Saturday, January 15, 2011

A blue ribbon panel to study red tape?

After some five years of governing, the Conservatives have decided its time to do something about red tape.

Minister of State Rob Moore, who joined Harper during the announcement, will head the 12-member commission, which involves other parliamentarians and business owners.

The commission will consult Canadians "to identify irritants that have a clear detrimental effect on growth, competitiveness and innovation" and find solutions to lighten the regulatory load.
Yes, nothing says we're serious about cutting red tape like forming a blue-ribbon commission to study cutting red tape. They'll hold hearings, have debates, and then write a report. The government will then study the recommendations of the report. That should do it.

It's necessary though, because how should the Conservatives have any idea what to do about red tape after just five years of running the government?

But clearly they don't, because in fact they've had a policy of adding to the red tape burden while in government. And I don't just mean their own internal communications nonesense.

No, the best example of the Conservative fetish for red tape is their love of complicated tax credit schemes.

Last week I wrote about the Conservative public transit tax credit program that has failed to do anything to improve transit or boost ridership. What it has done though, is increase red tape for millions of Canadians.

Instead of just sending funding directly to transit, or lowering the overall tax rate, the Conservatives designed a tax credit that requires you to save your transit passes to claim the credit each year, then stick all the passes in a shoe box for seven years in case they audit you.

And this is just one of many similar tax credit schemes the Conservatives have introduced. There's a Children’s Fitness Tax Credit, a Mineral Exploration Tax Credit, tax writeoffs for meal expenses by long-haul truck drivers, and credits for enrolling kids in sports programs.

All are complications to the tax system that have caused Canadians to fill shoe boxes and increased red tape for both citizens in preparing their taxes and the government workers that process them. They've made it harder to do your taxes, and caused many more Canadians to have to turn to accountants and professional tax preparers to navigate the Conservative red tape burden.

Why this massive increase in Conservative red tape? It's about votes. Instead of just funding things like transit directly, or just cutting the overall tax rate, they pick specific demographics they want to target for political purposes, design a credit, and get you to think about their kind benevolence each time you apply for a credit to get some of your own money back.

Now, after having dramatically increased the red tape burden, the Conservatives are hoping for another political hit by promising to reduce the very problem they've compounded.

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