Banff-Airdrie MP Blake Richards wants to hear from constituents about their experiences with passport delays, airport backlogs, and issues using the ArriveCAN app.
In a weekly report emailed by the MP to his constituents, Richards said he’s already heard from “countless” people living in the Banff-Airdrie riding who have had their summer plans abrupted by travel barriers.
“These hurdles to travel are emerging as the most frustrating issue facing our country,” Richards stated in the report. “Camping should be an activity enjoyed in the great outdoors, not on the sidewalk in front of a passport office while in line waiting overnight to try and get your passport renewed in time.”
Instances of constituents unable to reunite with their families abroad or whose vacations have been forcibly cancelled by passport delays are becoming increasingly common, Richards argued, and there’s been no indicator of improvement on the horizon.
He likens the “faulty and faceless” ArriveCAN app, used by the Canadian government to screen incoming travellers for COVID-19 and track their vaccination status, to a “house arrest.”
According to the Canada Border Services Agency, a recent ArriveCAN app glitch sent messages to over 10,000 fully vaccinated travellers falsely telling them to quarantine for 14 days.
Despite an issue like that, refusing to use the app to provide required information can result in a fine of up to $5,000 under the Quarantine Act.
“The headaches created by this app have created a negative ripple effect through our travel and tourism sectors, severely limiting our economic opportunity in those sectors,” said Richards. “No other country forces its own citizens to go through so many hurdles in order to travel.
“While the rest of the world returned to normal travel long ago, Canada continues to stand alone, stuck in the past.”
According to a report released by the federal auditor general in December 2021, the ArriveCAN app improved the quality of traveller information collected by the government. Still, poor data quality made it difficult to match almost 138,000 COVID-19 test results to arrivals and only 25 per cent of travellers ordered to quarantine in government-approved hotels were verified to have done so.
The app has been used for more than public health measures. Recent government updates have focused on efficiencies, such as including the option to fill out a customs declaration at air border crossings.
The option is available only before arrival at Toronto’s, Vancouver’s or Montreal’s international airports. But the federal government said last week that it plans to roll out the feature to arrivals in Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Ottawa, Quebec City, Halifax, and the Bill Bishop Toronto City Airport.
According to Transport Canada, travellers who have used the forms spent less time at kiosks, shaving about 40 seconds off the average two-minute visit.
Still, Richards said the app is doing more harm than good.
“Conservatives are saying enough is enough,” he said. “The Liberal government has the power to drop ArriveCAN immediately. They have the power to fix the processing delays.
“The time to act was yesterday.”
Banff-Airdrie constituents who would like to share their experiences with passport delays, airport backlogs, or other issues using the ArriveCAN app can reach out to Richards at [email protected].