Update on ArriveCAN scandal

What started as a simple application has turned into the Liberals’ biggest scandal to date.

Proposed as an essential measure to keep Canadians safe and streamline border crossings during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Liberal government initially stated the ArriveCan app would cost approximately $80,000. That number ballooned to the $54 million we know about today, and Conservatives have been trying to figure out why, and how.

As we learned in an October 4th, 2023 Globe and Mail article, the RCMP was investigating the contractors involved in the ArriveCAN app for allegations of identity theft, forged resumes, contractual theft, fraudulent billing, price fixing and collusion. (The Auditor General has since confirmed she has opened an investigation into this situation as well.)

This Liberal government has a long history of using costly “contractors”, who will then subcontract out the actual work.  ArriveCan is a prime example.  GC Strategies, an IT firm of two people – who do no actual IT work – received $11 million to hire other companies to do the programming for ArriveCAN. This is where it becomes a bit convoluted.

GC Strategies was hired by CBSA to develop ArriveCan. A separate contractor, Dalian & Coradix had a pre-existing contract with the Agency that morphed into two projects – one to address sexual harassment in the CBSA and the other related to ArriveCan. Dalian & Coradix then subcontracted GC Strategies – who then subcontracted Botler AI – to work on the sexual harassment AI program.

Although initially hired to work with GC Strategies, Botler AI quickly discovered that their work and pay were actually being funneled through Dalian & Coradix, who used the same general contract which included ArriveCAN. Not only this, but their work experience had been forged and exaggerated by GC Strategies to ensure Botler’s resumes fit the criteria necessary to work on these contracts.

Despite extensive questioning at Government Operations and Estimates Committee (OGGO), no one has so far been willing to explain how this happened. There are currently two bureaucrats accusing each other of lying about who chose GC Strategies to build the ArriveCAN app, and one allegedly even threatened the other’s career over the situation!

The Official Opposition will continue to push for answers as to how this contract was allowed to balloon from $80,000 to $54 million. Who made these decisions, and where was the oversight? The Standing Committee will continue to hear testimony from key player and the AG’s report is expected in February.

You can keep up to date (and watch) Government Operations Committee meetings here.