The Business Number (BN) is a unique, national identifier used in Manitoba to simplify how businesses work with government and reduce their red tape burden. Learn how BN adoption can benefit your municipality.
The intended audience for this FAQ is elected municipal government officials and staff.
What’s a Business Number?
The Business Number (BN) is a unique, national identifier that simplifies how businesses work together with government. The BN is assigned to a business which then uses it to identify itself in communication with government programs at the national, provincial, and municipal level. The provincial government began using the BN as a business client identifier in 2003.
How does government use Business Numbers with business clients?
When a business client requests service from a government program, staff enter client information into their local system. If that government program collects and uses the BN in their administrative processes, the client information is transmitted to and through the Manitoba Business Number Hub (Hub) to the Business Number Registry, which is operated by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA). The CRA sends BNs and other business-related information back to the originating government program through the Hub. When the client returns for further service, staff can use just the BN to call up the client’s file. Other information, like name, address, and phone number, can be verified with the client but need not be re-submitted by the client.
Do business clients see value in the Business Number?
Yes! In spring 2013, a survey sponsored by the Institute for Client-Centred Service asked businesses in Manitoba if having a single number for interaction with government would reduce their ‘red tape’ burden. A combined 75% of respondents ‘agreed’ or ‘strongly agreed’ that one identifier would help them work with all levels of government.
Would the regulatory burden be reduced by having just ONE
government identity card or number to access any service?
[source: ICCS, “Taking Care of Business 4” (2013)]”)
How would our municipality benefit by adopting the Business Number as a client identifier?
BN adoption comes with two significant benefits:
Benefit #1: Creating efficiencies
The BN helps create efficiencies between a municipality’s programs and departments, and between a municipality and other levels of government. Efficiencies are found in:
Information technology systems, through data linkages
- internal to the municipality
- between the municipality and the provincial and federal governments
- by reducing the risk of duplicate client records
- by identifying client information discrepancies between programs or departments
- by eliminating the need to re-enter information previously collected elsewhere
Client service improvements
- by reducing the amount of information clients provide to program staff, since core business data is already on file through sharing protocols
Benefit #2: Simplifying client transactions
The BN can help simplify client transactions with municipal programs and improve service by:
Reducing the time clients spend with program staff
- because staff use the BN to find ‘one client record via one number’
Reducing the amount of information clients provide to government programs
- because core business data is on file if the client has interacted with another area of government that uses the BN (whether federal, provincial, or municipal)
Supporting online transactions
- because the BN can be used in client identity verification and authentication processes
Can we start using the Business Number today?
Well, not that quickly, but it’s easy to get started. To use the BN, a municipal government must:
- Work with Manitoba Business Links to become legally authorized to collect and use the BN, and
- Electronically communicate with the Hub to exchange business client information.
What must our municipality consider before adopting the Business Number?
There are five considerations for municipalities:
- Consider your potential scope of use: programs that have an ongoing relationship with business clients are ideal for the BN.
- One municipal department or program must be responsible for developing and supporting the information technology solution required to interact with the Hub.
- Staff and financial resources are needed to support the information technology aspect of BN adoption.
- A municipal bylaw amendment may be necessary for your municipality to collect and use the BN.
- A Memorandum of Understanding – which authorizes your municipality to use the BN – must be negotiated and signed by senior municipal officials and by the province.
Are any municipalities using the Business Number?
Yes! The City of Winnipeg adopted in the BN in 2013 – the first municipality in Canada to do so.
What legislation allows the business client data exchanges that are part of Manitoba’s Business Number initiative?
The Common Business Identifiers (CBI) Regulation under The Electronic Commerce and Information Act allows for the necessary data exchanges to take place. In addition, the province and CRA have a dedicated Memorandum of Understanding that oversees BN use and information exchange in Manitoba.
Was the business community consulted about the Business Number?
Yes. The Province of Manitoba has been communicating with the business community about the BN since 1997. Consultations and discussions over the years have included groups such as the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, the Manitoba Chambers of Commerce, the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce, the Law Society of Manitoba, the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Manitoba, and individual business owners, among others.
Who do I call to learn more, discuss possibilities, or get a presentation about the Business Number for municipal council members and staff?
Manitoba Business Links is responsible for the BN’s use, promotion, and adoption in Manitoba. The program is housed in Entrepreneurship Manitoba. Manitoba Business Links will advise and support your municipality through the BN adoption process.