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Businesses with spirit

FINALISTS for the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce Spirit of Winnipeg Awards have been announced:

-- Small business: 1 Life Workplace Safety & Health Ltd., InfoMagnetics Technologies Corp. and La Liberté;

-- Medium business: Manitoba Harvest Hemp Foods, Number TEN Architecture and Pinnacle;

-- Large business: Emterra Environmental, Stantec and Winnipeg Airports Authority;

-- Start-up business: 365 Technologies Inc., Métis Economic Development Organization (MEDO) and Po-Motion Inc.;

-- Charity: Resource Assistance for Youth, Ronald McDonald House and Variety, the Children's Charity of Manitoba;

-- Not-for-profit: Career Internship Program, Louis Riel School Division, International Institute for Sustainable Development and Winnipeg Folk Festival.

The Spirit of Winnipeg awards were established to recognize businesses that exemplify innovation and entrepreneurship. The winners will be announced at a gala dinner at the Fairmont Hotel on March 1.

Manitoba's ugly report card

THE Manitoba government is getting better at reducing bureaucratic red tape for small businesses, but it's performance is still one of the worst in the country, according to the Canadian Federation of Independent Business.

In its 2013 Red Tape Report Card released Tuesday, the small-business group gives the province a D-minus for its efforts to reform the regulatory burden on small businesses. That's an upgrade from the F it received in each of the previous two years.

"To date, Manitoba has focused mainly on service-delivery improvements, like making more information and reporting available online," said Janine Carmichael, CFIB's Manitoba director. "Those are certainly important steps forward."

However, the Red Tape Report Card grades regulatory accountability and the province's efforts to reduce the overall regulatory burden on businesses, Carmichael said.

"That's where Manitoba is at the back of the pack."

She said the province set up a new advisory council late last year to look into ways of reducing provincial red tape. But it hasn't had time to come up with any recommendations, so it's too soon to see if it can reduce the problem.

The CFIB wants the province to ease the burden associated with complying with both new and existing regulations. Carmichael said the federal government and several other provinces already have made significant improvements in this area, and Manitoba could follow their lead by adopting some of the same successful practices and procedures.

For example, the federal government has adopted a one-for-one policy where for every new regulation implemented, an existing one is eliminated.

"It's a question of how we can streamline the process and also alleviate the burden somewhere else, so this (burden) doesn't continue to grow," she added.

The CFIB gave British Columbia the highest provincial approval rating -- an A -- and ranked Manitoba, Prince Edward Island, Northwest Territories and Yukon all at the bottom with D-minus grades.

Retail sales surprise

OTTAWA -- Stronger-than-expected holiday shopping helped boost retail sales more than expected to 0.2 per cent in Canada in November, providing a needed lift to the soft economic environment at the end of last year.

The bigger surprise was in volume terms sales jumped 0.8 per cent from the previous month, which along with a previously reported increase in wholesale activity, likely puts the month on a positive growth track.

In Manitoba, retail spending was essentially unchanged, hovering at just under $1.4 billion. That was also up only 0.1 per cent from November 2011's tally of $1.397 billion.

Capital Economics estimated November's real gross domestic product likely grew about 0.3 per cent, setting up a fourth-quarter advance of between one and 1.5 per cent.

"The introduction of Black Friday and Cyber Monday shopping in Canada, which has traditionally marked the beginning of the holiday shopping season in the U.S., helped spur Canadian sales," said David Madani, Capital Economics' chief Canadian economist.

The prospects going forward are for continued weak retail sales, given that Canadians appear to be tapped out after several years of borrowing to support purchases of everything from homes to cars to appliances.

-- staff / The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 23, 2013 B5

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