VICTORIA – Despite assurances they are streamlining natural resource permitting, the Liberal government has still not addressed the significant backlog of outstanding permits, say the New Democrats.
Recently, the executive director of the Fort Nelson and District Chamber of Commerce told the select standing committee on finance and government services that while some larger companies are getting responses to their permit requests within 60 days, many are still taking up to a year to be cleared.
“We’re hearing from small business leaders that the government simply hasn’t put the resources in place to ensure that their permit applications pass through the appropriate checks in a timely fashion,” says New Democrat MLA Doug Donaldson.
“A year is an awfully long time for a small business to wait,” said Donaldson. “The inability to get an answer from government is undoubtedly killing jobs and harming communities.”
Last fall, the opposition revealed that there was a backlog of more than 7,000 permitting applications outstanding with the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations. In response, the government hired approximately 100 temporary employees to help clear the backlog.
But Bev Vandersteen, the Fort Nelson chamber’s executive director, said her members are still having trouble getting through the government system.
“Often, when an application is filed, they don’t even hear if it’s been received for many months, and we’re looking at an average of about a year to achieve an answer – yea or nay – on an application,” Vandersteen told the committee Sept. 25. “In some cases it has taken up to four years. Clearly, this is unacceptable.”
Donaldson said the Band-Aid the Liberals put in place has clearly not fully solved the problem. He said small business deserves some assurance that there will be a comprehensive solution to ensure that permit applications are handled in a timely manner.
“We’re aware that the premier believes it’s okay to say anything to get elected, but tourism, hunting and fishing guides and others are looking for something more substantive,” said Donaldson. “The Liberals caused this permitting backlog and they have an obligation to fully clear it up.”