The curious case of a kids' lemonade stand shut down by bureaucracy exemplifies how government overreach can stifle entrepreneurship, two prominent Conservatives say.
CBC News reported over the long weekend that an officer from the National Capital Commission told two Ottawa girls raising money for camp that they could not sell their drinks along the Rideau Canal because they lacked the proper permits.
The reaction online was swift, with plenty comparing the NCC officer to the Grinch That Stole Summer. But others argued, essentially, that rules are rules.
Former Tory cabinet ministers Pierre Poilievre and Maxime Bernier took to social media to point to a bigger lesson.
Former Tory cabinet minister Pierre Poilievre weighed in on a kids' lemonade stand shut down by the National Capital Commission. (Photo: The Canadian Press/Jupiter Images)
"We might as well teach our children that if they ever start a business, some busybody bureaucrats will stand in the way," Poilievre said.
Poilievre, a former employment minister who now serves as his party's critic for the NCC, sarcastically tweeted that he was thankful the Crown corporation was protecting Canadians from "the anarchy of unregulated children's lemonade stands." He also warned about the "slippery slope" that could lead to Girl Guide car washes or bottle drives.
But, lest anyone think Poilievre was joking around, he also worked in a shot at the Liberal government for breaking its pledge to keep the federal deficit to under $10-billion.
Bernier, a former minister of state for small business who is now running for Tory leader, had much the same message as his colleague.
"BIG GOVERNMENT won't let those two young and entrepreneurial girls sell their lemonade," he wrote on Facebook. "Do you think these five-year-old girls shouldn't be bothered by government officials for doing their business?"
Bernier, considered something of a libertarian, has tried to shape his leadership bid around the theme of economic freedom. In recent weeks, he has come out against supply management for the dairy and poultry industry and called for the deregulation of the telecom industry.
At his campaign launch in May, Bernier said that "big government" treats Canadians like irresponsible children.
"A big government crushes private initiative and the dreams of young entrepreneurs by creating barriers to entry and making capital scarce," he said at the time." Is that fair?"
The NCC has released a statement saying that while the junior conservation officer on duty acted in good faith, the situation could have been handled differently.
"Children's lemonade stands are a time-honoured summer tradition that contributes to a lively Capital and the NCC wants to encourage these activites whenever possible," it reads.
CBC Ottawa's Ashley Burke tweeted that the girls at the heart of this story applied for a lemonade stand permit Monday and received an apology from the NCC.
Poilievre also released a video Tuesday, in which he argues that the controversy over the lemonade stand was symbolic of the "cobweb of rules" that hurt other businesses.
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