PEI

Shortage of planning officers continues to cause delays for Island developers

The government of P.E.I. says it's continuing to have difficulties hiring planning officers. The Official Opposition says that's causing delays for contractors and developers trying to get building permits.

The province says planning officers are in high demand across the country

The Official Opposition says delays in getting permits approved are causing problems for P.E.I. contractors and developers. (Brian McInnis/The Canadian Press)

The P.E.I. government says it's continuing to have difficulties hiring planning officers. The Official Opposition says that's causing delays for contractors and developers trying to get building permits.

During question period Tuesday, Progressive Conservative MLA Brad Trivers said developers are frustrated by ongoing delays.

"These delays hurt our economy and are an obstacle to Islanders taking real action to help solve this housing crisis," said Trivers. "Would it surprise you that it takes months — not weeks, not days, but months — to get a building permit?"

It's an issue that the PCs also brought up in the spring sitting of the P.E.I. Legislature. Communities, Land and Environment Minister Richard Brown said he's aware of the issue, and that the department continues to struggle with the hiring process. 

"Planners are in big demand across this country. The economy is booming across Canada. We are working on it," Brown said.

2 vacancies

The province currently has two vacancies for planning officers. According to Brown, the salary for those positions has been increased twice to make them more competitive. He also said the province has managed to fill a third position that was vacant.

Communities, Land and Environment Minister Richard Brown says the province hasn't been able to fill two positions for planning officers. (PEI Legislative Assembly)

But Trivers said that with the number of permits coming through the department's office, staff aren't able to keep up.

"Are you not concerned that this backlog in permitting is going to lead to stress and burnout for the existing staff you have?"

Brown acknowledged that his staff is putting in overtime and that the department has been reorganized in the last few weeks in an attempt to streamline the process.

'Not going to lower our standards'

Brown said delays are also being caused because of unfamiliarity with the National Building Code, which comes into effect on Jan. 1, 2020.

He said the province will be holding seminars this January and February with contractors and developers to help them fill out permits properly. 

"Make one thing clear: We're not going to lower our standards when it comes to building permits. We're not going to lower our standards when it comes to development. We have to have proper development in proper locations, and properly done," Brown said. 

"I've seen too many times where development permits have been rushed and at the end of the day, they cause more troubles than they solve." 

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