It was written in the sky. Ottawa could see the bottleneck in the passport offices coming from as far back as an air traffic controller sees a Boeing 777 arriving from the top of his tower.
After two years of the pandemic during which Canadians were stuck at home, it was clear that the demand for passports would take off as the first summer approached when travelers could finally go abroad.
During the first two years of the pandemic, Service Canada received only 20% of the normal volume of passport applications. Now the boomerang is back in our face. And that hurts.
Even responsible people who took care to send their application by mail several months ago find themselves in trouble a few days before their departure.
They are forced to sleep in front of passport offices, in Montreal and elsewhere in the country. Some queue for 36 hours. And when we say file, it’s a very big word: people are forced to manage the waiting list themselves, the government is so badly organized. Police were even called in as reinforcements, which shows how Ottawa has lost control.
To see the images of improvised camps in front of the Guy-Favreau Complex, we would have thought we were in a banana republic! This chaos is absolutely unacceptable.
April, May, June… travelers have been tearing their hair out over their passports for months. But the situation is only getting worse without the federal government arriving with the shadow of the beginning of a real solution.
On Tuesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau gave only a vague response, in the face of a concert of reproaches from the opposition.
At least, we will now distribute tickets, starting at 7 a.m., so that people who leave within 48 hours can leave the line and come back at a specific time to be served. That is more human.
The government is also trying to convince 200 Revenue Agency employees to lend a hand to their passport colleagues. But it’s unclear how many will accept and whether it will make a real difference.
Since the beginning of the year, Service Canada has hired about 600 employees and expects to hire 600 more. But on the ground, no sign of improvement.
The federal bureaucracy proves how difficult it is to deliver services to the public, and this is not unique. We need only think of the unacceptable delays in the processing of immigration files.
Once again, the Trudeau government has shown that it has always been behind the ball in matters relating to transportation since the start of the pandemic. This new episode is likely to leave a very bitter taste for people whose travel plans are turned upside down.
These are not just whims. Some have to go abroad for family reasons. Others fly for work or school. Those who go on vacation are in dire need of recharging their batteries and de-stressing after two years of the pandemic which have taken a heavy toll on mental health. But in the current conditions, the joy of going on a trip is giving way to anxiety.
Waiting days mean lost income for workers who have to take time off work. But they can’t change their plans, because insurance does not reimburse cancellations due to the fact that the passport is not up to date.
In short, travelers are stuck. Canadians are prisoners of their borders. And it will not improve, because the flood of requests will increase with the 10e anniversary, in January 2023, of the first passports issued for a period of 10 years.
Ottawa must therefore make every effort to speed up the processing of passports, by keeping its offices open in the evenings and on weekends, for example. It must also give more information to travelers who are currently in the fog, without knowing if they will be able to take off.
Hello, control tower?
- 1.3 million
- Passports issued during the year ended 1er April 2022
- Passports issued during the year ended 1er April 2021
Source: Employment and Social Development Canada