It used to take 75 days to get a general construction permit in Canada, now it can take close to 249.[1] In 2020 Canada ranked 34th out of 35 OECD countries for its permitting approval periods. By comparison, the average approval time in the US was reportedly 81 days.[2]

Canada’s permitting periods are incompatible with the rapid energy transformation taking place across the world. Despite a global economic downturn, clean energy investment is expected to reach USD 1.4 trillion in 2022 (an increase above pre-pandemic levels) and the anticipated transition to electric vehicles will require massive infrastructure investments. CIB (Canada Infrastructure Bank) recently announced a $500 Million Charging and Hydrogen Refuelling Infrastructure Initiative, which the CIB hopes will spur private-sector investment and support economic opportunities in the transition to lower and zero-emission vehicles.

While this is a crucial time in development of renewable infrastructure, Canada’s starkly longer permit approval periods are likely to hinder sustainable private-sector investments in the country. In Canada, construction permits fall under shared provincial and municipal jurisdiction and as such finding efficiencies in these processes will require the co-operation between both levels of government. Efficiency and safety of the permitting process are not mutually exclusive goals and permitting agencies should endeavour to ensure their permitting processes are streamlined while still maintaining strict safety requirements.

Canada must ensure that it creates a receptive and competitive environment for sustainable investment at a time where a global energy transformation is underway.

[1] World Bank Report, Doing Business 2020

[2] We note this data has historically been collected in one major city across Canada (typically Toronto) and may not be representative of the permitting process across the country.