Online business

Ontario’s New Online Business Registry Is a Disaster

“Ontario is open for business” was Premier Doug Ford’s victory slogan in 2018. But for those struggling with his government’s new online business registry, there’s a big gap between the slogans and the building a functional infrastructure that supports businesses.

In October 2021, the Ford government launched Ontario’s new online Business Registry. The system replaced an admittedly outdated system that required companies to report in person, by mail, by fax or through sometimes expensive private electronic service providers.

Digitization was a no-brainer for any government, and especially one ostensibly focused on accommodating Ontario businesses. With the Federal Business Registry already offering easy online filing, Ontario looked like a dinosaur by comparison.

But although outdated, the old system worked. Replacing this paper register with a digital register would only be an improvement if the new system worked better.

This is not the case.

The new system was apparently designed around a simple goal: to make it easier for anyone to set up a new company. The problem is that this is not the only function of a business register.

For example, immediately after incorporation, users receive an email asking them to file an initial return. This is a legally essential but virtually irrelevant form telling the government exactly what you just told them about your company’s address and personnel.

But the ministry’s email does not tell users How? ‘Or’ What file an initial declaration. So, the user visits the ministry’s webpage on filing initial declarations to understand this. It says a lot. But not how to file an initial declaration via his online account.

(It is how do you put it downBesides.)

But this is a new business problem. Old societies also have problems. Namely, they don’t have the company key now required to deposit anything. Thus, they must submit a request for their new company key. The ministry will email it to the email address on file within two days. Or physical address on file within two weeks.

But what if a user just doesn’t get the company key? Or the department doesn’t have your email, you’ve just moved and you’re trying to file a notice of change to let the government know your business has just moved?

Well, now you can’t get the key to your business and you can’t file anything, including the annual returns that your accountant used to file with your taxes every year, but are now your responsibility.

To obtain the business key at this stage, you must create an account with one of the two selected private service providers and pay for them to file your corrected information with the ministry, so that the ministry can send your business key.

One service provider charges $149 plus tax for this (the other service provider does not appear to list prices and did not respond to an email inquiry regarding prices).

Some websites state that qualified intermediaries like lawyers do not need company keys to file on behalf of clients, but the department does not take that position.

To verify the identity of the user, the service provider will request an identity analysis. Is there a reason the provincial government responsible for issuing driver’s licenses and health cards can’t verify users’ identities and give them their stupid corporate key without all the hoops and costs ?

Yes, clearly because Premier Ford is creating business opportunities and finding “efficiencies”! That’s the beauty of the free market!

Worse, Ontario’s new system will not allow users to manage more than one company per ONe-Key account. If you have more than one company, you will need to create new accounts with different email addresses for each company.

If you are a lawyer filing on behalf of 20 different companies, you must either create 20 ONe-Key accounts with 20 emails or email the completed forms from the ministry.

Once the department receives a completed form by email, they may acknowledge receipt and call you to ask you to read your credit card number over the phone for the filing fee. Or you’ll never hear from them.

Did they receive the form and did they file it? To find out, you can call the department and speak to a service agent. This service agent cannot Actually help you with anything, but they can tell someone else and ask that no one to call you in the next few days. And maybe they will, maybe they won’t.

It can get frustrating.

You would think that combining the proven efficiency of government with the reliability of technology must necessarily end in calamity, but the federal business register proves otherwise.

Its user interface is excellent and the system works well for both lawyers and laypersons. This proves that there is no reason for the government not to succeed.

All Ontario had to do was copy and paste the federal system replacing the word “Canada” with “Ontario”. But heaven forbid, Premier Ford is making life easier for Ontario businesses by following these socialists to Ottawa.

Marc Z. Goldgrub is an associate with the Toronto Corporate and Commercial Law Firm. Professional Corporation of Green Economy Law. The firm specializes in providing legal services to green businesses and non-profit organizations, parties operating in the healthcare and psychedelic sectors, as well as parties dealing with housing matters.