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Passport wait times: What’s the situation now in Canada?

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After many Canadians were frustrated with long passport wait times earlier this year, some even camping out in front of passport offices for days, Service Canada said it doubled its efforts by hiring dedicated staff to expedite processing times. Did it work? Data provided by the department show it did, with a nearly 90 per cent increase in passports issued in October compared with May, when the backlog was at its worst.

“Thanks to hiring efforts, an increase in efficiency, and the streamlining of processes, the inventory of passport applications is declining,” the agency said in its emailed statement to CTVNews.ca.

Can’t see the graphs below? Click here

More passports are being issued within 40 days, according to the statement. For the week of Oct. 10 to Oct. 16, 2022, 72 per cent of passports were issued within 40 days in comparison to 66 per cent two weeks ago.

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Five months back, the agency experienced an unprecedented volume of applications which increased passport processing times, with Canadians being forced to wait in long queues.

To deliver timely passport services for Canadians, Service Canada said it took a number of measures which included dedicated passport counters at over 300 centres and opening selected centers on Saturdays.

Data provided to CTVNews.ca by Service Canada show that after the pandemic there was a huge dip in people applying for passports before the unprecedented rise in the number of passport applications.

The 2022 surge in May coincided with the peak summer travel season and additional easing of border measures announced towards the end of April 2022. The number of applications grew nearly 100 times in May this year, from 2,917 in 2020 to 281,055 in 2022.

The passport applications received for May were also the highest ever recorded since the start of the pandemic.

Of the total number of passport applications received in May this year, 57 per cent were issued passports at the time.

Passport application service standards also vary depending on the method of application, which is typically 10 days for in-person and 20 days for mail.

In the following months of June and July, roughly 77 per cent and 88 per cent of passport applications were issued. The data shows that the significant decrease in passport inventory coincided with the number of overtime hours by the passport processing network.

The last week of June recorded the highest number of overtime hours, with 10,182 hours which included overtime dedicated only to passport processing.

In the last two months of August and September this year, the agency has started processing more passport applications, crediting additional staff and overtime hours

Recent data from Statistics Canada shows that in August, Canadians travelling overseas have more than doubled in August this year compared to the same month last year. The passport applications for August grew almost twice this year, to 265,168 in August this year from just 127,644 last year.

Despite the surge in applications, a record number of passports were issued in August and September this year, Service Canada said, with a significant increase in the number of passports entitled per week.

The week of May 16, 2022, there were 41,350 passports issued, compared to 77,234 the week of October 3, 2022, an increase of 87 per cent.

The agency said it is important to note that not all passport applications received result in the issuance of a passport.

“A significant proportion of mail-in applications result in the file being rejected,” Service Canada said in its statement. “The file could be incomplete as photos do not meet the specifications, the child application does not have the appropriate custody documentation/adoption documents, etc.) or require to follow up with the client.”

The agency expects to receive 4.2 million passport applications during the 2022-2023 fiscal year and has hired 926 new employees for processing passport applications between April 1, 2022, and October 16, 2022, to meet the surge in demand for passports.

During the pandemic, the agency said it had no layoffs. Instead, the passport workforce grew from 1,365 to 2,291 between April 1, 2022, and October 16, 2022. This included 600 new employees hired in the month of May to focus on processing the passport applications.

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Bank of Canada raises key interest rate to 4.25 per cent, its highest since 2008 – CTV News

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The Bank of Canada has raised its overnight rate by 50 basis points to 4.25 per cent, marking its seventh rate hike in nine months. The last time the bank’s policy rate was this high was in January 2008.

The inflation rate remained high at 6.9 per cent in October, well above the bank’s 2 per cent target. Higher gas prices put upward pressure on the cost of most goods and services, according to the Consumer Price Index released by Statistics Canada last month.

The bank says the economy continued to operate in excess demand during the third quarter and the labour market in Canada remained tight. With unemployment remaining at historic lows, Statistics Canada reported average hourly wages rose by 5.6 per cent year-over-year in October.

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The bank says tighter monetary policy is affecting domestic demand in the Canadian economy, with declines in the housing market and consumption moderating during the third quarter. Since its monetary report in October, the bank continues to expect economic growth to stall through the end of this year and into the first half of 2023.

“The November GDP data showed us that economic activity in Canada had already started to shrink,” said Sheila Block, senior economist with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. “Given that slowdown, any hopes for a soft landing have been crushed by today’s rate hikes.”

During a press conference following the bank’s last rate announcement on Oct. 27, Bank of Canada Governor Tiff Macklem signalled “the tightening phase will draw to a close, we are getting closer, but we aren’t there yet.”

On Wednesday, the bank did not rule out further rate increases to tackle inflation.

“Looking ahead, Governing Council will be considering whether the policy interest rate needs to rise further to bring supply and demand back into balance and return inflation to target,” reads the release.

However, experts think it will be difficult for the bank to raise rates during a period of low growth.

“It will be very hard for a central bank to raise interest rates when the economy is in a recession,” said Kevin Page, Institute of Fiscal Studies and Democracy President and CEO. “I think it is highly probable that the central bank will not need to raise interest rates in the short term (next three to six months).”

Speaking to reporters in Ottawa, Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre blamed the cost of living crisis on the federal government’s increased spending during the pandemic.

“It’s another uppercut for Canadians,” said Poilievre. “It’s all because of the inflationary deficits and spending of Justin Trudeau.”

Meanwhile, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh called for other measures to help combat inflation.

