The province is launching a new pilot program that will help roll back red tape for local businesses.
On Thursday, Premier Stephen McNeil announced the creation of an inspection navigator service whose focus will be guiding entrepreneurs through the startup process, when inspectors of all kinds ensure a business is up to snuff.
It’s building off the success of a generic business navigator program run through the Office of Regulatory Affairs and Service Effectiveness, which has helped nearly 4,000 small businesses navigate the complex web of government regulation since 2017.
According to that office’s most recent annual report, the navigators offer one-on-one guidance to business owners, saving each one an average of 10 hours of time, and collectively, about $3 million.
“I’m going to tell you for anybody in this room whose ever had an idea and wanted to try and take it to market, sometimes it’s a pretty lonely place to be,” McNeil told a crowd at the Open Book Coffee shop in Halifax. “This will drive, in my view, the same kind of results that the business navigator is driving.”
Patricia Cuttell-Busby, executive director for the North End Business Association, welcomed Thursday’s news and said the navigator services are critical for homegrown businesses.
“When somebody goes to open a small business, you know, they don’t have a big organization behind them so it’s difficult to figure out how to navigate all the regulations,” she explained.
“One example is I have a small business in the North End who got different occupancy loads for her business from the fire inspector, from the liquor commission, from the planning department – and so that can be really confusing for people to figure out.”
The province hopes to save businesses an extra $10 million by the end of 2020 by reducing the regulatory burdens they face. If that target is met, according to the Office of Regulatory Affairs and Service Effectiveness, the government will have saved businesses nearly $45 million annually between 2017 and 2020.
The province also set a goal of cutting back the number of hours residents, non-profits and businesses spend on paperwork and processes by 50,000 by 2020.
Jim Cormier, director of government relations in the Atlantic for the Retail Council of Canada, said his members are grateful for such initiatives.
“Our members look at it and they say, one action out of this office isn’t going to change much in their day to day lives, but when you add, it becomes like 15 or 20 different things that they’ve done over the course of three or four years,” he told Global News.
“The incremental change really does make a huge impact on the business here in the province.”
Other priorities for the Office of Regulatory Affairs include eliminating trade barriers in the region, and removing outdated rules and regulations across the provincial government. The office will also emphasize partnerships with municipalities in Cape Breton.
McNeil said he hopes businesses there will take full advantage of the new services being offered.
“We have a major number of public investments that we’re making in terms of infrastructure, and the next phase is to bring together all of those private entities to continue to ensure that the entrepreneurs of the island recognize the supports we have here,” he said, “and making sure that we fully ensure the business climate and environment there.”