New Brunswick

Long lines and long waits as Service NB reopens to the public

On Monday morning Service New Brunswick saw the type of lineups usually reserved for those lining up for concert tickets.

Some people reported waiting more than three hours

The lineups were lengthy at SNB locations across the province, including here in Saint John, as locations opened to the public for the first since COVID-19 restrictions were put in place. (Roger Cosman/CBC)

On Monday morning, Service New Brunswick offices saw the type of lines usually found at a concert box office.

Dozens of people queued for hours, in lines that sometimes stretched for blocks, as SNB locations across the province opened their doors to the public for the first time since the pandemic lockdown in March. 

Until now, an appointment was needed to get inside, a precaution taken during an earlier phase of recovery after more stringent COVID-19 restrictions. 

On reopening day, some people in Fredericton reported waiting more than three hours to complete their provincial paperwork. 

"We waited for about an hour and a half," said Abagail Doucette, who  is getting married next week and needed to get a marriage licence. "As soon as we went in, it only took 10 or 15 minutes, and we were done." 

Abagail Doucette waited an hour and a half to get her marriage licence prior to her wedding next week. (Roger Cosman/CBC)

SNB staff worked the lines to ensure physical distancing was being maintained. Workers also checked in with those waiting to see if they could be served online or over the phone instead. 

The long lineups were not unexpected. 

"It's actually as predicted," said Rob Horwood, the vice-president of public services for SNB. 

"These are our standard July lineups," he said. "The one difference is we don't have as much social-distancing capabilities inside the centres, so those folks are now lined up outside." 

Service New Brunswick offices across the province return to normal operating hours

1 year ago
1:12
Service New Brunswick offices across the province reopened Monday. Some people who joined the lineups waited more than three hours for service. 1:12

Horwood said all 32 SNB locations are now receiving walk-ins. He pointed to Shediac as having perhaps the most demand, with long lines and waits, while the location in Grand Falls surprisingly only had about 10 people waiting for service on Monday morning. 

He said the transfer of vehicle ownership is the most common issue bringing customers to Service New Brunswik, as people try to catch up paperwork that had been delayed due to COVID-19. 

Rob Horwood, the vice president of public services for SNB, said the long lines were to be expected Monday morning. (Shane Fowler/CBC)

The number of people physically going to Service New Brunswick has greatly relieved the demand on the government's tele-services.

Last week, New Brunswickers reported waiting on hold for hours just to get an appointment to go to an SNB location. Horwood said the time on hold was reduced to four minutes Monday morning. 

And despite the long waits people have been understanding so far. 

"When we checked in around the province, people are being very 'Canadian' and very agreeable," said Horwood. "But it's also going to get warmer, so we're sensitive to that as well." 

He suggested wait times could shrink in a few days or a week. 

"For Service New Brunswick, generally, Monday is always our busiest day, or the day after a holiday," said Horwood. "So if you can avoid a Monday or the day after a holiday, that's always your best course of action." 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Shane Fowler

Reporter

Shane Fowler has been a CBC journalist based in Fredericton since 2013.

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?

now