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City removes red tape to save 10,000 hours of permit review time

Today's changes will shift thousands of hours of staff time away from non-priority applications so we can focus on speeding up the right supply of housing and supporting small businesses as we build back from COVID-19.

Mayor Kennedy Stewart

June 10 2021 –

City Council approved a set of actions yesterday that will contribute to the effort to improve processing times for development and building permits. 

While addressing the development and building permitting process has been our top priority for several years, the COVID-19 pandemic exposed underlying challenges with our processes, and application wait times have become increasingly unmanageable.

After hearing from numerous members of the public, businesses, and organizations, Council approved the first set of regulatory and policy changes in a multi-phase approach to save 10,000 hours of permit review time on residential applications.

Approved actions 

  • Temporary removal of additional conditions and reviews for one- and two-family dwellings in specific neighbourhoods, 12 weeks faster per application
  • Reduced landscape review and simplified tree protection for demolition permits, renovations, and field reviews, three weeks faster per application
  • Pilot a 12-month partial relaxation of the Tree By-law, two weeks faster per application
    • Some development permits for private property may be issued without an arborist report 
    • Small trees less than 30cm in diameter may be removed without a tree permit 

Council also heard from staff on changes to penalties for some instances of previously unpermitted work and piloting a new data collection model for ASHRAE compliance.

A complete list of red tape reductions is available online, which will be updated as new items are implemented. 

Additional Improvements

As part of the ongoing work to reduce processing times, the following service improvements have already launched:

  • All trades permits along with some building permits with less complexity can now be applied for online.  
  • Building and development enquiries can now be submitted through a new online form, which provides a tracking number for the applicant to obtain status updates via 311 Contact Centre.
  • Electronic plan submissions (ePlan) has enabled acceptance of electronic plans for six of eight permit types, electronic seals, and signatures.
  • Booking or cancelling an inspection is now a one-stop process with everything you need on one page.

Next steps

The City Manager’s task force has identified a large number of potential opportunities to reduce processing times. Further proposals for regulation and policy changes will be presented to Council in the coming months.

How we are taking action to speed up our response and processing times.


Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, a multi-year effort to streamline development and permit processes was underway. Several factors combined led to a significant increase in permit and licensing processing wait times.

In a motion earlier this spring, City Council made improving wait times and clearing the application backlog a priority and established the City Manager’s task force with a dedicated $1 million dollars in funding. In addition, they created a moratorium on any new Council motions until the end of 2021 that would add work for permit and licensing staff. 


Mayor Kennedy Stewart

"Today's changes will shift thousands of hours of staff time away from non-priority applications so we can focus on speeding up the right supply of housing and supporting small businesses as we build back from COVID-19," said Mayor Kennedy Stewart. "This is exactly what I was hoping for when I asked Council to create a City Manager’s task force and dedicate $1 million dollars in funding to get the job done right. But we're just getting started and I can't wait to see the next set of modernizations coming this fall."

City Manager Paul Mochrie

“City Council has clearly emphasized that while addressing the permit backlog is a top priority, our critical work to address climate change and those related initiatives must continue,” says City Manager, Paul Mochrie. “Our task force remains focused on removing steps to significantly reduce review time so businesses and residents can begin to expect a faster and more predictable permits process.”