Evidence of meeting #33 for Foreign Affairs and International Development in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was passport.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Christine Desloges  Chief Executive Officer, Passport Canada
  • Lisa Pezzack  Director General, Policy, Research and Communications, Passport Canada
  • Michel Brunette  Director, Resource Management and Compliance, Passport Canada
  • Asha Elkarib  Executive Director, Sudanese Organization for Research and Development

3:50 p.m.

Chief Executive Officer, Passport Canada

Christine Desloges

Perhaps I can take you through what we need to do.

I should say that the next few months are going to be critical. As I mentioned in my opening statement, we need to create a brand new book. We also need to build inventory. Last year we produced 4.8 million passports. We have to have sufficient inventory to be able to deliver this passport from coast to coast to all Canadians.

We need to bring in some updates to the information technology software, and that's well under way. We also need to procure some equipment, and that process is well under way. We actually expect the equipment to be there soon.

Then we need to roll it out, phase by phase, across the whole country, and then we need to install it in the major plants we have. We have two printing plants, one in Gatineau and the other one in Toronto. Finally, we need to do the training across the country.

We also need to be aware of the fact that, as we are cost recovery, we need to make sure that we balance demand with supply so that we do not waste anything. So we have to do a gradual elimination of the old passport and an introduction of the new one. We're working very carefully with the private sector as well as with our partners in government to ensure that this will happen as quickly as possible.

We anticipate, to answer your question, that we will start the rollout at the end of the calendar year. At that point, we will be issuing both an e-passport and a non-e-passport for five years. We'll roll it out across the country, and when we are in a position to offer it to all Canadians, we will roll out—likely in the spring of 2013—the 10-year e-passport to all Canadians.

3:50 p.m.

Conservative

John Williamson New Brunswick Southwest, NB

Thank you. That was very helpful, particularly drawing down the current stock.

This is actually a big issue. I have a border riding. I'm right next to the state of Maine. In fact, I have an island in New Brunswick southwest, Campobello, with 400 or 500 households, and nine months of the year there's no direct link to Canada and to get to the rest of the riding it's an hour's drive through the state of Maine. So a passport is not a convenience. It is a requirement for these citizens, as for many others with blood ties on both sides of the border.

Can you talk to me about the cost. Why $160? Why not similar fees as to what we're saying today? I recognize there are costs that go into it but it's also one where.... You're going to tell me that there are more costs to produce it, and I understand that, but why are the fees so high? That's probably the biggest issue all members of Parliament are going to get. Why are we paying so much now for a new passport?

3:50 p.m.

Chief Executive Officer, Passport Canada

Christine Desloges

I think the first thing is that we have not had a fee increase in 10 years. The second part of the answer is that we're pretty much the only passport agency in the world that is 100% cost recovery. For the third part, I should say that we do activity-based management, activity-based costing, on every single process, every single channel, and every single office to make sure that we are as efficient as we can be, because we have no other source of funds than the revenues from the sale of passports and other services. We do have externally audited annual financial statements every year. In fact, the auditors are coming into our offices very shortly.

What I'd like to do is ask Michel Brunette to take us through how we put together the proposal and the fee structure.

3:50 p.m.

Michel Brunette Director, Resource Management and Compliance, Passport Canada

When the 10-year electronic passport was created, we had to balance the program for a 10-year period. We used activity-based management criteria, as Ms. Desloges mentioned, to determine what the costs would be over 10 years.

In addition, we wanted the cost of the child passport to remain at 60% of the cost of a 5-year passport, while keeping the cost of the 10-year passport as low as possible. We know that the 10-year passport subsidizes the child ePassport, among other things. That is, roughly, how we arrived at the $160 cost.

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

John Williamson New Brunswick Southwest, NB

Chair, what's my time like?

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Dean Allison

It's at two minutes.

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

John Williamson New Brunswick Southwest, NB

I'm curious, how do you expect this to impact employment? For example, there was, I think anyway, a ramp-up in employment post-9/11 when passports became a requirement. We saw the lines, and we saw the government, the passport office, react. Do you see administrative cost efficiencies here from a 10-year passport, in terms of staffing levels and things like that?

3:55 p.m.

Chief Executive Officer, Passport Canada

Christine Desloges

Actually, I should say that we are producing more passports now with fewer people than we were during the crisis five years ago, so we have enhanced our efficiency by introducing national workload management. We also have a national tactical response team that watches in an executive committee every week, looks at the dashboard and the demand right across the country, so as to see how we can rebalance and meet all service standards. That's what we do right now.

The challenge with the introduction of the 10-year e-passports is that we must move to a 10-year business cycle. This means that for the first five years, the demand is there, but then on year six, those folks who have a 10-year e-passport are not coming back. So the demand drops dramatically, and what you have is first applicants and children. As Mr. Brunette just mentioned, children's passports are subsidized. Not only are they 60% of the cost of an adult's passport, but they also cost us more money to produce because we have to confirm that the adults getting the passports are the custodians of the children. So in fact it requires greater scrutiny to produce children's passports. That's a significant factor.

We have to be able, in the second part of the cycle, to sustain our operations, downsize the organization, and then upsize as the clients are coming back at the end of the cycle. That's a significant challenge, which our colleagues in other countries have not met. In fact, in the case of New Zealand, when they introduced their e-passport, they went to a five-year e-passport and they doubled the price.

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Dean Allison

Thank you very much.

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

John Williamson New Brunswick Southwest, NB

Can I ask another quick one?

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Dean Allison

We're out of time. Maybe we'll catch you on the next round.

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

John Williamson New Brunswick Southwest, NB

Okay. Thanks.

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Dean Allison

Mr. LeBlanc, seven minutes, sir.

April 25th, 2012 / 3:55 p.m.

Liberal

Dominic LeBlanc Beauséjour, NB

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Ms. Desloges, I thank you, as well as your colleagues, for being here with us and for the often difficult and very technical work that you all do.

Like Mr. Williamson, I am a member for a rural riding in New Brunswick. You say that you allowed Service Canada agents in small rural communities to help people by checking to see whether their application had been properly filled out. In my riding, we often give advice to those who are not very conversant with filling out an application electronically. I know that this helps people a lot and reduces frustration. In small remote communities far from Passport Canada offices, that initiative was very helpful, and I wanted to let you know.

According to the experience of electors that I send to your Fredericton office, the staff there is exceptional and very professional. In my area, in case of emergency or complications, the most direct way of dealing with things is to go to Fredericton. As members, we note that the service we receive from those offices and from your office in Ottawa is also very impressive. I wanted to tell you that and to thank you.

I am going to follow up on the questions put by my friend John Williamson. People certainly want to know about the costs when they come to our offices. Everyone wants more services while paying less tax and fewer service fees. That is often what we encounter. In your proposal, you attempt to assess the cost of the ePassport. You talked about costs of 13% for auxiliary products and services and 10% for new and ongoing investments.

That sounds like bureaucratic expressions that may mean something, or perhaps nothing at all. Can you give me an example of these

“auxiliary products and services” or “new and ongoing investments”.

3:55 p.m.

Chief Executive Officer, Passport Canada

Christine Desloges

As for the auxiliary products, child passports are subsidized products. It costs us more to produce those passports. This is the result of consultations we carried out with Canadians who told us that they agreed with that. We think that it is worthwhile to keep the cost of children's passports low.