File photo A Canadian Federation of Independent Business study grades the cities of White Rock and Surrey – among 20 B.C. municipalities – on the amount of red tape they impose on businesses.

Biz group grades White Rock, Surrey

Report places White Rock 17th out of 20 in study of local red tape impacting small business

Surrey and White Rock have been judged on how friendly they are to business.

According to a Canadian Federation of Independent Business ‘mystery shopper’ study released this month, Surrey ranked eighth and White Rock 17th out of 20 municipalities surveyed in terms of “excessive regulatory burden.”

In simple terms, that’s ‘red tape’ – which the CFIB says can range from “lengthy, nonsensical paperwork to poor customer service.”

That, the CFIB says, can weigh heavily on owners of small and medium-sized businesses in B.C.

The study focused mainly on Metro Vancouver municipalities, but also included Victoria, Prince George and Kelowna.

It examined access to information (website user-friendliness), quality of information (a mystery-shopper approach in which municipalities were contacted anonymously by email) and ‘regulatory framework’ (an evaluation of everything from timeliness and helpfulness, to wait times, costs, policies and resources that can contribute to ease of doing business).

In a detailed breakdown of White Rock’s score – 57 out of a possible 100 points – the CFIB says the city performs best in access to information, while recommending expansion of the online service account to allow businesses to “check the status of any applications, licenses and permits, make payments, and other business related items.” (Since the study, the city has upgraded such services, with improved online and app accessibility).

But the city was marked down on quality of information, with the report noting that while emails were answered within two days, content and quality of responses ranged between satisfactory and providing no relevant information.

“It is recommended the city invest more resources, or provide additional training and standards within (its) administrative and communication departments,” the report states.

The study also concludes that there is “room for improvement” in White Rock’s regulatory framework – noting that while there is information on anticipated delay of building permits (six weeks) there is no information available on wait times for business licenses.

“Ensuring transparency about wait times helps reduce stress on business owners while helping them plan for their future,” the study notes, adding that White Rock is the only city surveyed that does not offer a mobile business license agreement.

Surrey received 73 out of 100 in the survey. While the city received full marks in access to information, it dropped marks for inconsistent online communication and received a recommendation for increasing transparency on anticipated licensing delays and on incentives, grants and initiatives for small businesses.

White Rock can console itself for not performing as badly as 20th ranked Port Moody, which – while it performed reasonably well in access to information – was slammed for only answering one out of three emails, and providing a lack of information on permit and license delays.

Top ranking went to Kelowna.

According to the report, regulatory burden cost B.C. businesses more than $5.3 billion in 2017, of which one third was attributable to red tape.

Cutting through that tape, according to the study, can be ”as simple as minimizing burdensome regulations on permits, having simple and clear language on all paperwork, and having a user-friendly website.”

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