Government has pocketed $1-billion since 2013 increase in passport cost

Good ATIP work by Richard Kurland. Usual bafflegab responses. Should demand decrease because of 10 year passports, presumably so should the size of Passport Canada with unit costs remaining stable.

Particularly hard to see how the fee structure, and surpluses, comply with the Service Fees Act implemented by the current government in 2017:

The federal government has made more than $1-billion in profits from its passport program since significantly increasing the cost of a Canadian passport five years ago, according to newly released documents.

Canadian adults pay anywhere from $120 to $160 for an adult passport, despite the fact that it only cost the government $69.23 to produce the 36-page travel document in the 2016-17 fiscal year, according to immigration documents provided to The Globe and Mail by Vancouver-based immigration lawyer Richard Kurland. The price increase appears to have contributed to hundreds of thousands of dollars in annual surpluses for the passport program from 2013 to 2017, totalling more than $1-billion over four years.

Mr. Kurland, who obtained the data under the Access to Information Act, said it is inappropriate for Ottawa to profit off the backs of Canadian taxpayers.

“A billion dollars made in just four years is a lot of money and the money comes directly from individual Canadians who are overpaying for their Canadian passports,” Mr. Kurland said in an interview.

“Instead of keeping the profit, they should be lowering the passport fee.”

Former prime minister Stephen Harper’s government increased the cost of passports in 2013 in an effort to cover the nearly $5 it was losing every time it issued a passport. In addition to boosting the cost of a five-year passport from $87 to $120, the government also started providing a 10-year passport at a cost of $160, increased the cost of a child’s passport by $20 to $57 and introduced a $45 replacement fee for lost or stolen documents.

Canadians ordering passports from outside of the country face the biggest fees today – $190 for a five-year passport or $260 for the 10-year document.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) said in a statement that the passport program operates on a “cost-recovery basis,” meaning it finances its operations entirely from fees charged for passports and other travel documents. IRCC spokesperson Nancy Caron said the program is currently in the middle of its 10-year business cycle, which started in July, 2013, and plans to use revenues from the first half of that period to offset the anticipated drop in demand for passports as a result of the 10-year passport option.

“No changes are currently planned to the passport fee structure. The passport program closely monitors its financial status to ensure that it is in compliance with all relevant authorities governing the program,” Ms. Caron said.

However, NDP immigration critic Jenny Kwan called on the government to conduct a full review of the passport-fee structure.

“The cost of the processing fees for passports should reflect the actual cost itself,” Ms. Kwan said.

Ms. Kwan said high passport costs limit the ability of low-income Canadians to obtain the important travel document. For instance, she said, many seniors in her Vancouver-area riding have complained about the high cost of a passport on a fixed income.

The Conservatives declined to comment on the passport-program profits.

Comparatively, American adults pay US$145 for a new 10-year passport, while British citizens are required to pay the equivalent of about $115.

via Government has pocketed $1-billion since 2013 increase in passport cost – The Globe and Mail

Terrorism concerns lead to changes at passport offices in bid to boost security

Prudent. But odd that focus is with respect to the receiving agent function at Service Canada centres, rather than the full service offices of Passport Canada, the responsibility of IRCC (but ATIP documents were from ESDC, not IRCC):

The federal government has been quietly making changes to passport offices in a bid to improve security and address concerns that the facilities could be easy targets for a terrorist attack.

Civil servants in passport and other government offices have for years faced bomb threats, and hostility from individuals who are disgruntled, drunk or suffering mental illnesses.

Internal government documents show that senior officials have more recently worried that someone with extremist views might see a passport office as prime target for an attack, particularly if the federal government revoked their passport privileges because they wanted to go abroad to join a terrorist group.

The briefing note to senior officials at Employment and Social Development Canada says the offices could now more easily become targets, or be collateral damage.

“ESDC Passport offices may be considered targets of symbolic value in future attacks,” reads part of the 2015 briefing note marked, “Canadian Eyes Only.”

The Canadian Press obtained a copy of the documents under the Access to Information Act.

Those concerns were stoked after two separate domestic terrorist attacks in October 2014.