“The federal government has to do more to look at the solutions around inflation,” said Singh during a press conference in Ottawa. “Some of those solutions include acknowledging that high profits in the corporate sector — corporate greed — is contributing to the cost of living going up.”

In the House of Commons, Associate Minister of Finance Randy Boissonnault defended his government’s policies to address the increased cost of living.

“The bank is doing their job. We’re doing our job by making sure we have the fiscal fire power to face what’s going to come,” he said during Question Period. “We’re helping Canadians to buy a new home, we’re advancing the payments for worker benefits and we’re also making sure student loan interest gets removed forever.”

The next policy rate announcement is expected on Jan. 25, 2023.

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Media shunning transparency law due to worsening delays, journalist says

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Veteran journalist Dean Beeby says reporters are abandoning the federal Access to Information Act as a research tool because turnaround times are terrible and getting worse.

The access law allows journalists and others who pay a $5 fee to request documents — from internal emails and expense claims to briefing memos and studies — but it has long been criticized as antiquated and poorly administered.

Federal agencies are supposed to respond within 30 days or provide valid reasons why they need more time to process a request.

The law has not been significantly updated since its introduction almost 40 years ago, and many users complain of lengthy delays as well as heavily blacked-out documents or full denials in response to their applications.

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Beeby, an independent journalist who spent much of his career at The Canadian Press, says bureaucrats now realize they face a much bigger blowback from releasing information than from withholding it — and the law provides a rich menu of excuses to keep things buried.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 7, 2022.

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Google releases Canada’s top searches of 2022

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From serious news stories to fun diversions, Canadians have done a lot of Google searches this year.

The internet search engine released its list of the most viral web searches in Canada for 2022.

Here are the Top Search Trends this year: 

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  1. Wordle
  2. Ukraine
  3. World Cup
  4. Queen Elizabeth
  5. Betty White
  6. Bob Saget
  7. Anne Heche
  8. Canuckle
  9. Johnny Depp
  10. Will Smith

“Over the last couple of years, Canadians were facing a lot of uncertainty. This year was all about supporting each other and embracing the new normals,” said Google trends expert Habiq Ali.

“Wordle was the number one top trending search term in Canada. But it was also the number one top trending search term around the world, so this web-based word game has really taken the world by storm.”

Top Canadian News Search Trends:

  1. Ukraine
  2. Rogers outage
  3. Monkeypox
  4. Lisa LaFlamme
  5. CNE
  6. U.S. Midterm Elections
  7. Saskatchewan stabbings
  8. World Cup 2022
  9. Oscars 2022
  10. Freedom Convoy 2022
 

Canadians weren’t just Googling games and current news events, they were also asking ‘Why?’

Why…

  1. Why is Russia attacking Ukraine?
  2. Why is Rogers down?
  3. Why did Will slap Chris?
  4. Why is Ukraine not in NATO?
  5. Why is there a formula shortage?
  6. Why is gas so expensive right now?
  7. Why are truckers protesting?
  8. Why is there a Tylenol shortage?
  9. Why is cryptocurrency going down?
  10. Why did Liz Truss resign?

Another question they asked was ‘how:’

How to…

  1. How to watch the World Cup
  2. How to do a rapid COVID test?
  3. How to help Ukraine?
  4. How to get a vaccine QR code?
  5. How to create an NFT?
  6. How to pronounce Kyiv?
  7. How to evolve Charcadet?
  8. How to “respec” in Elden Ring?
  9. How to evolve Cosmog in Pokémon Go?
  10. How to pronounce Qatar?

Canadians were also heavily plugged into pop culture and entertainment. From the infamous Will Smith Oscars slap to the Johnny Depp defamation trial, here were the top celebrities, movies and shows of the year:

Top Celebrities

  1. Johnny Depp
  2. Will Smith
  3. Amber Heard
  4. Chris Rock
  5. Adam Levine
  6. King Charles
  7. Jada Pinkett Smith
  8. Julia Fox
  9. Bruce Willis
  10. Mary J. Blige

Top Movies

  1. Encanto
  2. Top Gun
  3. The Batman
  4. Thor: Love and Thunder
  5. Turning Red
  6. Black Adam
  7. Everything Everywhere All at Once
  8. Morbius
  9. Uncharted
  10. Don’t Worry Darling
 

Top TV Series

  1. Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story
  2. Euphoria
  3. Stranger Things
  4. Inventing Anna
  5. The Watcher
  6. House of the Dragon
  7. Moon Knight
  8. Yellowstone
  9. The Boys
  10. The Summer I Turned Pretty

It was also a very busy year for sports fans with the Winter Olympics and the FIFA World Cup.

Top Sports Searches

  1. World Cup
  2. Olympic medal count
  3. Calgary Flames
  4. Olympics
  5. CFL scores
  6. T20 World Cup 2022
  7. Asia Cup 2022
  8. Canada Soccer
  9. Golden State Warriors
  10. Indian Wells tennis

Top Athletes

  1. Guy Lafleur
  2. Novak Djokovic
  3. Antonio Brown
  4. Serena Williams
  5. Eileen Gu
  6. Kamila Valieva
  7. Felix Auger Aliassime
  8. Mitchell Miller
  9. Johnny Gaudreau
  10. Kirby Dach

“It’s a really interesting way for us to look back at the year and see what inspired us and what intrigued us,” Ali told Global News.

“From a social perspective and from a political perspective, it kind of just shows us what’s top of mind for Canadians this year.”

&copy 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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