Bureaucrats who cut bureaucracy: Finance minister introducing ‘navigators’ to cut red tape

Bureaucrats who cut bureaucracy: Finance minister introducing ‘navigators’ to cut red tape
Woman with brown curled hair and blue suit.
Finance Minister Siobhan Coady speaks with reporters after a luncheon at Bally Haly Country Club. (Darryl Murphy/CBC)

A new plan is in the works to help business cut through government red tape, Newfoundland and Labrador’s finance minister said Friday. 

Before a St. John’s Board of Trade luncheon at Bally Haly Country Club in the city’s east end, Finance Minister Siobhan Coady said her new budget sets aside resources for what she callled “navigators.”

“You need assistance with, in terms of a program, or if something is not moving fast enough within government — cause god knows that happens — or gets lost on somebody’s desk, you can phone up the navigator and they’ll chase it down for and with you,” she said.

“So you have a navigator now within government who is working with the business community.”

On top of that service, she said they will identify red tape that can be cut out and how processes can be streamlined.

To start with, Coady said the program is being introduced at the Department of Industry, Energy and Technology because that’s a department many business owners interact with.

AnnMarie Boudreau, CEO of the St. John’s Board of Trade, said she was pleased with the initiative.

“We know that red tape has been around for decades. And every year we hear … businesses throughout the province asking for support,” she told reporters.

Boudreau said it can be difficult for people outside government to track down information. Now, there will be someone they can email or phone that’s inside the government bureaucracy.

“That will be extremely beneficial for businesses in our province,” she said.

Help for businesses in budget

To the clink of cutlery, Coady gave an abridged version of her budget speech to a packed room of business leaders who warmly received her message.

The budget also announced a cut in the small business tax from 3 per cent to 2.5 per cent, effective Jan. 1.

“It makes Newfoundland and Labrador a very competitive and good place to do business,” Coady said.

Boudreau said the half-point drop helps businesses and is a recognition of the constraints they face.

“There are a lot of burdens on operating a business in Newfoundland and Labrador. So this is helpful and anything that government can do, you know, to ease the burden on businesses throughout our province, is extremely beneficial,” said Boudreau.

Woman with dark hair and a white jacket.
AnnMarie Boudreau, CEO of the St. John’s Board of Trade, was pleased there is a new initiative to help business owners work with government. (Darryl Murphy/CBC)

On the whole, she was pleased to see money in the budget aimed at helping businesses. Like many organizations, she said the St. John’s Board of Trade asks government for things they’d like to see implemented in the budget but that it’s important to be realistic.

“I think there’s real recognition and support for the business community.”

Budget defence

When the budget was released, opposition politicians and some critics found faults, or had lukewarm reactions that charged that it didn’t go far enough to address the cost of living crisis.

Coady said she disagreed with that interpretation of the budget she delivered, reiterating that this was a nearly balanced budget and filled with new spending.

A dining room filled with people, some sitting and others standing
The St. John’s Board of Trade held a post-budget luncheon with Finance Minister Siobhan Coady, where she gave highlights of new initiatives. (Elizabeth Whitten/CBC)

She listed several previous cost-of-living relief measures that were continued, including an 8.05-cent per litre reduction on gas and diesel, a 50 per cent reduction in the cost of passenger vehicles and taxi registration. The home heating supplement for furnace and stove oil is also staying. 

She added the government brought in a $41 million poverty reduction plan, among other programs like $10 million for a seniors’ wellbeing plan.

“So there’s an awful lot of very good initiatives… in this budget that will help the people of the province.”

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