Nova Scotia Power’s new permit system causing long waits for electricians

Categories: Canada

Nova Scotia

Utility says it has brought on more staff to deal with backlog

Posted: June 12, 2023

Blair Leon owns and operates Alliance Electrical Contracting in Sydney. He says he and other contractors are frustrated by the delays created by the new Nova Scotia Power permitting system. (Matthew Moore/CBC)

Most mornings, Blair Leon waits on hold with Nova Scotia Power.

Leon operates Alliance Electrical Contracting in Sydney. In April, the utility rolled out a new system that allows electricians to apply for permits and electrical inspections over the phone. Leon said he can be left on hold for hours if he doesn’t call right when the line opens at 7 a.m.

“You can’t get through to them. That’s the problem,” he said. “You call one minute past 7 a.m., you’re 45 in the queue.”

The permit allows contractors to inform the utility that electrical work needs to be done on either new or existing homes. Nova Scotia Power is then able to send an employee to inspect the work and ensure the project is safe to go ahead.

Leon has waited days to get permits approved under the new system, he said, and that’s setting him and his company back weeks on projects.

Justin MacDonald owns JMD Electric. He said he believes some electricians might skip the permitting process because of the delays. (Matthew Moore/CBC)

Justin MacDonald said he’s had similar issues with the permit system. He owns JMD Electric in Sydney, and said some homeowners have been waiting months to move into new builds that are delayed because of the utility.

“Even if you called at 7 a.m. right on the dot, there could be anywhere between 30 to 60 people ahead of you,” he said. “I waited over seven hours the other day.”

MacDonald said electricians in the province don’t want to take days off of work to wait on hold. He worries some will skip the process out of frustration. 

“I know there are some people on rough-in inspections, they’re just choosing not to wait,” he said. “You’re going to have instances where people are covering up work that has not been looked at by inspectors.”

Nova Scotia Power responds

MacDonald said that could create situations where homeowners are unaware that electrical work has not been inspected by the utility, creating liability issues.

Both he and Leon said the people working the phones at the permit centre are not to blame. MacDonald would also like to see more options added so that electricians with multiple requests can be handled separately than smaller operators.

In an email, Nova Scotia Power says they are working to address delays.

The utility said it is “adding more resources to support contractors on the phone line and anticipate more improvements in the next couple of weeks.” Fifteen more staff have been hired, the statement said.


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