Morning Update: ArriveCan app subcontracting ‘illogical and inefficient,’ Trudeau says (2023)

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the government’s approach to building and maintaining the ArriveCan app through contracts and subcontracts tied to a two-person staffing company is “highly illogical” and he has asked for a review by the Privy Council Clerk.

The Globe and Mail reported yesterday that GCstrategies – the two-person Ottawa-area staffing company that has received millions of dollars in federal commissions on IT projects – subcontracted its work on the ArriveCan app to six other companies, including multinationals such as BDO and KPMG.

At a news conference in Toronto, Trudeau was asked why the federal government can’t hire these companies directly or perform IT work in-house, rather than paying millions in commissions to the small staffing company.

“That’s exactly the question that I just asked of the public service,” Trudeau replied. “Obviously, this is a practice that seems highly illogical and inefficient. And I have made sure that the Clerk of the Privy Council is looking into procurement practices to make sure that we’re getting value for money and that we’re doing things in a smart and logical way.”

Morning Update: ArriveCan app subcontracting ‘illogical and inefficient,’ Trudeau says (1)

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Ottawa’s record on innovation generates skepticism around nascent investment agency

After years of disappointing innovation programs that haven’t fixed Canada’s chronic economic underperformance, the Liberal government is still trying to get it right.

Its latest attempt is the Canadian Innovation and Investment Agency, a Canadian version of the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, which spearheaded the creation of technologies such as the internet. Like other federal innovation programs, the CIIA is inspired by success elsewhere, namely Finland, where the Finnish Funding Agency for Innovation helped transform the Nordic country’s low-tech sectors into innovative, competitive industries.

Innovation policy watchers are now waiting to see whether Ottawa selects the right leaders and governance structures to deliver on the agency’s mandate. What also isn’t clear is how much the CIIA can change chronically uninventive Canadian companies or whether an agency modelled on a small country in the European Union will work here.

Read more from The Globe’s Per Capita series:

  • Canada has leading AI experts. But does Ottawa have the right plan to support an AI industry?
  • How the Liberals’ multibillion-dollar tech plan created ‘chaos’ instead of growth

A Quebec city, fearing arsenic in the air, presses the province to get tougher on Glencore smelter

Ethan Valois is 8 now, and the arsenic levels in his body have started to come down. He and his parents live in Rouyn-Noranda, Que., home to a copper smelter that emits the known carcinogen at levels about 30 times higher than the provincial limit.

For decades, residents didn’t think much of this fact. La fonderie Horne was simply part of the landscape for the city’s 40,000 residents – as immovable as a mountain.

As provincial standards for heavy metal contamination were revised, however, public health authorities decided to find out whether the dangerous emissions produced by the smelter were lingering in residents’ bodies. Studies in 2018 and 2019 took fingernail clippings from children living in the Notre-Dame neighbourhood, adjacent to the smelter. The results revealed that local kids had four times as much arsenic in their systems as the control population in a neighbouring town.

Now, thousands of residents are demanding action, in public consultations, irate Facebook groups, community theatre productions and protests. Above all, they want the province to end the smelter’s long-standing exemption from limits on arsenic emissions.

Got a news tip that you’d like us to look into? E-mail us at tips@globeandmail.com Need to share documents securely? Reach out via SecureDrop.

Also on our radar

Seven dead as California mourns third mass killing in 8 days: Seven people were killed in two related shootings Monday at agricultural businesses in a Northern California community, marking the state’s third mass killing in eight days, including an attack at a dance hall that killed 11 during Lunar New Year celebrations, and a shooting at a home in California’s Central Valley on Jan. 16 that killed six people, including a teen mother and her baby.

  • Opinion: Another weekend, another mass shooting in America

South Africa sides with Russia on new global order: South Africa will join Russia in pushing for a “redesigned global order” in which a greater role is played by non-Western organizations such as the BRICS partnership, South Africa’s foreign minister says.

