Annals of legislation: Winnipeg business blockades

During the week I spent learning about small businesses, successful entrepreneurs referring to provincial legislation and civic regulation as obstructions to success became a much-too-regular occurrence. Some brief statistics and policy comparison reveals these fellows may have a point.

According to a 2010 study, well over half of Canada’s small businesses are located in Ontario and Quebec.

As both provinces hold the countries largest populations, this statistic is rather unsurprising. More noteworthy, though Ontario has just nearly 10 times the population of Manitoba, they hold nearly 12 times the small businesses.

To reiterate, Manitoba has almost 63 small businesses per 1,000 people, while Ontario has almost 68 per 1,000 people. What’s more, Ontario has an average GDP of 661 per small business, well Manitoba has 658.

Besides the similarities, nothing in this comparison seems alarming until you consider the profound difference between these provinces property and business taxes. In an effort not to bore with further economic yammer, it will suffice to say that Ontario’s are much higher.

So it seems, faced with more terrifying financial obstacles than Manitoba, the people of Ontario manage to maintain more prosperous small businesses. Whether this has some correlation to legislation is another question entirely though.

The City of Winnipeg website lists 24 business licence types. If you wish to start a small business, you have only to jigsaw your establishment into one of these rigid regulation categories. As you might imagine, 24 types hardly constitutes the diversity of possible businesses.

And so, business owners in Winnipeg often find themselves adhering to regulations they shouldn’t have to adhere to.

For example, because there is no separate business licence for coffee shops, such establishments are lumped in with restaurant regulations. This means coffee shops that don’t use deep fryers must still install grease traps in their sinks.

Toronto, on the other hand, offers 42 stationary business types. Food licenses alone are broken down into burger shops, delicatessens, donut shops, fish and chips stores, pizza parlours, a general restaurant category and, that’s right ladies and gentlemen, coffee shops.

Perhaps some degree of Ontario’s superior entrepreneurship is attributed to superior legislation. If there is truth in this, the City of Winnipeg would do well to realize the existence of more than 24 business possibilities, or at least build some form of assessment process for determining the suitability of regulations.

Next time: How many orcs do restaurant owners have to slay to receive liquor licences in Manitoba? You won’t believe the answer!