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Canada’s passport application backlog now ‘virtually eliminated,’ minister says

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The federal government declared victory over a massive backlog of passport applications Tuesday as the social development minister announced that 98 per cent of the delayed applications have now been processed.

Most new passport applications were being processed on time by October, but thousands of people who applied before then still faced excessive delays.

Those delays have finally come to an end, Social Development Minister Karina Gould announced Tuesday.

“The backlog is virtually eliminated,” she declared during a press conference at a cabinet retreat with her fellow ministers in Hamilton, Ont.

The pandemic caused a nearly two-year lull in passport applications, but once people began to travel again, the demand for new passports grew dramatically.

That surge led to long lines and longer waits for travel documents.

Some people are just receiving their passports now, despite the fact that they applied as early as the summer, Gould said before delivering an apology to those who had to wait.

The few people who are still waiting could be held up for several reasons, she said. Some applications are more complex because of things like child-custody issues, for example, while others have been flagged for eligibility or integrity reasons.

“Canadians can have confidence that they should be able to get their passport on time, so long as everything is correct with their application,” she said.

To catch up on the backlog, Service Canada doubled the number of employees processing passports since March, and workers racked up thousands of hours of overtime.

The new workers are expected to stay on to help field future spikes in demand, Gould said.

She said she expects a large number of Canadians to apply in the next few years because the first passports issued with a 10-year expiry date will be due for renewal in July.

Service Canada is expected to process as many as 3.5 million passports this fiscal year, she said, which is double the number of passports processed last year. Between three and five million applications are expected to come in each year for the next few years.

The good news, Gould said, is that Service Canada will be better able to handle that level of demand than it was last spring.

Between 80 and 85 per cent of applications last year came from people who had never had a passport before, which meant they were more complicated to process, she said.

“Whereas what we’re anticipating, particularly for this summer, is a higher level of renewals, and those are much simpler to do,” she told reporters.

Though passport offices are running normally again, Gould still encouraged people who plan to travel to check the expiry dates on their passports and get their applications in early to avoid delays.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 24, 2023.

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Wildfire reaches outskirts of Jasper, Alta., as first responders ordered to leave

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EDMONTON – Parks officials say one of two wildfires bearing down on the Jasper, Alta., townsite has reached the southern outskirts of the community.

All first responders have been ordered out of Jasper National Park for their safety and to give fire crews more room to operate.

Two fires whipped by strong winds are bearing down on the town, from the north and the south.

Katie Ellsworth, with Parks Canada, said the southern one reached the outskirts of the townsite just before 6 p.m.

A last-ditch effort to reroute the fire to natural barriers like Highway 16 and the Athabasca River failed.

About 5,000 live in Jasper, and they, along with about 20,000 visitors, had to flee at a moment’s notice Monday night when the fires flared up.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 24, 2024.

The Canadian Press. All rights reserved.



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Severe Thunderstorms Cause Significant Damage and Power Outages in Ontario

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A series of severe thunderstorms swept across the region on the afternoon of Wednesday, July 24, leaving a trail of damage and widespread power outages. The day began with Environment Canada issuing a Severe Thunderstorm Watch, which escalated to a Severe Thunderstorm Warning by the afternoon. Additionally, a Tornado Warning was issued, and there were numerous reports of a tornado forming in the sky, although no official confirmation of a touchdown has been made yet.

Damage and Disruptions

L’Orignal and Surrounding Areas:

  • The severe weather caused extensive damage to trees and properties in and around L’Orignal.
  • Highway 17 experienced a closure for several hours between Cassburn Road and Blue Corner Road due to storm-related debris and hazards.

Hawkesbury:

  • The heavy rainfall led to at least one storm sewer overflow, resulting in flooding in a parking lot and along Hamilton Street near the Main Street intersection.

Power Outages

Hydro One:

  • Over 2,800 customers were reported without electricity, predominantly affecting areas within Champlain Township, Alfred and Plantagenet, The Nation Municipality, and North Glengarry.

Hydro-Québec:

  • Nine localized outages were reported, impacting an unspecified number of customers in Grenville-sur-la-Rouge, Brownsburg-Chatham, Harrington, Wentworth, and Gore.

Meteorological Impact

Severe Weather Alerts:

  • The day began with a Severe Thunderstorm Watch, which escalated to a Severe Thunderstorm Warning as conditions worsened.
  • A Tornado Warning was also issued, raising significant concern among residents and prompting safety measures.

Sightings and Warnings:

  • Residents reported sightings of a tornado forming in the sky, but there has yet to be any official confirmation of it touching down.

Response and Recovery

Road and Infrastructure:

  • Efforts are underway to clear debris and repair damage caused by the severe weather, particularly along major routes like Highway 17.
  • Local authorities and emergency services are working to manage the aftermath and restore normalcy.

Utilities:

  • Hydro One and Hydro-Québec crews are actively working to restore power to affected areas, prioritizing regions with the highest impact.

Community Impact

The severe thunderstorms have had a profound impact on the communities within the affected regions. The storm’s intensity and the resulting damage have underscored the importance of preparedness and swift response in the face of extreme weather events. Local authorities are urging residents to stay informed about weather updates and to take necessary precautions during such events.

Safety Measures:

  • Environment Canada continues to monitor the situation and provide updates.
  • Residents are advised to remain indoors during severe weather and avoid flooded areas.

The recent storms serve as a reminder of the power of nature and the necessity of community resilience and preparedness. As recovery efforts continue, the focus remains on ensuring the safety and well-being of all affected residents.

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Aecon reports $123.9 million loss in second quarter, revenue down

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TORONTO – Aecon Group Inc. says it lost $123.9 million in the second quarter, down from a profit of $28.2 million a year earlier.

The Toronto-based company says revenue totalled $853.8 million, down from $1.2 billion during the same quarter last year.

Diluted loss per share was $1.99, down from a gain of 38 cents last year.

Aecon says much of the decline in revenue can be attributed to its construction segment, which was $288 million lower than a year earlier.

Aecon says it recorded a charge of $127 million in the second quarter related to its settlement with TC Energy Corp. over delays and cost increases that took place during the construction of the Coastal GasLink pipeline project, for which Aecon was one of the prime contractors.

The company says it also recorded an aggregate charge of $110 million related to three other joint venture legacy projects which also encountered delays and mounting costs.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 24, 2024.

Companies in this story: (TSX:ARE)

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