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Back  |  January 21, 2015  | 


In my latest column for the Calgary Herald, I wrote about the success of our Cut Red Tape program. Here's what I had to say:

Back in 2010, when I was first running for mayor, I kept hearing stories of how The City was not as customer-friendly as it should be. From the restaurant who finally received their permit to operate a patio just in time for winter to the single mum operating a home-based massage therapy business finding herself subject to humiliating inspections and onerous annual fees, many felt the city was inhibiting rather than facilitating their success.

Since that time, we have been engaged in a massive program called Transforming Government to make the City administration more transparent and more accountable, and above all, to put the citizen at the centre of everything we do. Indeed, I often remind my City colleagues that we should be asking ourselves, multiple times a day, “how is what I am doing right now making it better for someone to live in Calgary?”

An important part of Transforming Government has been the Cut Red Tape program, which has been operating out of my office. It’s Red Tape Awareness Week in Canada, sponsored by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, and as the program transitions out of my office to become a permanent part of City management, I thought it would be a good time to share some successes.

Since launching in 2011, and with a modest investment (not quite two staff members), we’ve launched over 40 formal and countless informal Cut Red Tape programs, and saved Calgarians at least $12.7 million dollars (including time and money).

Interestingly, many of these ideas came directly from my City colleagues. Phase one of the program consisted simply of asking City staff what ideas they had to cut red tape and improve customer service. They had nearly 300 ideas, from every department, and these ideas still form the core of the program.

Future phases included ideas from the business community, with the assistance of a Business Advisory Group, and from the general public. Some ideas were very easy to implement, while some took some work or a little bit of money to get them in place. Some examples include:

  1. Making it easier for citizens to use the Animal Licensing website by removing redundant, inaccurate, and confusing information. Citizens save time and effort by having a more streamlined process for licensing their pet.
  2. Making it easier for citizens to report graffiti on City of Calgary public spaces by streamlining the 311 reporting process and adding the service request to online forms and the 311 mobile app.
  3. Making it easier for Calgary Housing clients to make the transition to their subsidized housing unit with no unexpected costs.
  4. Making it more efficient for home designers and builders to submit plans for single houses and duplexes homes by creating easy-to-understand guidelines.
  5. Making submitting and reviewing construction drawings faster and more efficient by allowing online submission of plans – saving time and money for the applicant but also allowing for many areas to review the submissions simultaneously.

There are many other examples – parents will appreciate a better system for signing up for recreation programs, allowing you to register your child for the next swimming level while you’re at the pool.

And yes, it’s much easier for a restaurant to open a patio now, and new rules make it simpler for legitimate massage therapists to conduct their business.

So, as we celebrate Red Tape Awareness Week, I want to thank all those who have made this program work: the small but mighty secretariat, the volunteers from the business community who helped on the advisory group, my Council colleagues, particularly Peter Demong, for their unwavering support, and particularly the thousands of my City colleagues for their innovation and their hard work.

Mayor Naheed Nenshi is a national finalist for the CFIB’s Golden Scissors Award for the Cut Red Tape program.

Categories: Columns; Cut Red Tape; Better economy; Even smarter City Hall

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