How Edmonton can leverage its advantage on processing building permits

As your city councillor I will work with city staff to reduce needless barriers to increase the time and cost for job creating initiatives.

An important question was raised on Parliament Hill recently about your ability as a business to get the required permits to build a warehouse, which will inherently create jobs. After some digging I found out that Edmonton has a leg up on the City of Toronto in the amount of time, beginning to end, on how long it takes to get through the permitting process. 

And with a concerted effort by the City’s Administration and the Planning branch, more red tape can be reduced, potentially putting Edmonton in the lead in all of Canada.

It turns out Edmonton is in the same ball park as other leading countries. On Tuesday, April 13, the CD Howe institute presented to Parliament's Industry Committee on permit wait times globally according to World Bank data:

-South Korea: 28 days

-Singapore: 36 days

-Denmark: 65 days

-Finland: 65 days

-Toronto: 249 days

Strong potential for Edmonton and Ipiihkoohkanipiaohtsi 

MP Pierre Poilievre and Edmonton's Deputy City Manager Stephanie McCabe can agree on one thing: Canada is not good at tracking this kind of data. However she was able to provide a couple of encouraging examples, that has Edmonton business owners receiving permits in up to double digit days as opposed to over 8 months in Toronto.

One is a purpose-built warehouse in the Mistatim Industrial area in the city’s northwest for a U.S. pharmaceutical company that got their permits in 43 days. “The city worked closely with the builder,” McCabe said adding the project brought high-skill jobs, and improved Edmonton’s reputation with investors. “The developer also told us that because of the speed of the building permit process, they were able to secure a major institutional partner to invest in further industrial redevelopment.”

Another project was an expansion on an existing site, best described as a brewery/distillery project. The City again worked closely with the builder and was able to deliver their development permit in 31 days from application.

Home builders like Edmonton, too

Edmonton scored well in a survey from the Canadian Home Builders’ Association. We came in number two behind Regina in the amount of time it takes from start to finish in the permitting process. 

And there is room to improve, as Edmonton was 17th in government charges, while being first in planning features and 4th in approvals timelines. Credit has been given to the city’s concierge service for speeding up the process.

With the new city plan that strives for 15-minute communities, this faster service should encourage more coordinated construction to fill in any gaps that exist, especially with more calls for the “missing middle” style of low-rise housing that can be an anchor to the town-centre approach that brings together a larger mix of residential and commercial development.

More can be done says a prominent business leader

Grant Fedoruk, the president of Leading Edge Physiotherapy said he’s encouraged by this for large projects, based on “how the city worked with the builder.” He credits the city in how it helps customers navigate the system who are “a someone, because you get the kind of attention needed for permitting.” 

“If you are a little local guy like me, you don’t.”

Grant  told me there are concerns from his industry about how Edmonton insists on his and other worksites having to have the same type of ventilation policy that is equal to other health care facilities. “This standard adds 40% to the cost of the ventilation system and makes physio clinic design ventilation as though we are performing medical procedures. This does not exist for physio clinics anywhere else in Canada.”  

Decision makers want consistency from a municipality, and quick access because time is money. I’ll make sure that’s what Edmonton strives for. 


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Scott Johnston for Edmonton City Council