In the first case, Martin Couture-Rouleau hit two soldiers with his car at a strip mall just outside St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Que., killing Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent, 53. Officials seized his passport that July after police prevented him from flying to Turkey.

Michael Zehaf-Bibeau killed Cpl. Nathan Cirillo at the National War Memorial in Ottawa before storming Parliament Hill. He had come to Ottawa from Vancouver after he ran into problems getting a Canadian passport so he could travel to Libya.

Both attackers were subsequently killed.

The second incident prompted ESDC officials to call in the Mounties to review threats for every passport office in the country. Assessments were also carried out to see what could be done to the physical configuration of spaces, or the layout of services, to better protect the workers inside the office.

The RCMP report from April 2015 concluded that the offices face terrorist and criminal threats, although nothing direct or immediate.

A spokesman for ESDC, which oversees the 151 Service Canada offices that issue passports, said the department has and continues to make changes at existing and soon-to-be-opened facilities in response to the assessments.

Along with physical changes to the offices to increase security there have been operational changes that federal officials hope will lower the risk of an attack. Among the measures was extending the passport renewal period to 10 years from five years and letting Canadians renew their passports online to reduce the number of people who had to go to an office.

Source: Terrorism concerns lead to changes at passport offices in bid to boost security – The Globe and Mail

New passport processing system exposed to security gaps, audit finds

Another example, on a smaller scale than Shared Services Canada and the Phoenix pay system problems, of just how difficult it is for government to execute successfully IT projects:

The audit, which was completed in February 2016 and quietly posted to the departmental website a few months later, said IRCC leveraged expertise from industry and other federal departments and established several oversight mechanisms to track key project areas. But identified risks were not consistently monitored and addressed, the report said.

It also found there was no evidence that the information technology security plan was being followed, and that key security measures were missing, including a preliminary threat- and risk-assessment.

One year ago, the department suspended its use of a new system to process passport applications after CBC News reported on widespread glitches with the program.

The department said it was “pausing” the processing of passports through the GCMS in order to incorporate “lessons learned” during the testing phase.

No passports are currently being issued through the GCMS, but the department confirmed that refugee travel documents have been processed through the system since fall 2015.

At least 1,500 Canadian passports had been produced under a flawed new system that opened the door to fraud and tampering, according to documents obtained by CBC/Radio-Canada.

Internal records revealed the processing program was rushed into operation on May 9, despite warnings from senior officials that it was not ready and could present new security risks.

The department insisted that no passports have been issued with security gaps and that at no point had the integrity or security of the passport issuance been compromised.

Since the launch of the new system, officials had been scrambling to fix hundreds of glitches and to seal security gaps. Weeks after the new process was brought on line, there were calls to stop production.

Recommendations ignored

Those recommendations were ignored, and the passports continued to be issued in the first phase of production under the new system, designed to enhance security and integrate with other global programs.

Numerous reports obtained by CBC/Radio Canada showed that during a period of several weeks, it was possible for employees to alter the photo on a passport after it had been approved. There were also numerous reports of discrepancies between information contained in the database and what actually appeared on a passport.

In some cases, information disappeared from the system, making it difficult to verify if the applicant had used questionable guarantors or had made repeated claims of lost or stolen passports in the past.

That information acts as a safeguard to flag potential problems with applications.

Management accepted all six recommendations stemming from the audit, which ranged from medium to high risk. One plank of the “action plan” was to secure spending authorities to advance the project to the next phase.

Source: New passport processing system exposed to security gaps, audit finds – Politics – CBC News

Ottawa’s new air-travel rule catches dual citizens by surprise

While I have some sympathy for those taken by surprise if this change was not adequately communicated in advance, I have little for the substantive nature of some of the complaints mentioned in the article.

There were and are sound policy and program reasons for this requirement, linked to the eTA.

Tellingly, all those quoted come from dual citizens from the UK or Australia, although this situation would likely apply to most dual citizens from countries that Canada does not require a visa.

Dual citizens who come from developing countries, many of whom do not formally allow for dual citizenship and thus who have to travel back to their country of origin on that country’s passport, generally use their Canadian passport to return to Canada as airlines only accept passports as reliable proof of citizenship:

Canadian citizens with dual citizenships will soon be allowed to fly into the country only if they have a Canadian passport.

