Tape Reduction Implementation Act) in the house last month. The omnibus legislation targets 12 pieces of legislation in eight different ministries.
One of the key inclusions would streamline municipal development timelines to speed up subdivision and development permit approvals.
“The questions that are being asked — and they’re good questions — by our job creators, we were elected by our Albertans to get us back to work. What they’ve asked us for is certainty,” said Hunter. “They’ve asked us for some understanding about how those municipal reserves and offsite levies work. And what we’ve said is in terms of timelines, we think that it’s important to have that certainty for our developers and for those businesses, so that they can know if they go in to do a development, it’s going to take ‘x’ amount of time to do that. There’s nothing wrong with that, most jurisdictions have it, and that’s the reason why businesses can work. So we just wanted to provide that certainty.”
Builders will no longer be required to complete a building assessment report for new condos or residential building conversions, saving the average condo buyer about $400.
“What happens with that is there’s about $400 per condo that basically is borne by Albertans,” said Hunter. “It’s a redundant tool that is used. So you’ve got the Safety Codes Act, you’ve got the Condominium Properties Act, that already provide that certainty or that help, that safety net for condo owners and the builders. And so for this there is no need to continue to do that anymore. There was lots of consultation on this and they said look, let’s try to save some money. This, will probably save about $2.7 million per year for our builders and home buyers. Which at this time — people say ‘well what’s $400’ — you know what? If you’re buying a condo, $400 is $400.”
Red tape reduction is backed fully by cabinet and the premier, says Hunter, and will continue to be an area of focus for the UCP.
“We’re dealing with 12 different statutes, eight different ministries. I will say that each of the ministers have really come on strong to support this. The premier is 100 per cent behind this initiative — because of COVID he doesn’t speak about it as much — but prior to COVID in almost every speech he would talk about the importance of getting out of the way of our job creators, making us the freest, fastest moving economy in North America. This is our goal.”
Telling Alberta’s good news stories to investors around the globe will start to pay dividends for the province, and red tape reduction is part of that story, argues Hunter.
“An exciting thing that we have, the premier went down to Texas and he said to the investors down there, ‘you just wait, we are going to knock your socks off.’ But at that time, he went down there early in our mandate, he didn’t have much that we could tell. Now he can go back to them and say, ‘listen, I told you that we were going to do amazing things. Just so you know, in terms of comparables to the United States, in their first year they were able to reduce compliance costs — the cost to everyday Americans — by about $113 per family of three. We’ve tripled that per capita, where our savings to a family of three is about $324.’ So he can go back now to Texas, back to those investors, and say look what we’ve done. In their first year of reducing regulatory burden, they were able to reduce it by about two per cent, whereas we were able to reduce it by about six per cent. So we have a three ‘x’ story to tell to those investors, to those people, to say, ‘wow, you guys are moving quick and you’re getting a lot done.’ I think we’ve got a great story, we’ve given the premier great fodder for the cannon to be able to go down there and sell Alberta, sell the story of Alberta and what we have to offer to those investors.”