Fletcher and Miranda Stevens are prohibited from bringing their infant son into the restaurant side of their business, The Woodyard Brewhouse & Eatery.
But according to government regulations, six-month-old Casey is authorized to hang out among steaming vats of brewing beer and various industrial chemicals on the brewery side of the business.
This is one reason the Canadian Federation for Independent Business (CFIB) gave the territorial government a failing grade in cutting red tape this month. The organization surveyed NWT businesses from July to December last year to come up with the grade.
For Fletcher and Miranda, red tape has drawn a strict line between the the brewing and restaurant side of the business that has caused many headaches. For example, the pair would like to sponsor community causes but as a liquor manufacturer, are limited to $1,500.
“It seems like anytime we do have a situation that arises, we hit a wall every time,” said Miranda. “So it kind of makes you not want to step outside the box or do anything different.”
Miranda said their bottom line, the wider economy and community suffers because of these bureaucratic roadblocks.
In a news release, CFIB executive vice-president Laura Jones described the red-tape report card as a measurement of the basics, such as ease and common sense of regulations. The organization gave the territorial government a failing grade for neglecting to measure or report on a previous CFIB challenge to ease the regulatory burden in the territory.
Amber Ruddy, Alberta and Northwest Territories director of CFIB, described red tape as the number-one issue for entrepreneurs in the North.
“That has to do with everything from poor customer service from government departments, conflicting rules, you know, layers of bureaucracy,” she said.
The most serious concern for the approximately 25 businesses surveyed was “government regulation and paper burden,” especially for entrepreneurs in the process of starting up a business or bidding on government contracts.
Industry, Tourism and Investment Minister Wally Schumann does not agree that the survey results or the failing grade issued by the CFIB are representative of the work being done by the government.
“I don’t feel it’s a fair assessment of what we actually do to help small businesses in the Northwest Territories,” he said.
For Deneen Everett, executive director at the Yellowknife Chamber of Commerce, the problems with red tape are primarily a territorial government problem. She said she has seen the City of Yellowknife improve by setting up BizPal, a website for people who want to start a business.
Complaints about government bureaucracy have slowed, Everett said, although she still sees them within the mining industry and associated with transparency such as the use of sole sourcing for GNWT tenders.
The CFIB estimates red tape costs employers $5,942 annually per employee for businesses for a staff of fewer than five and $3,133 per employee for business with five to 19 employees.
Despite failing grades for the GNWT, Industry, Tourism and Investment Minister Wally Schumann still managed to take home the Golden Scissors Award for the signing of the Canadian Free Trade Agreement in April.
The CFIB is a non-partisan business advocacy group. It has 250 members in the NWT, the majority of which are small businesses with less than 10 employees.