The policy will come into effect Sept. 30 as a final phase of Canada’s move to an electronic screening system to step up border security and boost exit control of travellers, including Canadians on government benefits.

The upcoming requirement has caught many by surprise calling the practice “discriminatory” against dual citizens and a money grab, and is expected to create havoc as travellers with dual Canadian citizenships may find out only at the last minute when trying to board on a flight.

“What is changing is that the Government of Canada is implementing a new electronic system to assist airlines in verifying that all travellers have the appropriate documents to travel to or transit through Canada by air,” Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada spokesperson Lindsay Wemp told the Star.

“Air carriers are obligated by law to confirm that all persons seeking to travel to Canada carry both proof of citizenship and proof of identity. A valid Canadian passport satisfies these requirements for Canadian citizens, and is the only acceptable travel document for the purpose of air travel.”

Currently, Canadian citizens with dual citizenships can use the passport of the other country to enter Canada by air if they can provide proofs of residency in Canada, such as a driver’s licence and Canadian citizenship card.

According to the 2011 Census, at least 2.9 per cent of Canadians — 944,700 people — had multiple citizenships; the most frequently reported other citizenships were the United States, the United Kingdom, France and Poland.

Ottawa rolled out the electronic travel authorization, or eTA, system last year, requiring air passengers — including all applicants for study and work permits, as well as those from countries that currently do not require a visa to come to Canada — to submit their biographic, passport and other personal information through the immigration department website for prescreening or face being denied entry. American citizens are exempted.

 However, Canadian citizens will be ineligible for eTA of Sept. 30, because they will be expected to carry their Canadian passports which, by default, bar dual citizens from using the passport of the other country to return to Canada. What baffles several observers about the new rule is that it only applies to air passengers.

“This proposed policy change is discriminatory to dual citizens and for the life of me, I cannot see why it is necessary. It would appear to be a money grab with no benefit and huge inconvenience for any of us who live overseas,” said Craig Campbell, 60, who was born to a military family in Manitoba and is a dual Canadian-Australian citizen.

“There is time to fix this appalling discriminatory policy. I served the country of my birth as did my father, uncles, aunts and grandfather before me. This is simply a shameful way to treat one very small category of proud Canadians for no discernible benefit to the country.”

Calgary-born Carey Du Gray, 45, who has lived in the U.K. since 2009, said he only found out about the new requirement when he was trying to book travel two weeks ago to fly home in October.

“My daughters were born in the U.K., but they are Canadian citizens. They would not be able to travel to Canada using their British passports. What lunacy, eh?” asked Du Gray, a fundraising consultant based in London.

“What followed was a 48-hour scramble to get all of the documentation and photos together. The guidance on the (Canadian) website said they were taking up to 40 business days to process new passport applications on account of the flood of them that are coming in ahead of the policy change.”

Canadian expatriate Sandi Logan, who worked in the Australian immigration department, said the requirement on dual citizens’ travel just doesn’t make sense.

“It’s bad policy on so many fronts. It discriminates against dual citizens of Canada for starters. It discriminates against dual citizens of Canada flying into any Canadian port, as opposed to arriving by sea or land,” said Logan, 59, who was born and raised in Toronto before settling in Australia in 1980.

“From my vast bureaucratic experience in the public service, it has all of the hallmarks of being a simple revenue grab masked as ‘border security,’ with no discernible impact on safe and stronger borders.”

Source: Ottawa’s new air-travel rule catches dual citizens by surprise | Toronto Star

Citizenship and Immigration Canada finds passport lost for 13 years

Fortunately, a very rare occurrence, but why should it have taken so long, and why were previous MPs not able to ‘encourage’ officials to find it?

A woman whose passport was lost in the depths of a federal department for over a decade is finally on her way to becoming a permanent resident.

“It has cost us so much heartache,” said Janina Ibarra. “I haven’t seen my mother in 11 years and I have not been able to go back.”

Ibarra came to Canada 17 years ago from Sri Lanka, which was in the midst of a civil war at the time. She says she had hoped to stay as a refugee.

