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In-Your-Service

Federal services are a mess says MP

Complaints about services

Getting the basics right to serve people is the first step of customer service small businesses deal with every day.

It's unfortunate it has not been the rule for the current federal government. The basic services Canadians deserve and pay for with their taxes are not being achieved through blatant mismanagement and lack of leadership from our federal government, and it's a mess.

I have countless constituents reach out to me every day regarding backlogs and non-responsive issues from every federal department, including CRA, Citizenship and Immigration Canada (IRCC), Service Canada (including passports), and veteran's disability applications.

While many Canadians were hoping to go camping this summer, they were likely not expecting it to take place in the parking lot of a Service Canada office.

We've now seen wide-scale reports of unmanageable backlogs, dawn to dusk line-ups and mounting frustrations of people seeking a basic service like a passport application. This isn't federal employees not working hard, it's mismanagement from above. Our constituency office deals with heartbreaking situations daily.

The government can say it’s deeply concerned about backlogs, but it cannot say they were not warned about potential issues months ago. (Oh, if the government only had a way of knowing when passports expire. Of course it does).

The government even allowed many senior officials to get bonuses, even though many of their departments were failing.

Another fact is the amount of passport applications is less than at pre-pandemic levels. Andrew Griffith, a former director-general with IRCC, and a former top official at Service Canada, said IRCC's own 2022-23 department plan told the government there would almost certainly be a surge in passport applications as COVID restrictions were lifted.

Common sense would dictate that as borders opened abroad, Canadians would seek the opportunity to travel. Common sense would also dictate a response should have been ensuring appropriate processes and staffing at airports and for passports.

Yet again, the government waited until we were deep in dysfunction before moving to hire more workers, of whom only a fraction will be able to issue new passports due to a lack of full training, according to Kevin King, president of the Union of National Employees, which represents Service Canada workers.

That was despite the government's claims of trying its best to handle "unprecedented" volumes.

The truth is, the government’s 2022 stats show, on average, 54,200 passport applications per week, with spikes up to 75,000 per week. That falls well below the 90,000 to 98,000 per week Service Canada issued before the pandemic, discrediting the government's claims of "unprecedented volumes."

This dysfunction has also imperilled the ability of my office to serve constituents in Kelowna-Lake Country and help with IRCC applications. The case backlog has now surpassed more than two million applications across all categories. As a result, it limits the number of cases an MP office can reach out to help with to only five at a time.

Immigration cases at our office range from temporary foreign worker visas to refugee status. Upon questioning this at the Industry Committee I sit on, IRCC officials said it would take until the end of this year to even meet the regular service standard processing times.

Writing off a year's work of immigration will have wide-ranging and adverse effects on the Okanagan economy, including our agricultural sector and for others who are suffering labour shortages. Limiting my office's ability to serve local families and small businesses isn't acceptable.

We now hear Canada topped the global list of flight delays last weekend.

The government's response to all this? A ministerial task force to better "listen to concerns," according to its co-chair. Canadians have made their case very clear as where (the feel) the problems lie, and it's time for the government to do its job to ensure the basic services your tax dollars pay for are accessible in a manner that doesn't involve sleeping bags in parking lots.

If you need any assistance with programs or have any thoughts to share, feel free to reach out, at 250-470-5075 or at [email protected].

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.



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About the Author

Tracy Gray, Conservative MP for Kelowna-Lake Country, is the official Opposition’s critic for Small Business Recovery and Growth.

She is a member of the national caucus committee’s credit union caucus, wine caucus, and aviation caucus.

Gray, who has won the RBC Canadian Woman Entrepreneur of the Year Award, and the Kelowna Chamber of Commerce Business Excellence Award, worked for 27 years in the B.C. beverage industry.

She founded and owned Discover Wines VQA Wine Stores, which included the No. 1 wine store in B.C. for 13 years. She has been involved in small businesses in different sectors — financing, importing, oil and gas services and a technology start-up — and is among the “100 New Woman Pioneers in B.C."

Gray was a Kelowna city councillor for the 2014 term, sat on the Passenger Transportation Board from 2010-2012 and was elected to the board of Prospera Credit Union for 10 years.

In addition, she served on the boards of the Okanagan Film Commission, Clubhouse Childcare Society, Kelowna Chamber of Commerce, Okanagan Regional Library and was chairwoman of the Okanagan Basin Water Board.

She volunteers extensively in the community and welcomes connecting with residents.

She can be reached at 250-470-5075, and [email protected]

 



The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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