I can well understand some of the reasons and concerns that have been expressed by the government about this motion, but it is also important for us to stress the very real difference that it can make to Canadians in terms of getting access to government services more broadly, but also specifically getting access to passports.
All members of Parliament can very much identify with the comments that were made by my friend from Sudbury when he discussed the very practical issues that his constituents face. As someone who had the good fortune of serving the people of Ontario for a number years, I am very familiar with the challenges, particularly in the north, with respect to travel and the difficulty of getting access to documentation and government services in a quick fashion. It is a long way from Sudbury to Toronto. It is four or five hours by car. It is an even longer way from Sudbury to Thunder Bay.
One of the realities that we have to face up to is that a passport is no longer a luxury which applies to a minority of Canadians. A passport is increasingly going to be a required piece of documentation for most Canadians and therefore getting access to passports in a relatively prompt fashion and in a way that allows people to respond to urgent situations facing their families is something that we believe is very important.
There was a time when a passport was not absolutely essential or necessary. That has changed a great deal, especially since the decision by our friends in the United States to require a passport from Canadians. When one considers the fact that people everywhere in the country need passports for many reasons, this motion becomes more and more important in order to provide them with access to the services of Service Canada.
The practical and important motion introduced by my colleague, the hon. member for Brossard—La Prairie, is a proposal that can be studied in committee. There we will be able to get answers from the government in order to see whether changes or amendments are necessary. Today we are discussing the principle of the measure the hon. member has proposed.
As my party's foreign affairs critic, I can say that I support this measure. It is very important for people to have access to the document we call a Canadian passport, for Service Canada to be able to meet people's needs more promptly, and for a service to be provided that fully meets the needs of the public.
I believe that the measure that has been proposed by the member is an eminently practical one and one that responds very much to needs which every member of Parliament I am sure can have a sense of how important it is to their constituents.
I can certainly speak, even in Toronto Centre, to the number of times where constituents need to have access to something on an urgent or emergency basis. I can only imagine the situation facing many of my colleagues when getting hold of a passport in a relatively simple, direct fashion upon the presentation of the necessary documentation becomes something that can readily be done.
Those of us who have known the member for Brossard—La Prairie as well as I have over the years will know that it is out of a strong desire on her part to serve her constituents, to respond directly to the needs of her constituents that she has brought forward this measure, and I know it will have the support of a great many other members regardless of party.
I want to congratulate the member for bringing it forward and for making it clear why this measure is a good idea and why it responds to the needs of our constituents. As I said, we can all imagine a time when a minority of Canadians would have had a passport. We are now at a time when close to 70% to 75% of Canadians have passports. That number will grow to 80%, 85%, 90%, and soon it will be a situation where virtually every Canadian will have a passport or have a need to have a passport. Therefore making sure that they can get it in a speedy and efficient fashion is a commendable idea and one that I would urge all members of the House to support.