Most Canadians now carrying passports

I travelled through the United States to Toronto this week. Upon boarding the plane in Minneapolis, most of the travellers seemed to be carrying passports and the majority were Canadian.
Then as I passed through Customs back into Canada at Terminal 3 in Toronto, I appeared to be the only person in line who showed just a driver’s licence and birth certificate.
The Arrivals area for international flights was jammed and the Canadian Customs officials seemed to be processing the passengers with good speed. Literally a river of people flowed out of the exit doors of Canadian Customs to pick up their luggage.
Perhaps many of those returning were from countries beyond North America, where passports are required. But Canadians, as a whole, have accepted that they will need passports to travel.
On Monday, I made my way to the passport office in downtown Toronto. The office opens at 8 a.m. The city already had come to life, and the traffic had filled the streets.
Nine street cars heading west on King could be seen over a two-block length, separated by a few cars. Walkers, meanwhile, were streaming down the sidewalks in a hurry as the sub-zero temperatures put an extra lift in their steps as they hurried to their office towers.
I had left my hotel early to get to the Canadian passport office in downtown Toronto. I was told that if you didn’t arrive early, you might expect a wait of up to two hours.
I arrived well before eight and was assigned #29. By the time the doors to the passport office opened, the line had more than doubled from my arrival.
Finally we reached the office and 14 passport windows opened. If you have all your information in order, it takes only a few minutes to provide the information and have it checked.
Many people had arrived with multiple family applications and so their time with the agent took longer.
I was out in a matter of a few minutes, though it took almost an hour of waiting to have my application processed. But in the time that I was there, more than one person found themselves with inadequate information to have their application processed and would have to return.
Below the offices are several legal firms who could assist those people with their applications.
Before leaving, I spoke with a commissionaire and inquired if the office was this busy all day long and every day. I learned that in the course of any one day, more than 500 people arrive at those downtown Toronto offices for passports.
That would mean that more than 100,000 people pass through those offices annually.
It is one of four offices in the greater Toronto region. The closest office for district residents is either in Thunder Bay or Winnipeg. In some areas of the province, Canada Post also acts as a receiving agent for applications in many Ontario centres.
Canadians are getting ready for the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative. We will be ready with our passports to travel back and forth to the U.S. when it becomes law at the end of 2007.
The question remains, will Americans be ready to travel to countries outside of the United States.
The second question that should concern us is whether Tourism Ontario or Tourism Canada has begun their promotional campaigns across the United States to encourage U.S. residents who regularly visit us to get their passports?

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