“My best advice to Canadians is not to make that application right now because it just simply won’t be processed,” said Karina Gould, minister of families, children and social development.
“So if you dropped it off and then needed those primary documents, they wouldn’t be able to give them back to you until after the job action is complete,” she told Eric Sorensen on The West Block Sunday.
Gould said even though Canadians can mail their applications and drop them off at a Service Canada location or a passport office, essential workers are not allowed to open and process them except for very narrow emergency circumstances.
“Unfortunately, by law, passport services are not considered to be essential, so that means anyone who is applying for a new passport or to renew a passport — unless it is in a very set prescribed set of circumstances — will not be able to apply for a passport while the strike is ongoing,” Gould explained.
The only exceptions are for people experiencing humanitarian or emergency situations, such as travel for economically essential work, medical services abroad, to see a critically ill family member or in the event of a death in the family, said Gould.
The passport program has already been significantly curtailed due to the labour disruption, which entered a fifth day Sunday.
Only 500 applications considered urgent or essential were processed Wednesday when the strike kicked off, said Gould.
Typically on a normal day, about 20,000 to 25,000 passport applications are received across the country, she added.
Negotiations are continuing between Ottawa and the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC), which represents more than 155,000 federal workers, but the labour dispute appears to be at an impasse.
On Saturday, PSAC’s president, Chris Aylward, blamed the federal government for “dragging out this negotiation” and showing “disrespect” at the negotiating table. He also accused Mona Fortier, the minister responsible for Treasury Board negotiations, of “incompetence.”
In response, the Treasury Board issued a statement accusing the union of “inflexibility” and said government negotiators have been trying to get in touch.
Gould reiterated that the government wants to come to an agreement and would not speculate when asked whether there was a timeline the government has for when to consider back-to-work legislation.
“We believe that the best deals are made at the bargaining table and so we’re going to continue to put our energy into that,” she said on The West Block.
“And certainly I’m very hopeful that the union also wants the same thing and that we can get this agreement in place so that the impact on Canadians is minimized.”
— with files from Global News’ Eric Stober.