The World Bank recently issued its annual report on the ease of doing business in 190 countries and territories. And, again, Canada isn’t near the top – in fact, we sit 18th. That’s the bad news. The good news is that there’s room for improvement.
Small New Zealand was first, Singapore second and Denmark third. Our main trading partner, the United States, was sixth. And we’re behind two countries that some Canadians haven’t even heard of: Georgia and Macedonia.
The reasons for our poor showing are difficult to accept.
Registering property is very difficult in Canada and we’re ranked 33rd. Things are even thornier for dealing with construction permits, where Canada is 54th.
In Toronto, for example, it can take 180 days and cost almost $30,000 to get approval from the Toronto municipal planning authority for a new building.
Toronto city councillors often scour site plan controls that include landscaping, pedestrian access, parking, exterior design and appearance, stormwater management and waste disposal for standardized buildings.
Astonishingly, Canada is ranked 105th for ease of getting electricity. In Toronto, it can cost more than $44,000 and take over 80 days to be hooked up to electricity by the city-owned utility. No wonder Toronto Hydro is so profitable, pocketing more than $150 million last year.
When it comes to enforcing contracts, Canada is ranked at 114. It can take an alarming 930 days to obtain a judgment for a relatively simple dispute, largely due to insufficient court capacity and cumbersome, outdated court processes.
In trading across borders, we’re ranked at 46th, partly due to our exceedingly slow import clearance and inspection process. The average time is 2.6 hours – longer than countries like Albania and Bhutan.
Canada continues to rank poorly against other countries we compete with to attract and keep investors, at a time when free-trade agreements are vulnerable, and when capital and talent can easily go to other countries.
All three levels of government in Canada need to focus on improving the investment by adopting modern regulations that improve the business environment. Otherwise, our talent, capital and investors will move towards other economies rather than our own.
Canadian municipalities and provinces need to streamline their regulatory processes to ensure that buildings, businesses and homes can be more quickly built, and businesses can get on with creating jobs and wealth for Canadians in Canada.
If governments are proactive on these issues, the next report on the ease of doing business could show Canada moving up from its dismal 18th position.
Ian Madsen is a senior policy analyst at Frontier Centre for Public Policy.