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Federal chief of technology revealed to have lied about ArriveCan App

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A shocking revelation from the Federal chief technology officer shows he lied about the ArriveCan app and threatened his employees to take the blame instead.

The ArriveCan App is again the subject of controversy and scrutiny as its outrageous $54 million cost resulted in a finger-pointing match between Trudeau, Poilievre, and the CBSA government officials who were tasked with developing the app.

While Trudeau keeps promising Canadians he will curb wasteful government spending and get costs under control, he is clearly failing to set the right example or enforce discipline within his own administration.

This latest revelation in the ArriveCan scandal exposes the depths of dysfunction, blame-shifting and in-fighting at the highest levels of this scandal-plagued Liberal government.

Things in the House of Commons heated up at Tuesday’s question period between Poilievre and Trudeau in a debate on using technology to fight climate change, Trudeau accused Poilievre of not having a plan or a vision saying that he should “put his glasses back on” 

Poilievre’s comeback to this was basically laughing at Trudeau’s face, pointing out that he wasn’t the one who lost $54 million on an app that doesn’t work.

The ArriveCan app as you may know was used for international travelers entering Canada to submit travel and health contact information during the pandemic.  However  its enormous $54 million price tag has exposed it to outrage from Canadian taxpayers – yet again footing the bill for Trudeau’s out of control spending.  

One contractor in particular, a two-person IT staffing firm based in Ottawa called GCStrategies, received over $11 million for its work on the app. However, it looks like GCStrategies itself does not perform any actual IT work, but rather forms teams of subcontractors to carry out projects while collecting a sizable commission of 15-30% of overall contract values.  

Now government officials seem to be bouncing blame back and forth – no one willing to own up to selecting GCStrategies for work on the ArriveCan app.

However, Botler company has come forward to place the blame on Cameron McDonald, a former CBSA official and Health Canada’s current assistant deputy minister. This is because MacDonald allegedly urged Botler to work with GCStrategies, even though Botler wanted to have a direct contracting relationship with the CBSA.

Botler, a Montreal-based software company, first became entangled in the scandal when they were approached in late 2019 about potential work on a different project. Kristian Firth of GCStrategies contacted Botler via LinkedIn, stating he was reaching out on behalf of the CBSA regarding a pilot project. 

Botler found this direct solicitation from a private contractor unusual, as they typically contract directly with government agencies. But after beginning work on the pilot, Botler discovered they were receiving direction from and teaming up with GCStrategies’ subcontractor Dalian Enterprises, not GCStrategies as Firth originally implied. 

In September 2021, Botler submitted a report to the CBSA complaining about not being paid for the work it completed on the pilot project. Botler then followed up with a more detailed memo sent directly to CBSA leadership in November 2022, raising broader concerns about the lack of transparency, conflicts of interest, and layers of subcontracting related to how contracts were awarded. 

While Botler did not work directly on ArriveCan, their complaints caught the attention of the RCMP because their allegations involved some of the same private contractors and public officials tied to ArriveCan. Now the RCMP has opened an investigation into Botler’s allegations, further complicating issues with the federal government.

At a committee hearing to uncover the interactions between these private IT contractors and the public servants responsible for awarding outsourcing contracts, Cameron McDonald faced questions from committee members. However in a surprising turn of events he shifted the blame onto his former boss, Minh Doan, the Federal Chief Technology Officer. 

McDonald insisted Doan lied to the committee when he claimed he didn’t know who selected GCStrategies to build the ArriveCan app. During the committee meeting, McDonald recalled a conversation he had with Doan, saying he had previously recommended to Doan that Deloitte be selected to build the ArriveCan app. 

Doan testified on October 24th to the committee but stated that his “team” made the decision to hire GCStrategies and he was not personally involved in the choice.

To make matters worse, McDonald also revealed that Doan threatened him on the phone in early October. Evidently, Doan was feeling the heat when the ArriveCan App first made the news because then-public safety minister Marco Mendicino wanted “somebody’s head on a platter.”

MacDonald told MPs that Mr. Doan directly said to him: 

As MP Garnett Genius shows in his questioning, clearly there is more to this story than   originally thought.

Meanwhile, the two men behind this scandal, Kristian Firth and Darren Anthony, faced questioning regarding their process of altering resumes to gain contracts. 

Luckily, Poilievre is not letting the matter be swept under the rug. He faced off against Trudeau during question period saying: 

While Trudeau’s officials are scrambling to find someone to blame, Trudeau merely says the ordeal is “extremely concerning” as if he has nothing to do with it.

That’s not quite the case though is it. 

These statements from McDonald as well as the individuals behind GCStrategies paint a very concerning picture of what’s happening in our government. Threats, scandals, and fraud all seem to be all part of a day’s work. 

Change cannot occur in Canada if there is no accountability or repercussions for those who do wrong. However, the next election may provide a chance for real oversight and integrity in government. Until then, scandals like ArriveCan will keep surfacing as a symptom of deep rot at the highest levels under Trudeau’s administration.

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