A business-friendlier Gatineau?
Last fall, our mayor promoted Gatineau’s business-friendly qualities, pointing to estimations by provincial bodies that Gatineau is indeed doing well on this front. Statistics tell the story: are we getting more business start-ups, more expansion, jobs, and branch openings by large corporations? We need to measure the negatives, too -- business closings and bankruptcies, layoffs, vacant industrial and commercial space, unemployment trends.
Our region’s prosperity is actually measured by the size of the civil service – federal, plus the many provincial offices and agencies serving the region, and the city’s own public servant numbers. But elected officials know the economy and business opportunities must diversify and expand.
The worst would be to hire more civil servants – even if hired to assist private business. A more effective tactic would be to improve the business attitudes, skills, and market comprehension of the existing civil servants. Improve their ability to assist entrepreneurs – simple? But far from attainable!
Most bureaucrats seem to share an attitudinal framework which is not conducive to business. This is not deliberate hostility, although it sometimes seems so to entrepreneurs trying to navigate the regulations set by interests obviously not from the business world. Openness and transparency is a pro-business attitude – removing roadblocks, providing clear explanations – not hidden in complex websites that entrepreneurs are forced to navigate, as opposed to real public, explanatory notices.
So, yes, remove as many of the rules and regulations surrounding the difficulties of setting up and running a business. The rules need review, but public employees also require training in pro-business attitudes. Here is where the work on roots is so important: drilling right down to personal attitudes toward the characteristics and the activities required by entrepreneurs.
Bureaucrats seem famous for their aversion to risk-taking, procedural creativity, and “creative destruction”; for a civil service focused on wage scales and pensions, “creative rule-breaking” may seem suicidal. And we hear many examples of strong work ethics being attacked, not rewarded and fostered, especially by unions and professional organizations which have set labour standards in concrete, or so they hope.
Yet training in developing a more powerful work ethic, in risk-taking, and creative experimentation is needed more than anything else by way of creating a more business-friendly municipal civil service. Entrepreneurs need to meet an attitude of understanding and encouragement, not of limitations and restrictions.
And the last point in this subject is the old – and incredibly useless – cliché: “run government like a business”. Governments share the mandate to serve the public with business, but governments are not businesses – they are not designed to make money, or even save money (apart from frugal management). But an administration which encourages competition and entrepreneurial ambitions within its own staff will create a business-friendly city. A Gatineau which has streamlined its procedures and its statutes to facilitate business growth is needed. A city with pride in its creative energies and opportunities – that’s a business-friendly city, and one which does not ignore the non-business, the community-minded organizations that make our city a home to everyone.