Before her refugee case was settled, Ibarra met and married a Canadian citizen, and he applied to sponsor her for permanent residency status.

As part of that process, 13 years ago Sri Lanka sent her passport to Citizenship and Immigration Canada — but it went missing, leaving her with no official residency status in Canada.

Ibarra says for the past two years she has been under a deportation order she was told could be enforced at any time, which would mean leaving behind her husband and their two children.

The situation put her and her family in a precarious position — emotionally and financially — leaving them to rely on their community for support.

“There were times we would have money thrown in our mail slot,” she said. “At the end of the day it really was the benevolence of our church and church friends.”

Note buried in file

After the federal election last fall, Ibarra decided to ask her new MP Harjit Sajjan for help.

She got the answer she was hoping within three weeks. Buried in a half-metre-tall file was a note that said the passport had been archived by the government at least five years ago, if not longer, and where to find it.

Ibarra’s sponsorship application is on track for the first time since 1999. She says she hopes to have her permanent residency by late summer.

In the meantime, she’s looking for answers from the federal government for the years of her life she feels were put on hold waiting for her paperwork to get processed.

Source: Citizenship and Immigration Canada finds passport lost for 13 years – British Columbia – CBC News

Trudeau government asks for ideas on open government

Where do I begin?:

The Liberal government is asking Canadians for their ideas on making government more open.

Treasury Board President Scott Brison announced the national consultation today.

Brison says the transparency bus has left the station.

The minister says he believes that an open government is a more effective government.

Beginning today, people can go to open.canada.ca to offer their views on what should be in the next federal strategy on open government.

Officials will also hold in-person discussions across the country and the resulting plan is to be released this summer.

 Some initial thoughts on my short list:
  • The hardest issue of all: changing the culture and enforcing a default obligation of openness;
  • Provide information in electronic formats that allow manipulation for analytical purposes. The previous government only released public opinion research data tables in pdf format, rather than in spreadsheets. More recently, PCO was unable (or unwilling) to export its database of GiC appointments in spreadsheet format, requiring me to recreate this already public information;
  • Expanded data sets, issued regularly in a timely fashion. My initial list, starting with citizenship:
    • in addition to top 10 (consider top 25)  countries of birth, have complete table or one mapped to IRCC operational regions (top 10 only covers about 50 percent of new citizens)
    • naturalization rate after 6 years of permanent residency, broken down country of birth mapped to IRCC operational regions
    • naturalization rate after 6 years of permanent residency by immigration category, gender and province
    • citizenship test pass (language and knowledge) results by country of birth mapped to IRC operational regions
    For passports, numbers related to:
    • top 25 countries of birth (all)
    • top 25 countries of birth (foreign-born)
    • number of passports issued abroad mapped to IRC operational region (to give sense of Canadian expatriates)
    • breakdown by country of birth of passports issued abroad

    Appointments: regular employment equity type reporting for all GiC appointments.

Source: Trudeau government asks for ideas on open government – Macleans.ca

Harper government to make revoking of passports from suspected extremists quicker

Not surprising. Unlike revocation of citizenship, which applies different treatment to dual nationals compared to Canadian nationals only (the latter cannot have their citizenship revoked), applies equally to both:

As it struggles to stop Canadians from joining terrorist groups in Syria and Iraq, the government is introducing measures allowing officials to more quickly revoke passports from suspected extremists, the National Post has learned.

A senior government source said the policy expediting passport revocations on national security grounds would be announced Thursday by Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney and Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander.

The change comes two weeks after Canadian Security Intelligence Service director Michel Coulombe told the Senate national security committee the number of Canadians who had left for Syria and Iraq had jumped 50% in the past few months.

To prevent them from leaving, police have been alerting officials to cancel the passports of “extremist travellers,” but the government source said the current procedure was too time-consuming and that authorities needed to be able to act more speedily.

“With the growing number of radicalized Canadians travelling abroad to fight with ISIL, this government will take action to ensure our national security agencies can swiftly and urgently revoke the passport of any threat to Canadians and our allies,” the source said.

Harper government to make revoking of passports from suspected extremists quicker