Long lines and long waits as Service NB reopens to the public
Some people reported waiting more than three hours
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."
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."
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.
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."