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Why passport delays are ‘kryptonite’ for Ottawa

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced last week that the government would create a task force aimed at reducing wait times for immigration and passport services. Passport offices across the country have been swamped in recent weeks amid a surge of people applying for new documents.

“We know service delays, particularly in recent months, are unacceptable,” Trudeau said in a statement.

“We will continue to do everything we can to improve the delivery of these services in an efficient and timely manner.”

The Public Policy Forum’s Sean Speer says the passport issue should be the top priority for the government, and that a task force is not enough to deal with “such a fundamental problem.”

“This is an issue that not only will resonate with a lot of people, it's an issue where the perceptions will harden and last for some time,” Speer said.

“If I was working for the Prime Minister, this would be priority No. 1.”

If you have any policy-related questions, or feedback about the show, please email alicja@yahoofinance.com.

Video Transcript

[MUSIC PLAYING]

ALICJA SIEKIERSKA: Ottawa has announced a new task force to deal with the delays in immigration and passport processing. Sean, what do you make of that response to this issue?

SEAN SPEER: As I said, Alicja, these kinds of just basic service provision issues are kryptonite for governments. You know, people pay a lot of taxes. Most people don't interact a lot with the government. Or I don't know about you, but my expectations for my personal sort of relationship with the government is pretty limited at this stage in my life.

But I do expect that at some just basic level I should be able to get a passport without having to sleep outside a passport office or sit out there for several hours at a time. So I think if anything, the government's probably slow to react to this. And I think you've seen some amount of metaphorical eye rolling to the creation of a task force to deal with such a kind of fundamental problem.

You know, it seems to me that if the government doesn't have a more substantive response in the short term, this is the kind of issue that, again, a politician like Pierre Poilievre is going to seize on. And I'll just say one final thing. Governments typically lose elections over time because of issues that are really tangible, that people can kind of connect with in a personal way.

People don't necessarily always follow or understand some of these, like, hyper-complex political issues. But I think people-- this is an issue that not only will resonate with a lot of people. It's an issue that will the perceptions will harden and last for some time. And so if I was working for the prime minister, this would be priority number one. How do we-- do you how do you solve for this kind of immediate crisis around lengthy delays?

And what's interesting is today in "The Globe and Mail--" we're having this conversation on June 28-- a former senior official at Passport Canada set out what struck me is some pretty practical ideas on how to deal with the backlog, including temporary renewals of passports that are expiring, at least to take some of the pressure off the system in the medium term. It's just shocking to me that we haven't seen ideas like that pursued by the government instead of a task force comprised of politicians, which just strikes me as the kind of thing that ordinary people roll their eyes at.

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