Thursday, February 26, 2009

Consistent regulations across this region

I have thought about the annoying issue that we have 13 local governments and 13 different sets of bylaws businesses need to deal with. I was talking about this in passing with Jim Legh on Tuesday night at a 3rd Douglas Baden-Powell dinner. I also come across this opinion piece from City Caucus and it spurred me to think about the issue.

In this region most of the municipal boundaries do not follow any logical geographic boundaries, but for almost all businesses this is a single region, a single economic unit.

For some businesses there is no problem in having 13 different local governments. For most retail businesses it is not issue, but for many other businesses there is a problem of having to deal with different rules in each municipality. In theory anyone in the construction trades should have a separate business license for each municipality they work in. They also need to deal with different processes for building inspections.

As just one example of the stupidity of 13 sets of rules, we have no consistency in this region when it comes to allowable signs for a business. There is no earthly reason why there is not one standard set of rules for signs. I could make a long list of how the bylaws locally are not consistent with each other when there is rational reason for them to be different.

All these rules that are applied within the arbitrary boundaries that the local governments cling to and this means we have a higher degree of red tape locally than a single local government. This red tape means that business has extra costs that offer no benefits to anyone and simply make it that much harder to be successful. I have no idea what the cost has been to the region, but if it costs on average each business person one extra hour a year, that is a loss in the range of $5 000 000 in productivity annually.

As a starting point, I would like to see Saanich and Victoria harmonize all bylaws that relate to business. A business license in one should cover both municipalities. Ultimately I would love to see the building inspection done by one unified office for both local governments to the same standards.
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