Ever since Canadian borders re-opened in late 2021, the steady demand for passports has been growing.
During lockdown people did not see a need to renew passports, and combined with new travelers wanting to explore the post-pandemic world, this has lead to a massive backlog in passport processing times.
A month ago, Skeena – Bulkley Valley MP Taylor Bachrach proposed opening a new, urgent processing passport office in Prince George to help combat delays, and in some cases thousands of extra dollars spent by northern residents to be able to travel.
“In order to access urgent processing, you have to drive all the way to Vancouver or Victoria to get a passport same-day,” Bachrach told My Nechako Valley Now. “Because people had travel plans booked, they had to make these trips. They had to spend thousands of dollars, it was a huge inconvenience and expense for them.”
In the month since proposing this passport office to Karina Gould, the Minister of Families, Children, and Social Development, Bachrach said he has heard nothing in response.
“It is frustrating” he said. “We are going to keep up the pressure and keep putting forward this request in hopes that the Minister will add Prince George or Northern British Columbia to the list for potential new offices.”
The federal government’s website says that you can get a passport in 20 days via mail or a visit to Service Canada, plus another few days for mailing times.
“The agency that does passport renewals wasn’t able to deliver the service on that timeline,” said Bachrach. “As people’s travel got closer and closer, people had to make a tough call: either cancel your trip, or drive all the way to Vancouver and pick up your passport in person at an office that provides urgent processing.”
Bachrach said that drive is not so bad for someone living in the lower mainland or the Okanagan, but for someone living in Prince Rupert or Smithers, it is a much different story.
“It is a hugely stressful situation for families, super expensive, and frankly unnecessary” he said. “Living in the north, we deserve basic government services, and this is one of them.”
The federal government has opened a handful of other passport offices across the country to combat this delay, but nothing has been done in B.C. so far.
“This is part of a larger story about government services in rural and remote Canada. So many of our communities have seen a loss of services over time as services have become more centralized and online. We need to push back against that, we deserve adequate service.”
Bachrach says he has not directly discussed this idea with either Bob Zimmer or Todd Doherty, Prince George’s two MPs.