01/31/2014 09:31 EST | Updated 04/01/2014 05:59 EDT

Red Tape Awareness Week Celebrates Five Years

Five years ago, dedicating a week to help profile red tape was considered a little "out there." Today, as we wrap up Canada's fifth annual Red Tape Awareness Week, I look back and I'm proud to say that we've really come a long way. But given that excessive regulation and paperwork remains the second highest priority for CFIB's 109,000 small business members, we still have a long way to go.

What is red tape, exactly?

It's the extra time you spend applying for or renewing your passport or driver's license when the process isn't straight forward. It's the confusing rules and processes around seemingly simple tasks. It's the rules that require a men's clothing store to install industrial dishwashers and send its sales people to government training courses on safe ways to make coffee for customers (sadly, a real example from Alberta). It's the regulations in Gatineau that determine which evenings locals are allowed to get their hair cut. And, it's costing us all billions of dollars a year.

CFIB's latest research report has estimated the cost of the most common red tape headaches for individuals to be at least $10 billion a year. For small businesses, regulation costs over $30 billion a year, and about a third of that is considered excessive red tape, unnecessary to protect our safety and well-being.

What's more, until recently, most governments haven't even kept track all the regulation they keep churning out. It's been a red tape Wild West, with no sheriff in town.

Canada's Red Tape Awareness Week -- which was born five years ago out of utter frustration -- is now a revolution that's helping to hold governments accountable. When it began, red tape wasn't even acknowledged as a problem by government. As of this year, we have commitments from more and more governments across the country to measure and report on the problem, and bring it under control. I'd say that while there's still a lot of work to do, we're definitely headed in the right direction.

Highlights from our 2014 Red Tape Awareness Week:

• A new report, Impact of Regulation on Canadian Individuals, estimated the cost of some of the most common regulatory headaches for Canadians to be at least $10 billion a year.

• From east to west, governments were graded on their commitment to red tape accountability. British Columbia once again led the way with an A, while the federal government, Saskatchewan, Quebec, Ontario and New Brunswick all received grades in the B range. Alberta and Manitoba are near the bottom. Read the report card here.

• For the first time, in our second CFIA Report Card, we calculated the cost for farmers and other businesses in the agricultural sector to comply with regulations imposed by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) -- a whopping $657 million each year.

• The 2014 national Golden Scissors Award went to Mayor Stew Young and City Council from Langford, B.C. for their simple but transformative initiative of making business licenses permanent.

• Our new Paperweight Award went to Canada's worst red tape offenders: the Temporary Foreign Worker Program and Multi-Material British Columbia.

All in all, it's been an eventful week, and a fun five years. CFIB's Red Tape Revolution continues to build momentum among ordinary Canadians and decision-makers alike. Our online petition gives you an opportunity to add your voice.

While some rules are important and necessary, there will always be lots of red tape to consider. Red Tape Awareness Week is making a difference and encouraging a national dialogue on what can be done to reduce it. Red tape slows down entrepreneurship, raises prices, kills jobs and stresses people out -- from dumb rules to endless paperwork it can feel like death by a thousand paper cuts.

That's why we'll keep on fighting.