BLAME GAME

Government Task Force Still Accepts No Blame for Chaotic Restart to Travel

Readers of Open Jaw have likely become accustomed to seeing our coverage of Ottawa’s weekly ‘self-report cards’ tracking progress various federal ministries have made in cleaning up their part of the mess of travel’s chaotic restart.

Omar Alghabra, Minister of Transport (left); and Karina Gould, Minister of Families, Children, and Social Development (right).
Omar Alghabra, Minister of Transport (left); and Karina Gould, Minister of Families, Children, and Social Development (right).

This week, the update went live. Two months after the Prime Minister announced the creation of a “new ministerial task force to help improve government services,” with a focus on reducing delays around passport processing and at Canadian airports, the ministers involved issued an in-person update to the media on Monday, 29AUG.

According to the government, the task force has been meeting regularly throughout the summer to identify “priority areas for action, and outline short- and longer-term solutions to better serve Canadians.”

Belated Responses and Deflection of Responsibility

Mondays’ live updates revealed no new progress. The ministers responsible for passport processing, outbound airport security screening and inbound border processing reiterated their steep - and as many in the industry have argued - belated - staffing ramp ups as well as the new processes they cobbled together in a panic this summer to help clear backlogs and reduce lineups.

Both minister of transport, Omar Alghabra, and the minister responsible for passports, Karina Gould, shared statements of contrition. Alghabra stated that, “Airport delays are unacceptable.” And Gould acknowledged that, “We know that many Canadians have been put in very difficult and stressful situations,” attempting to get new and renewed passports.

But the overall message from the government was denial of responsibility, with Ottawa’s release declaring:

“The task force discussed the underlying pandemic-related reasons for the significant surges in demand for travel and for other government services, which have been far bigger than anyone anticipated.

“These unprecedented increases in demand are a global phenomenon, and have contributed to delays and problems not only for Canadians, but for citizens of other countries around the world.”

That’s despite a chorus of travel and air industry and union representatives stating on the record - and reported in Open Jaw -  that they had been urging the federal government to be proactive and get ahead of an inevitable spike in travel once the pandemic eased.

The Biggest Takeaway

The post-pandemic resurgence of travel may leave a lasting legacy in how the federal government delivers its travel-related services, including accelerated adoption of technology solutions (like kiosks and ArriveCAN), and newly-flexible processes (like local passport pick up offices and online renewal).

But it doesn’t appear the government has learned any lessons in following the Scouting mantra to simply “be prepared.”

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