Island MP renews plea for a P.E.I. passport office

Charlottetown MP Sean Casey hopes he can convince his government that P.E.I. should have a passport office.

Charlottetown MP Sean Casey says he gets panicked phone calls from people

Prince Edward Island is the only province in Canada that doesn't have a passport office, something Charlottetown MP Sean Casey hopes to change. (Canadian Press)

Charlottetown MP Sean Casey is hopeful he can convince his government that P.E.I. should have a passport office. 

Prince Edward Island is the only province in Canada that doesn't have one.

"There's a steady stream of people through here depending on the time of year" who ask his office for assistance with passports, said Casey.

He estimates between 10 and 40 people a week contact his office, and that doesn't include Islanders who mail their applications in on their own or go through Service Canada. 

From April 2015 to March 2016, the four MP offices in P.E.I. received 1,118 passport applications out of a total of 13,666 for the whole Island, said government spokeswoman Nancy Caron. Almost 60 per cent — 8,178 — were received by Service Canada.

More than 10 per cent of P.E.I. passport applications were made in person either in Halifax or Fredericton.

More than 600 were either urgent or express applications.

Casey said it's particularly tough for Islanders who need passports in a hurry. 

Charlottetown MP Sean Casey says he gets between 10 and 40 requests for passport assistance a week at his constituency office in Charlottetown. (Laura Chapin/CBC)

"Time and time again I have people contact me on an urgent basis and I have to tell them 'Get in your car, take the day off, go to Fredericton or go to Halifax, that's your only option'," said Casey. 

Those are where the closest Passport Canada offices are located.

"And I don't think it's right that someone should have to leave the province for something like that." 

'I called them our $900 passports'

Most Passport Canada offices offer an urgent service where a person can submit an application with proof of imminent travel and get a new passport at the end of the next business day for an extra $110 fee, but the application must be submitted in person at a passport office. 

Islander Donna Glass had to make a rush trip to the Passport Canada office in Halifax, after a last minute discovery of the passport expiry rules the country she was visiting requires. (Donna Glass/Facebook )

Morell, P.E.I., resident Donna Glass agrees supports Casey's quest for a passport office on the Island. 

She and her travel partner had to make a last minute scramble to Halifax before a trip to South Korea. She discovered, reading a travel book, that visitors aren't allowed into the country if they have six months or less before their passport expires. 

"So we had to rush off to Halifax. The drive, the ferry cost, hotel cost and then the rush fee for the passport," said Glass. 

"I called them our $900 passports."

Department still saying no

"Passport demand cannot sustain a full passport office in P.E.I.," wrote a spokesperson for Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada in an email.

The department encourages Islanders to use venues that accept applications, such as Service Canada or Canada Post, but admits they cannot be fast-tracked as they can at a Passport Canada office. 

Despite hearing this response, Casey isn't willing to give up. He hopes now that a Liberal government is in power, ears in Ottawa will be more open to considering the need.

Casey uses the announcement last week of the re-opening of the Veterans' Affairs district office as a positive example of federal services being offered in Canada's smallest province. 

"I suppose they could have made that argument with respect to the district office as well, but we prevailed on that one and I think the case for us is that we are a province, nobody else has to leave the province, even if it's a scaled down operation, we still, as far as I'm concerned, merit a full-service passport office," said Casey.