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Tale of two realities: Government not held to standard it demands of business

Do as I do, not as I say.

For years, we’ve heard chatter in the business community that there’s no rhyme or reason around which businesses receive government support and which don’t.

Despite the rumblings, many didn’t want to — or couldn’t — believe that government would be so arbitrary, inconsistent and elusive with tax dollars, and billions’ worth.

Thanks to the auditor general’s report, we now know those rumblings were bang on, at least with regards to the Industrial Expansion Fund. This is utterly inexcusable, and the response to shut the fund down was really the only option.

In doing so, we have an opportunity to go beyond our inherently paternalistic approach to economic development and move in a more grassroots direction. Such an approach would be grounded in business’s own desire that the province focus its energies on creating an environment where all can succeed (read: more competitive tax and regulatory regimes), rather than picking and choosing the ones they want to succeed.

Aside from the fund, the report — and all aspects of it — unearthed a separate but equally concerning theme and trend: government’s inability or unwillingness to put rules in place and/or follow them. I’m finding this piece of the report most difficult to digest due to the rigour with which it creates new rules for businesses to follow and sets up penalties that are lodged if they don’t.

In reading the report, I was imagining the reaction of a small-business owner doing the same. And here’s where I think they’d land: There are two different, yet unspoken realities — one for businesses and the other for government.

The business reality is one in which there’s a good chance they’ll get punished in some way for missing one of the hundreds of things government requires them to do. Don’t have an occupational health and safety policy posted in your business? You could get a slap on the wrist — or worse. Filed your taxes a month too late? Interest will be charged — maybe even a penalty.

Tale of two realities: Government not held to standard it demands of business – Business – TheChronicleHerald.ca.

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This entry was posted on May 22, 2011 by in Building Business, Business Trends, Hfx Chronical Herald, Market Conditions, Political Comment.

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