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Canada’s passport backlog ‘virtually eliminated,’ minister says

Global News 2023-01-24 Rachel Gilmore
Minister of Families, Children and Social Development, Karina Gould, holds a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, Dec. 8, 2022.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick © THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick Minister of Families, Children and Social Development, Karina Gould, holds a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, Dec. 8, 2022.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Families, Children and Social Development Minister Karina Gould says the passport backlog has been "virtually eliminated" and processing times in passport offices are back to pre-pandemic levels.

The announcement comes amid a three-day Liberal cabinet retreat in Hamilton, Ont.

"Since its peak in June 2022, after dedicating resources to ensure these Canadians receive their passports, approximately 98 per cent of the backlog of applications have been processed," Gould said, speaking in a press conference on Tuesday.

"The backlog is virtually eliminated."

Passport offices were snowed under by applications as COVID-19 restrictions eased last year.

Canadians eyeing sunny vacations and international visits needed passports that gathered dust during the pandemic to be renewed -- and the requests inundated the service.

Since April of 2022, Service Canada has issued more than two million passports, according to a press release from Gould's office. By the end of the fiscal year, she added during her press conference, the government is expecting that number to reach between three and three and a half million.

"That's more than double what we would have done in the previous year," Gould said.

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Another key contributor to the backlog, she added, was the fact that between 80 to 85 per cent of applications were for new passports for first-time passport holders. Gould explained it is "more complex" to issue these kinds of documents.

Going into the summer, however, she said the government is expecting a higher level of requests for passport renewals -- which are "much simpler" to do.

The passport office is also anticipating to receive between three to five million passport applications per year for the next "couple of years," the minister added.

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There are two standards for the delivery of passport applications in Canada. The government aims to delivery in-person passport applications within 10 days, and holds itself to a 20 day standard for applications received by mail or dropped off at a Service Canada Centre.

The months-long waiting periods for passports led critics to accuse the Liberals of being unable to deliver even basic services to Canadians.

Video: Liberal cabinet retreat: Cost of living at forefront of discussions

At the peak of the backlog, most Canadians were waiting up to 40 working days to get their hands on a new passport.

"To those Canadians and others who have shown such admirable patience during this difficult situation, I once again apologize," Gould said, speaking on Tuesday.

Looking forward, the government intends to focus its efforts and resources on maintaining service standards, especially as a growth in applications looms just around the corner. Canada started issuing 10-year validity passports in the summer of 2013 -- and some of those will be eligible for renewal starting this summer.

The planned announcement comes as Liberals are trailing the Conservatives in most polls of late.

The choice of Hamilton for the retreat is electorally strategic as it is in one of the most competitive regions in the country, and one the Liberals must win big in if they want to stay in power.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau started the second day of his retreat by meeting with Hamilton Mayor Andrea Horwath.

The Liberal cabinet has a lengthy to-do list over the three-day gathering, including tackling inflation and making the country more competitive.

-- With files from The Canadian Press

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