House of Commons Hansard #153 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was measures.


7:10 p.m.

Calgary East Alberta


Deepak Obhrai ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to discuss passport services with the member for Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques this evening.

Due to U.S. requirements for air travel to the United States, Passport Canada continues to experience a sharp volume increase in passport applications in all of its offices and its mailing service. To deal with this, 500 new Passport Canada employees have been hired, and most of them are already at work. Only about 14 require further training.

These measures mean that we are now processing 20,000 passports a day. This is an increase in capacity of 40% from last fall. If the current demand continues, we expect to clear the backlog by the end of the summer.

Historically, passport offices have been located in large urban centres to maximize the accessibility rate in Canada. Today, over 65% of the Canadian population resides within 10 kilometres of a passport point of service. Over 98% of the Canadian population resides within 100 kilometres of a passport point of service.

This being put forth, the government recognizes that Canadians need access to passport services wherever they reside, especially given the current context of an east-west migration pattern.

To achieve this, Passport Canada is continuously looking at ways to improve security and client services while prudently managing its funds in order to ensure an accessible, reliable, flexible and efficient service at a reasonable cost.

For that reason, a key element of Passport Canada's service strategy is to offer efficient and economic alternatives such as receiving agents where it is not financially sustainable to open new offices. The receiving agent program, developed in partnership with Canada Post and Service Canada, helps broaden access for Canadians to passport services in urban, rural and northern areas. A Canada Post receiving agent is available in Rimouski at 136 St-Germain Street West.

Passport Canada is also looking at expanding its partnership agreements and investing in new technologies so Service Canada and Canada Post may broaden their passport services across the country. It is noteworthy that Passport Canada is doing all this during a period of unprecedented growth.

I assure the member that the objective is to improve security while maintaining the level of client service through multiple business channels. Passport Canada continues to be committed to ensuring consistency in service to Canadians and consistency in the application of policies regardless of where they live.

My government welcomes a dialogue with MPs on this matter.

7:10 p.m.


Louise Thibault Bloc Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member just gave us some figures. Obviously, I am not at all surprised that these figures apply to major urban centres. I would like to reiterate that people in the regions are not rejects. They are hard-working, they care about national politics and they pay their taxes. They should not be made to wait unduly or have to travel 700 km or 800 km in order to get a level of service that someone in Montreal could get by crossing the street, or walking 3 km or 4 km to the Guy Favreau Complex.

My hon. colleague speaks of Canada Post. I would remind him that the taxpayer has to pay $15 for Canada Post's service. If the taxpayer comes to the MP's office, it does not cost a penny, thank God. So, the hon. member can say all he wants about the thousands of applications that are being processed and the progress that is being made, but my point remains, that the people in the regions, people in so-called “remote” regions, do not have the level of service they deserve.

7:10 p.m.


Deepak Obhrai Conservative Calgary East, AB

Mr. Speaker, again, I assure the member that we are doing everything possible to ensure that service is given to all Canadians, not just those living in urban centres.

Based on the demand volume in her riding of Rimouski, 2,271 passport applications in 2006, and the required infrastructure to support the operations of a fully functional office there, Passport Canada would be operating this a significant financial loss. That is why we have a receiving agent in her riding. It takes approximately 20 days to receive a passport from a receiving agent.

As I stated in my speech, we are working very hard to ensure the backlog is completed by the end of the summer.

7:10 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

A motion to adjourn the House is now deemed to have been adopted. Accordingly the House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 10 a.m., pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 7:14 p.m.)