Thursday,  December 1, 2022  5:09 am

Feds expect passport backlog to “drop significantly” by end of summer

Feds expect passport backlog to “drop significantly” by end of summer
Canada's passport backlog should "drop significantly" by the end of the summer, says Minister of Social Development Karina Gould. (File photo)
Michael Pihach

Michael Pihach is an award-winning journalist with a keen interest in digital storytelling. In addition to PAX, Michael has also written for CBC Life, Ryerson University Magazine, IN Magazine, and Michael joins PAX after years of working at popular Canadian television shows, such as Steven and Chris, The Goods and The Marilyn Denis Show.

This story was updated on Friday, July 8 at 11:12 a.m. EST

Service Canada says it continues to face issues that impact the timely delivery of passport services to travelling Canadians.

However: “The majority of Canadians with immediate travel needs have continued to receive their passport in time to travel,” said Minister of Social Development Karina Gould, who issued an update on Thursday (July 7).

Gould has been speaking out on passport delays amid reports of frustrated Canadians camping outside of passport offices, spending several hours – if not days – in line to renew their documents

Yesterday, Gould implied that the situation is improving.

READ MORE: Passport offices continue to face long lineups; wait times now posted online

“In Quebec we have seen reduced lineups, and an increase in appointments as Service Canada has taken steps to make specialized passport sites more responsive and efficient in serving Canadians with passport needs that have now become urgent as a result of delays,” Gould said.

Last week, Service Canada outlined triage measures to better manage crowds and lineups for new passports in big cities, including the Greater Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal areas.

Lineups to renew passports are reducing, Ottawa says. (Fotinia/Shutterstock)

The system, which provides a client-specific approach to prioritizing service to those with urgent travel needs within the following 24 to 48 hours, has since been implemented in Surrey, Richmond, Quebec City, Gatineau, Calgary, Edmonton, Hamilton and Halifax, Gould said.

Service Canada plans to expand this strategy to more passport offices in the coming weeks.

READ MORE: Ottawa outlines triage measures for passport renewal in big cities

“The passport service workforce has increased by approximately 48 per cent since July of last year,” Gould said. “Almost 150 new specialized staff are in training right now, who will be able to entitle (or approve) passports, with more staff being added to speed up renewals and handle simple applications.”

Resources and staff from other government departments have also been re-assigned to support passport processing, she said.

“We expect the passport backlog to drop significantly by the end of the summer,” Gould said. 

Possible digital solutions

Ottawa is exploring digital solutions to make online submissions for renewals a possibility, as well as technology that would allow Canadians to track the status of their passport applications online, Gould noted.

The government is also trying to speed up passport renewals by equipping its network of more than 300 Service Canada Centres with new tools for processing applications.

READ MORE: Ottawa scrambles to do more to relieve severe delays at some passport offices

This would “dramatically increase capacity” and give Canadians greater access to the 10-day service, Gould said.

“While a great deal of work remains to be done in order to get back to normal service, we have made important progress in improving services for Canadians, and we are dedicating all possible resources to solving these problems,” the Minister said.

From April 1 to the end of June 2022, Service Canada says it received more than 808,000 applications for passports, which is 166,000 more applications than received during the same period in 2019, the last pre-pandemic year.

The revised forecast of passport volume for this fiscal year has grown from 2.4 million to 4.3 million applications, the government says. 

READ MORE: Trudeau announces new task force to reduce passport wait times

According to Service Canada, 76 per cent of Canadians who applied for a passport, as of June 20, received it within 40 working days.

As well, 94 per cent of Canadians received their passport within 10 working days of applying in person at a specialized site.

The improvement in processing times could also be linked to the notion that travellers are cancelling trips to avoid facing the operational problems that are currently impacting major Canadian airports. 

This week, Toronto Pearson airport once again claimed the top spot for flight delays, according to flight tracking company FlightAware.

Amid the high demand for air travel, Service Canada has launched an appointment-booking tool that directs clients to the right location for passport renewal. Click here to access that tool. 

The government has also released a new Q&A on passport services. Click here to read it.

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