ArriveCAN fiasco beyond “illogical”

Do you remember being upset in January 2020 when you could not motor to the United States, but you could fly from designated airports and return to those airports and then use the ArriveCan app on your phone to return safely to Canada? Do you recall that many of your US friends and customers who visited tourist camps and cottages on our lakes could not come into Canada?

Do you recall being excited that in November 2020, the Canadian government announced that beginning in February 2021 it would allow Canadians to use land crossing to enter back into Canada, provided they had filled out their ArriveCan app prior to arriving and had not been out of the country for more than 72 hours? We were excited by this new app and were thrilled that it had been created for a small amount of money $80,000. We could upload mandatory health information to clear customs quickly. Now the truth is dribbling out.

The ArriveCan app had many issues and Canadian Border Services often had to assist travelers with their phones to properly input their information regarding testing and vaccines to avoid 14 days of quarantine. In August of 2022 ArriveCan instructed 10,200 travelers to quarantine when they didn’t have to.

But beginning in October of last year, the House of Commons has been investigating the real cost of creating this app. Cgstrategies – a two-person company – was hired to create the app. CGstrategies has collected millions in IT contracts through hiring many subcontractors to do the work. Originally it was worth $9 million, but by November 2022, the Globe and Mail had discovered that the costs had risen to $54 million. Seventy versions of the app have cost $8.8 million over two years.

On Monday of this week, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau admitted that it was illogical for the government to contract work to a two-person company to create the app. He has requested the Clerk of the Privy Council to investigate. CGstrategies had subcontracted the work to six other companies including multinationals. The two principals of CGstrategies did no coding. They brokered other companies to do the work and capitalized for 15% commission.

One must wonder why the government did not go directly to those larger organizations in the first place or use IT specialists in house. Why did the government not check to see whether or not CGstrategies had the personnel and expertise to do the job?

Should all procurement policies of the government be reviewed? Does the government have the IT skills in the public service to take on projects such as ArriveCan? Should the government be building capacity to create digital solutions quickly and effectively?

We must get value for the taxpayers’ dollars.

Former Publisher
Fort Frances Times