Both Ontario and Manitoba have declared their interest in EDLs. Both are running into problems.
In Ontario’s case, it appears as though there is some confusion about whether or not the province can actually deploy the licenses in time to meet the June 1, 2009 Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) deadline – after this date, Canadians will need to use either an EDL or passport to cross a land border into the US. While the Sun is reporting that the deadline won’t be met by the Ontario provincial government, and the Star is saying that Minister Bradley thinks that only “some” applicants will get the licenses in time, CTV is noting that Bradley insists that the licenses will be available in time to meet the WHTI deadline. No one totally agrees on what is going on in Ontario concerning the EDL roll-out. They can all agree, however, that EDLs are terribly expensive: whereas a passport will cost $87, and Ontario EDL will run you $115. An affordable ‘solution’ to border travel indeed…
In Manitoba, it was expected that around 100,000 Manitobans would want to get their hands on EDLs. Unfortunately, it seems like the government slightly overestimated the demand: since February 2, 2009 less than 1,500 people have applied. 24,000 have applied for passports in Manitoba. Oops.
In light of Ontario and Manitoba fumbling of their EDL-plans, Chantel Bernier (almost presciently) noted on April 13, 2009 that,
Nobody can really demonstrate so far that [EDLs are] worth the intrusion on privacy…Frankly, it’s probably going to crumble under its own weight. (Source)
At the same time, we’re seeing a fumble by Passport Canada. Manitoba is a case that shows that people likely aren’t all that interested in ‘enhancing’ their drivers licenses, but I’d bet that most of them would like the process of getting a passport to be quick and relatively painless. (Un)fortunately, Passport Canada realizes that Canadians are abandoning the ‘net in droves, and are cutting their online services. This is happening because of privacy issues and security issues that recently put the agency in a poor public light, but is telling that rather than receive funding to address these risks Passport Canada is having to shut down what were convenient ways of dealing with the agency. All of the funding that provinces have been pouring into their EDL programs could have been far better used to assist a (seemingly) struggling Passport Canada so that Canadians were actually better serviced and able to cross the US/Canada border.
I guess that bureaucratic politics have, once again, won out over providing efficiencies to the Canadian public. At least the Maritime provinces don’t appear to have been sucked down the EDL money-pit. I guess this shows that there is something to arguments for Maritime pragmatism after all!