The most pressing issue for MP Terry Dowdall in his riding of Simcoe-Grey, frustration over passport delays. Canadians have been stuck at home for two years and now with pandemic restrictions loosening, they want to travel.
His office staff have been flooded with calls and emails from angry constituents pleading for help to get a passport in time for their flight. Dowdall said, “The ball was dropped by the Liberal government on this one. Everyone knew the demand for passports would surge during the summer travel period.”
Navigating a passport office nightmare
Normally, an MP’s office would have a direct line to a representative in the passport office. Staff could get a status update on an application or ten days from the travel date they could request a transfer to a passport processing centre. But most times they can’t even get someone to answer the call.
Passport Canada is telling staff if they don’t receive a call two days before the travel date, constituents should submit a new application, new photos, re-submit documents and prepare to stand in a long line at the Passport Processing Centre in North York or Mississauga.
There are signs of improvement, in that the passport office is starting to answer the phone. Dowdall said, “The process isn’t necessarily faster, but at least there’s an acknowledgement that the MP’s office has called. However, more than two years into the travel restrictions, the government should be more responsive.”
Cancelled travel plans
MP Dowdall’s office has been getting calls from people saying they desperately need to travel to see their ailing parents. Others have missed weddings and family events because they couldn’t get a passport in time, while many other travellers who missed flights are out thousands of dollars because they didn’t have travel insurance.
Dowdall’s constituency staff have been taking the brunt of people’s anger and frustrations. Many believe the staff are an extension of the government when they are not. Dowdall wants to assure constituents that his staff are doing their best to help them get the passport in time under very difficult circumstances. They will guide people as best they can, especially when the passport is needed urgently.
Advice for travellers
Even if they have pending travel plans Terry Dowdall is advising people to check the expiry date on their passport. Renew it as soon as possible. Many countries require your passport to be valid for three to six months after you enter the country. Dowdall said, “My message to everyone is to check the expiration date on your passport and get your application in as soon as possible, because the process is slow.”
This is the most disgruntled that Dowdall has seen people since he became an MP. He said, “They’re frustrated with the passport delays and the new rules at the airport. The ArriveCan App is a perfect example.” Many seniors don’t have smartphones and many residents in his rural riding don’t have reliable internet service.
People need to have confidence in government systems. Dowdall said, “They don’t have that confidence right now and as a sitting member of parliament, I don’t have confidence in government departments either. He added, “If this was a private entity rather than a government department, it would be out of business.”
Thank you for your patience
If the government offered a solution and a timeline to clear the backlog, the public could accept the delays more easily. However, Dowdall said, “It’s terrible when you must tell constituents that their only hope of securing a passport quickly is to drive to Toronto, stand in a long line and hope that you get inside before the office closes.”
Dowdall wants to thank people for their patience. He said, “I’m frustrated as well. We need solutions, not just talking points.”
If you would like to connect with MP Terry Dowdall or his staff please call 1-866-435-1809 or email: Terry.Dowdall@parl.gc.ca