And the 2023 Paperweight Award goes to… The Government of Canada’s passport mess

Overnight campouts, lines stretching city blocks and months-long waits create stress nightmares for would-be travellers 

Toronto, January 31, 2023 – The award for best of the worst example of red tape across the country goes to Service Canada for the unending delays, absurd wait times, and opaque timelines that held up the passport process for hundreds of thousands of Canadians looking to travel over the past year. 

“We were seeing the kind of lines and campouts at Service Canada offices that are normally reserved for the latest iPhone or Taylor Swift ticket for a basic government service and an essential document,” said Ryan Mallough, CFIB vice-president of legislative affairs. “The truth is: passport delays were a colossal waste of time, money and energy for over a million Canadians this year. It had real consequences for travelers who were forced to delay things like reuniting with family abroad after two difficult years.” 

A public opinion poll commissioned by CFIB found that 80% of passport applicants experienced some frustration when applying for or renewing a passport in the past year. 

  • 33% reported having to make multiple trips to Service Canada
  • 27% had to take time off work
  • 23% had to delay travel plans
  • 5% paid someone else to stand in line for them

On average, applicants spent nearly two hours (115 minutes) waiting in line and/or on the phone, with one in twelve (8%) reporting spending over six hours to get their application in. All in, it took just over two months (68 days) for the average applicant to receive their new/renewed passport.

“We are told the passport backlog has been cleared, and that’s great news. Still, the federal government must ensure Canadians have timely access to crucial documents and services, such as passports. Nobody wants to see a sequel to this year’s winner,” added Benjamin Rousse, CFIB policy analyst.

Service Canada joins previous “honourees” including: The City of Toronto’s business licence process (2020); the federal government’s web of confusion and near impossible to understand language on its websites (2019); and Smithers’ infamous “sidewalk to nowhere” in British Columbia (2018).

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For media enquiries or interviews, please contact:
Dariya Baiguzhiyeva, CFIB

These are the findings from two different surveys.

The first is a survey commissioned by CFIB. The survey was conducted from November 18 to 21, 2022, among a nationally representative sample of n=1,507 Canadians who are members of the online Angus Reid Forum, balanced and weighted on age, gender, region and education. For comparison purposes, a probability sample of this size has an estimated margin of error of +/- 2.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20. The survey was conducted in English and French.

The second survey was completed in house by CFIB using an online, controlled access survey. The Your Voice – November 2022 was completed by 3,264 CFIB members between November 10-28, 2022. For comparison purposes, a probability sample with the same number of respondents would have a margin of error of ±1.7 per cent, 19 times out of 20.

About CFIB
The Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) is Canada’s largest association of small and medium-sized businesses with 97,000 members across every industry and region. CFIB is dedicated to increasing business owners’ chances of success by driving policy change at all levels of government, providing expert advice and tools, and negotiating exclusive savings. Learn more at