Red tape delays
Edmonton has a big problem with red tape. It is hurting regular Edmontonians trying to open or grow a business, it is discouraging community revitalization, and it is increasing the cost of housing. As we look toward coming out of the pandemic, we cannot afford further economic damage caused by unnecessary regulation.
I’ve been campaigning since the end of March and have had a number of conversations with small business owners who are frustrated by the lengthy timelines to receive permits and licences. These delays can often result in people losing hundreds of dollars per day, preventing new jobs from being created.
Red tape is a problem that has been well-documented for years. For example, in 2019, Edmonton’s Chamber of Commerce surveyed businesses and found that our city was less business friendly than the rest of the region because of red tape and taxes, as reported by the CBC. City Council can talk as much as it wants about working to attract investment and highlighting the positives of our city, but if behind those conversations interested individuals, businesses, and investors are faced with a mountain of red tape and high tax rates, it will be difficult for the city to entice people to set up shop in Edmonton.
For a closer look at how the city’s red tape is hurting Edmonton, consider that in 2019, Two Sergeants Brewery permanently closed its doors due to “zoning and bureaucratic delays” and a “loss of investor confidence.”
That same year, Fire and Flower also said that they found “Edmonton in particular to be quite difficult to deal with.”
Jump forward to 2021 and nothing has changed. This past spring, Half Hitch Brewing Company from Cochrane was hoping to expand into Edmonton in two locations, but earlier this year cited red tape as a major hindrance.
Similar frustrations and delays have been holding up the Transit Smokehouse and BBQ from being able to open as planned around New Year 2021. This is a business in the Dene ward, owned by residents here and they are still waiting on the city. Their ongoing struggles have been reported on by all of Edmonton’s news outlets including the Edmonton Journal, CTV, and CBC.
But it’s not just individual businesses and business owners who are struggling. These problems with red tape also affect community redevelopment and affordable housing.
Take, for example, this 2018 column in the Edmonton Journal by David Staples. Permitting and red tape delays are hurting development meant to revitalize communities. In the Dene ward, we don’t need to look much further than the Station Pointe redevelopment on Fort Road to see the frustration of years of delays.
Then, there’s the city’s desire to add yet more permits and red tape when moving forward on infill, by requiring a permit to conduct work near a city tree. Yes, you read that right. (Item coming back to Council for discussion this month.)
Affordable housing is also a victim of bureaucratic red tape in Edmonton. Consider this 2018 story from Global that says affordable housing would be more affordable without all the red tape. Affordability is a concern for many people and removing unnecessary red tape is one way to ensure more success on this front.
Only one year ago, a community agency said they were about to lose federal funding for 36 affordable housing units after waiting more than a year for the city to issue permits. They had the land in West Edmonton and provincial and federal funding, but could not get permits from the city. That is tragic.
Every single one of these examples is unacceptable. That’s why I support policies that call for timelines when it comes to licencing and permitting. In May, I took part in an announcement at the Transit Smokehouse and BBQ with mayoral candidate Mike Nickel. I cannot say this enough: government needs to get out of the way wherever possible. This is not to say that the City shouldn’t do its due diligence and ensure safety and security, but we’re hurting ourselves when we don’t enable people to open businesses, build, hire staff, and contribute to our economic growth and recovery. We’re hurting the people who are missing out on those jobs and are waiting for that affordable housing.
As we come out of the pandemic, it is more important than ever that we address Edmonton’s serious regulatory problems.
I love Edmonton and I know you do, too. But if we want more people to love Edmonton enough to bring their business here or open up a new business or create more affordable housing, we cannot leave red tape untouched. We need change.