Small business report card on the Canadian Food Inspection Agency shows "room for improvement"



    OTTAWA, June 14 /CNW/ - The average small business spends roughly a month
out of each year complying with Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA)
regulations. This is among the key findings of a report: CFIA Report Card -
A Small Business Assessment of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, released
today by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) that shows,
for small businesses in the agriculture and agri-food sector, the regulatory
burden imposed by CFIA has risen over the last three years, and that the
Agency's service levels need improvement.
    CFIB will brief Agriculture Minister Chuck Strahl on the report's
findings in meetings today. CFIB surveyed independently owned businesses
across the country that interact with the CFIA, including those involved in
primary production, food processing, and fishing.
    Cost of Interacting with CFIA: "The average business that deals with CFIA
commits over 29 days per year and spends over $19,000 annually to comply with
its regulations," CFIB's vice-president for Agri-business, Marilyn
Braun-Pollon said. Sixty-six per cent of respondents reported an increase in
regulations over the past three years. Forty-two per cent do not feel the CFIA
is aware of how regulations impact their business.
    "While small business owners understand that a certain amount of
regulation is important for food safety, excessive red tape decreases the
overall productivity of this sector. The challenge for businesses rests in
maintaining the safety of the food products produced and dealing with
government red tape without hindering their performance," Braun-Pollon added.
    CFIA Impact on Business: "To get a sense of how serious the problem is,
consider that 41 per cent of respondents say CFIA regulations "significantly
reduce" their productivity," she added. "Another 40 per cent said CFIA
regulations impede their ability to compete with larger firms. And there is a
definite social cost as 58 per cent of businesses indicated CFIA regulations
"add significant stress to my life."

    
    CFIA Service Quality Measures Viewed Poorly:
    -  Only 5 per cent of respondents rated the service quality as 'good',
    -  Every service quality measure except one - accessibility - received
       more poor responses than favourable ones,
    -  Under 1 in 4 businesses said CFIA's 'willingness to provide
       interpretations/opinions' was 'good',
    -  Only 20 per cent were satisfied with the availability of information;
       and
    -  'Amount of paperwork' (44 per cent), and 'readability, simplicity of
       information' (42 per cent) solicited the highest percentage of
       dissatisfied responses.
    

    "Since these businesses have little choice but to deal with the CFIA, it
is essential the Agency provide high quality service that meets the needs of
small business owners. The CFIA has considerable room for customer service
improvement for its clients," noted Braun-Pollon.
    The federal government has committed to a 20 per cent decrease in the
overall regulatory burden facing small business by the end of 2008. "The
Canadian Food Inspection Agency can play a big part in meeting that goal just
by streamlining its processes and improving the quality and timeliness of its
services to business. Our report includes 10 specific recommendations such as
committing to annual reviews of the regulatory burden and service standards,
and putting information commonly used by small business into plain language,
that would help the Agency do just that," Braun-Pollon concluded.





For further information:

For further information: Marie-danielle Davis at (613) 235-2373 or Holly
Bennett at (416) 222-8022. Full report available on the CFIB web site at:
www.cfib.ca/research/reports/rr3032.pdf


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