Alleged ArriveCan App Lies and Threats ‘Extremely Concerning’: Trudeau
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau described allegations involving threats and deceit linked to the ArriveCan app as “extremely concerning” during a session in the House of Commons on Wednesday.
The allegations were raised by Cameron MacDonald, Assistant Deputy Minister at Health Canada, implicating Minh Doan, the federal government’s Chief Technology Officer, reports The Globe and Mail.
MacDonald testified before the government operations committee, claiming Doan threatened him during an October 2022 phone call. The conversation centered on what officials should disclose about the selection of GCStrategies, a small IT staffing firm, to build the ArriveCan app.
At that time, Doan was the Vice-President and Chief Information Officer at the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), and MacDonald was his subordinate.
Doan had previously told MPs he was not personally involved in hiring GCStrategies, a claim MacDonald contested. “It was a lie that was told to this committee. Everyone knows it,” MacDonald stated.
Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre brought these allegations to Trudeau’s attention during Question Period. Trudeau responded, “Obviously, the reports coming out are extremely concerning. And I know that the respective authorities will be taking this extremely seriously. We expect our professional public servants to always conduct themselves with utmost integrity. And I’m sure that that will continue to happen.”
The Treasury Board Secretariat, where Doan is currently employed, deferred all inquiries to the CBSA, which declined to comment.
Health Minister Mark Holland expressed concern upon learning of the testimony, saying, “I’m just being made aware of this, so, obviously concerned by the testimony. I’m going to be taking a look at it. I need a moment to digest it.”
MacDonald described feeling “incredibly threatened” during his interaction with Doan, who had indicated that then-Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino was displeased with the ArriveCan coverage and sought accountability. Mendicino was upset about ArriveCan stories and apparently said he wanted “somebody’s head on a platter.”
Mendicino denied using such language, stating, “I was not part of the conversation with these individuals and I did not use the language attributed to me.”
GCStrategies, which has received significant outsourcing work on ArriveCan to the tune of $11 million, informed MPs that it primarily operates through subcontracting, employing only two staff members and taking a commission for its services.
The government operations committee has broadened its study of ArriveCan to include additional contracting concerns, following reports involving Botler, a Montreal software company, and its grievances related to subcontracting practices.
CBSA President Erin O’Gorman announced a temporary suspension of contracts with GCStrategies, Coradix, and Dalian, all involved in the $54 million ArriveCan project. The RCMP is investigating these matters.
Poilievre questioned the government’s decision to engage GCStrategies for ArriveCan, highlighting the significant financial involvement. Trudeau assured that the government is fully cooperating with ongoing investigations, emphasizing the commitment to addressing any wrongdoing.
A $54 million dollar mobile app for iOS and Android. Your tax dollars at work, folks.