Friday, December 4, 2009

Cheryl Gallant Reads Passport Applications. Diane Finley Loses Them

There have been so many complaints with the way the Reformers have been handling passport applications. Stephen Harper himself was accused of using the info to compile Jewish mailing lists. Cheryl Gallant read those of her constituents in Renfrew, Guy Lauzon has been accused of gauging the people of Cornwall on photos, and now Diane Finley, has lost those she collected.

So if you're planning a trip out of the country, it's worth the drive to Ottawa to apply for a passport.

MP leaves couple in dark on ID theft
Diane Finley offers to help arrange passports, but when info goes missing she doesn't tell them
Richard J. Brennan
December 4, 2009

OTTAWA–Seventy-two-year-old Bill Godlouski and his long-time partner, Donna Dearden, were naturally excited about getting their first passports.

The Simcoe, Ont., couple like to shop occasionally in the United States and travel to Las Vegas, and these days that means carrying a Canadian passport or enhanced identification card.

But excitement turned to dread when they discovered that not only had their applications been stolen from a postal terminal but their local Conservative MP, Diane Finley, had known of the theft for weeks and didn't say a word.

"We're worried about identity theft. Anybody can do it nowadays. You got guys out there, my gosh, that can change pepper to salt," Godlouski said Thursday, adding the theft wasn't general knowledge until he went public this week.

Finley, who is the federal human resources minister and MP for Haldimand-Norfolk, organized passport clinics in Simcoe, south of Hamilton, and nearby Dunnville in August.

Godlouski and Dearden, who is also 72, marched right down to the Simcoe public library and signed up. And Finley's office gathered up the passport applications from the two clinics and mailed them off.

Days turned into weeks, weeks into months and not a word came from Passport Canada or Finley's constituency office.

When the retired factory worker could not stand the suspense any longer, he went to Finley's office and discovered their applications were missing.

About 75 passports applications were found in a Canada Post bag along with 85 credit cards and other mail, allegedly stolen by a 28-year-old postal employee from the Gatineau postal terminal. The unnamed man was arrested Nov. 6 and released.

"A couple of weeks ago, I went to Finley's office and said `we haven't got our passports, haven't heard nothing about it.' A gentleman there ... called back the next day and said `You are one of the (applications) that was stolen,'" Godlouski told the Star.

The news floored Godlouski and Dearden, whose immediate concern was identity theft. The couple had turned over personal information, including original birth certificates and a credit card number to pay the passport fee.

"I said `What the heck is going on?' but (Finley's staff) wouldn't tell me nothing. I wasn't getting any damn answers at all," Godlouski said.

A spokesperson for Finley said the minister has known about the missing applications for several weeks. But her office made little or no effort to inform applicants of the situation, save for a sign posted in the small town of Dunnville.

"The minister was aware there was a possibility that some of them (applications) may be missing and she would have found out the same time as the constituency office. ... Mid-October is when the constituency office first heard anything about possible missing passport applications," Ryan Sparrow said.

It was up to applicants to contact Finley's riding office.

"Obviously, this is an issue that was with Canada Post. The documents were in Canada Post's possession and the constituency office has done their best in order to try and get the information out to anyone that may be missing an application," he said.

Sparrow declined to say why Finley and her office sat on the information so long without making a greater effort to inform the people involved.

Canada Post spokesperson John Caines said identification documents such as birth certificates stolen along with the applications have all been recovered and are being held as evidence in the case.

Canada Post has offered the passport applicants $100 each to defray the cost of reapplying and obtaining new documents. It will also pay the cost of registering with an agency that helps prevent credit tampering and identity theft.

"To date, we have had contact with 36 customers and are in the process of reaching out to the remaining 39," Caines said.

"Even though there has been no evidence that we or the police have to suggest that any information was compromised, we're are going to offer the opportunity for these people to register for Equifax Credit Watch, and we will pick up the tab on that as well," he said.

Caines said most of the applications were from the Simcoe area.

Bob Speller, Liberal candidate for Haldimand-Norfolk and former federal agriculture minister, has been pushing Finley to say what she knew when.

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