January 18th, 2007

VICTORIA — Denise Savoie, NDP MP for Victoria, today called for Stockwell Day, the Minister Responsible for Public Safety, to take further action to remedy the extraordinarily long waits her constituents are facing when applying for passports.
Due to the implementation of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI), Canadians are required to have valid passports in order to enter the U.S. by air, as of January 23, 2007.

“The federal government had plenty of forewarning that demand for passports would be extremely high prior to the air travel deadline,” Savoie noted. “They should have taken further steps to deal with the demand back when it would have made a difference to the people standing outside in long lineups now.”

Savoie acknowledged that Passport Canada has taken some measures to deal with the high demand for passports, but said more still needs to be done.

“It’s clear that the steps taken so far are inadequate, given the level of demand. Frontline staff are doing an incredible job given their limited resources. It’s at the political level that mistakes were made.” Savoie noted that Auditor General Sheila Fraser flagged Passport Canada’s “inability to forecast and influence demand,” as a problem in 2005.

The NDP’s critic for border issues Brian Masse (Windsor West) has been raising these issues in the House of Commons as early as April of 2005. “We have known about this passport deadline for almost two years now; this is just poor planning and poor resourcing on the part of this government,” stated Masse. “It is completely unacceptable for people to have to wait at Passport Canada offices across this country when officials knew this was coming.”

Masse has put forward three motions on passports in the House of Commons. He has called for ensuring that Canadians are getting their passports at the lowest possible cost, for free passports for veterans, and for making passports available to seniors at no more than half the regular fee. Further, the NDP’s National Tourism Strategy calls for an extension of the validity of passports from five years to ten.

While awaiting further federal action, Savoie has arranged to hold a passport clinic in her local office (970 Blanshard Street) so that her constituents can get help with filling out their applications properly. A staff person from Passport Canada will be on site to answer questions, as will Savoie’s staff. The clinic will take place from 10:30 to 2 pm on Saturday, Feb. 3. Those interested are asked to pre-register by calling 363-3600 and leaving their name and number.