It’s time to scrap the Calgary Regional Municipal Board.

Alberta has sailed right into the perfect storm of economic instability; and there probably isn’t a forecaster anywhere who could have predicted this bruising set of circumstances. Covid-19 arrived like a Muhammad Ali haymaker on top of the gut punch we already received with crashing oil prices. 

The result has been devastating with thousands of jobs lost, thousands more on the brink of losing it all, and countless businesses clinging to survival.

And the last thing we need as a province is to contribute to our demise with bad policy that stunt economic growth. But this is exactly what is happening in the Calgary region, and it’s perplexing given the province established a red-tape ministry to address this very thing. 

Whatever happened to Alberta’s highly touted and much celebrated Ministry of Red Tape Reduction? Remember when Premier Kenney announced there would be a ministry devoted to cutting the bureaucratic nebula of regulation? It was a winner on the campaign trail, and how could it not be? In a province full of creative thinking entrepreneurs, getting government out of our way is music to our ears. Next to cutting taxes, cutting red tape is a sure-fire way to fire up conservative minded Albertans and gain their support.

This year, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) gave Alberta a B- grade for red tape reduction. This is the second lowest score in Canada, scraping the bottom ahead of only Newfoundland. Even the big-spending federal Liberal government scored better. 

In fairness to the UCP, this is the highest score Alberta has received in years. It is a noted improvement, but it looks like there is still a long way to go.

There remains some obvious low hanging fruit that needs to be picked, and fast because it is turning rotten.

Why is the province allowing the job killing, unelected fourth layer of government known as the Calgary Metropolitan Region Board (CMRB) to chug along, chasing investment dollars out of Alberta? Investment is finding greener pastures in jurisdictions where over-regulation and nimbyism is being rolled back.

Case in point is Western Securities, who announced the scrapping of a planned three billion dollar investment, citing the untenable headwinds of the CMRB. They saw no point in pushing ahead with a project that would be vetoed by anti-competitive protectionists. Why throw more money at a project that could be killed by urban-centric politicians that don’t approve of what they see growing beyond Calgary’s boundary? There are more large projects about to pull the ripcord. This is disappointing. Alberta desperately needs fewer restrictions on job creators.

The Ministry of Red Tape Reduction led by Grant Hunter, was given a mandate to cut anything that unessesarily got in the way of job creation and the economy. If it exists just because it always has, get rid of it.

We don’t need a focus group or a special cabinet committee to take action on a board like this. It is pushing jobs out of Alberta for greener, more friendly economic pastures. It’s time to scap the CMRB. Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi and his central planning bureaucrats won’t like it, but raise your hand if you think putting Calgary City Hall in charge of the entire region is a good idea. (I didn’t think so)  

This government celebrates its economic recovery plan by touting the creation of government jobs through infrastructure projects. That helps, but government jobs are not the savior. If the government really wants to help, it will eliminate any policy that weakens investor confidence and stifles free enterprise.   

If we created a Ministry of Red Tape Reduction, it should be working overtime to fulfill its mandate. And if government ministers in any department catch even a glimpse of red tape, they should have 24 hour access to the machinery needed to cut it out. If we took the same bold approach to the job-killing red tape virus as we did with Covid-19, we would create a thriving province once again. It takes courage and every minister should be making that call. Municipal Affairs Minister Madu has a simple decision to make regarding the CMRB; eliminate it and restore investor confidence.  

It makes you wonder, what would Ralph do? Former Premier Ralph Klein announced his intentions, and then, whether popular or not, went ahead and followed through for the good of the province. It seemed he carried a red-tape chain saw and took a run at anything that choked out the Alberta Advantage.

And for the record, Ralph got rid of these very same central planning, anti-investment, competition killing boards back in the ’90s. Today’s political leaders would be wise to follow Ralph’s lead. We created the red-tape ministry, so put it to work. 

Read the full article on the Western Standard Online at this link: https://www.westernstandardonline.com/2020/05/mcallister-albertas-red-tape-reduction-ministry-isnt-living-up-to-the-hype/

Bruce McAllister

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