Passport delay task force wants something ‘tangible’ within weeks, minister says

Pure spin. IRCC and Service Canada are the responsible departments, Minister Fraser and Gould the responsible ministers. Conservative critiques of the task force as “a summer research project for Liberal ministers” is both clever and valid.

However, the broader systemic issue at play is that this government, in particular, but previous governments as well, are less interested in the nitty-gritty of service delivery as Heintzman recounts so well in Kathryn May’s The Achilles heel of the federal public service gives out again with passport fiasco:

The co-chair of a new cabinet committee struck to tackle massive passport processing delays says she’d like to see “something tangible in the next several weeks.”

Speaking at a funding announcement Tuesday in Toronto, Women and Gender Equality Minister Marci Ien said the committee is first speaking to the ministers responsible for files including passports, immigration and air transportation about the issues.

“We take that information and we go, so that process is happening right now, it’s started,” she said. “I would be a very happy camper, and I know my colleagues would be, if we had something tangible in the next several weeks.”

As COVID-19 restrictions are lifted, Canadians are returning to international travel in droves, applying for a passport for the first time or renewing passports that expired during the pandemic. This has sparked long lineups at passport offices. In some cases, the police have had to be called due to altercations.

In response to the delays, the Prime Minister’s Office announced on Saturday the creation of a “task force to improve government services,” made up of 10 ministers and co-chaired by Ien and Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Marc Miller.

Asked about her understanding of the causes for the bottlenecks, Ien said “this is about listening first.

“That’s how I operate: I get the facts, I listen, and then I act, and my co-chair is the same,” she said. “I want Canadians to know that we are there for them, we are there with them, and we will get to the bottom of this.”

Unions representing workers who deal with passport intake and processing said they were flagging concerns to the government last year about imminent delays, partly due to the easing of COVID-19 restrictions.

“They didn’t give us a clear answer on what the plan was,” Crystal Warner, national executive vice-president of the Canada Employment and Immigration Union, told the Star last week.

“There didn’t seem to be a lot of concern or consideration.”

Warner’s union represents Service Canada workers, including those who deal with passport intake.

The task force has not reached out to the union whose members are responsible for processing passport applications, said Kevin King, national president of the Union of National Employees. But he said he’s ready to engage with the ministers “at any moment in time.”

Speaking from Montreal, where the delays have been particularly brutal, King said he was beginning to see some improvements, including extra security personnel and more managers from other departments assisting staff.

“But these are very early days,” King said.

Social Development Minister Karina Gould, who is responsible for the passport file, announced last week that some specialized passport sites in large cities would implement a triage system to prioritize individuals travelling within the next 24 to 48 hours.

The Conservatives blasted the task force as being comprised of some of the government’s “worst-performing ministers,” saying in a statement Monday that more bureaucracy is not the answer to tackling the delays.

“Rather than focusing on resolving the crisis, hard-working public servants will now need to divert their attention to help a task force of Liberal ministers study the problem,” the statement said.

“Canadians need front-line workers processing applications and working through the backlog, not a summer research project for Liberal ministers.”

Source: Passport delay task force wants something ‘tangible’ within weeks, minister says

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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