  • Senior Ukrainian officials step down amid corruption allegations

Ontario court makes ruling in domestic violence cases: Ontario’s top court has sent a message to trial judges that when men set out to kill their intimate partners, rehabilitating them is secondary to punishing them and deterring others.

  • Hitting children is still legal in Canada. These lawmakers want to change that

Cameroon denies Ottawa’s announcement of peace talks: Three days after Canada announced it would be facilitating a long-sought peace process for the armed conflict in Cameroon, the government of Cameroon has dealt a severe blow to the process by denying the substance of the Canadian announcement.

Ottawa preparing for possible protest: Ottawa Police say they are preparing for protests ahead of the one-year anniversary of the chaotic demonstrations against COVID-19 measures that clogged the downtown core for weeks, but that they were unable to give a clear indication of what residents should expect.

New group pushes for employee ownership trust: The Canadian Employee Ownership Coalition, a group that includes some prominent Canadian business leaders, is promoting employee ownership and urging Ottawa to make changes that would make the model a more viable option in succession planning.

Morning markets

Risk appetite underpins world stocks: The euro held at a nine-month top against the U.S. dollar and global equities bobbed at multi-month highs on Tuesday after reasonable European business activity data and a slew of corporate earnings kept risk appetite buoyant. Just before 6 a.m. ET, Britain’s FTSE 100 was off 0.37 per cent. Germany’s DAX slid 0.25 per cent while France’s CAC 40 added 0.02 per cent. In Asia, Japan’s Nikkei finished up 1.46 per cent. New York futures were modestly lower. The Canadian dollar was little changed at 74.77 US cents.

What everyone’s talking about

John Ibbitson: “There are lots of John A. Macdonald things in Ottawa. Replacing one of them with an Indigenous name won’t hurt anyone. Reconciliation will take time and be hard, but we must reach for it. Let’s be careful, though. Sir John A. is part of who we are, good and bad. Let’s talk to each other about that. Talking is always better than tearing down.”

CALLOUT: This Valentine’s Day, The Globe wants to hear from Canadians about their love stories from across the decades. We want to know: When and where did your love story begin? How long have you and your partner been together? What makes your romance stand the test of time? Submit your 100-word love story or send an email (a photo!) to audience@globeandmail.com.

Today’s editorial cartoon

Morning Update: ArriveCan app subcontracting ‘illogical and inefficient,’ Trudeau says (2)

Living better

Is now a good time to buy a new car, or will prices go down in 2023?

While the new and used car market is slowly cooling, it could take years to see a significant drop in prices – and they may never return to prepandemic levels, Daniel Ross, senior automotive analyst at Canadian Black Book says.

Moment in time: Jan. 24, 1903

Morning Update: ArriveCan app subcontracting ‘illogical and inefficient,’ Trudeau says (3)

Alaska Boundary Convention comes into effect

It was a betrayal that sent shock waves across Canada. The 1825 Anglo-Russian Treaty had set the boundary between present-day Alaska and Yukon along the 141st meridian of west longitude. The agreement, though, did not clearly assign control of the so-called Alaskan panhandle, a strip of territory along the northwestern coast of British Columbia. That uncertainty acquired an urgency when gold was discovered in Yukon in 1896, and the major ports of entry (Skagway and Dyea) to the Klondike gold fields were located in disputed territory at the head of the Lynn Canal. Britain (representing Canada at the time) and the United States (which purchased Alaska in 1867) agreed to submit the matter to a six-person tribunal. American sabre-rattling intimidated the British jurist, who broke with the two Canadian representatives on the panel to cast the deciding vote. Liberal prime minister Sir Wilfrid Laurier was stunned by the American victory, telling a reporter that it was “a damned injustice and utterly indefensible.” But Britain wanted to strengthen Anglo-American relations, and the Alaska Boundary Convention came into effect on this day in 1903. Laurier used the judgment to demand treaty-making power for Canada. Bill Waiser

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