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Canada's ArriveCAN app log in screen is seen on a mobile device on Feb. 12 in Ottawa.Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press

ArriveCan accountability

Re “Auditor-General’s ArriveCan report finds ‘glaring disregard’ for basic management practices” (Feb. 13): In the early days of running a boutique consulting firm, I naively attended sessions run by well-meaning federal bureaucrats, whose purpose was to encourage small businesses to bid on government work.

The byzantine number of systems, forms, “skills grids” and acronyms revealed to me a key reason why bidding skews heavily to the “usual suspects.” Multinational companies have entire departments dedicated to knowing the maze and perfecting the volumes of paperwork required.

The GC Strategies model turns this on its head: Two individuals figured out how to navigate the federal procurement jungle, win bids, subcontract the work, then collect 15- to 30-per-cent commissions.

Irksome as the bloated taxpayer cost might be, GC Strategies brought work to smaller firms that would not have been able to get “in” with the government on their own. And it seems that the haircut on their rates was worth getting work they otherwise wouldn’t have.

Patrick Winter Principal, DxW Consultants; Toronto

I was very disappointed in the Auditor-General’s report.

The key deficiency, I find, is the abdication by Public Services and Procurement Canada in its responsibility to ensure the integrity of the procurement process. Of the eight recommendations, only one, in part, was directed to PSPC and even that dealt only with task authorizations, not a lack of due diligence and oversight.

The Auditor-General also could not find who selected GC Strategies. In any procurement process (except for some low-dollar contracts), PSPC determines the winner. That is its mandate.

Procurement is an art, not a science. Notwithstanding all the policies, rules and regulations, not every scenario can be anticipated. More attention should be placed on training PSPC public servants on understanding the invaluable role they play in ensuring that Canadian taxpayers’ money is well spent, meeting the needs of client departments and ensuring contractors earn a fair return on their work.

Alan Williams Former assistant deputy minister, supply operations service, Public Works and Government Services Canada; Ottawa

It’s one thing to be critical of perceived excessive government spending. It’s way beyond to see the waste that was the ArriveCan app.

One of the basic roles of government is to safeguard public assets, respect the public purse and have established systems of internal controls to prevent exactly this type of fiasco. I can’t have any confidence in a government with seemingly no apparent interest or ability to do so.

Joel Cohen Hamilton

Numbers needed

Re “An ethical opioids policy needs data” (Editorial, Feb. 9): While early evaluations of safe supply in British Columbia are encouraging, more data are needed to improve programming and avoid unwanted outcomes. The recommendation that all dispensed opioids be consumed under observation by health care workers presents problems.

Other than anecdotes, there is scant evidence that opioids dispensed under safe-supply protocols are harming youth. The chief coroner notes a lack of evidence of safer prescribed opioids leading to increases in youth opioid-use disorder diagnoses, overdoses or deaths.

The majority of opioids are prescribed for pain management. To suggest that every dose be observed would place an unwarrantable and untenable burden on both patients and prescribers. Some 24,000 individuals in opioid substitution therapy are mostly ingesting medication under observation, a practice which also interferes significantly with trying to have a “normal” life attending work, school or retraining.

We need urgent action. But please base it on evidence and not on scaremongering.

Perry Kendall CM, OBC, FRCPC; former B.C. provincial health officer; Victoria

Just do it

Re “Tough constitution” (Letters, Feb. 9): I find nothing in the Supreme Court’s decision in the New Brunswick beer case that prevents provinces from removing interprovincial trade barriers.

The court simply said it’s up to elected politicians, not the court. I think this is a point often missed by those who accused the court, which declined to strike down the provincial law in this case, of being “activist.”

Provinces should opt for interprovincial free trade, but we pesky voters keep electing governments whose inaction suggests they don’t agree. The question then becomes: Should justices, notwithstanding a longstanding precedent they found reasonable, have decided it is the court that should decide whether to impose full economic integration on Canada? Even though, as the court put it, this “would significantly undermine the shape of Canadian federalism, which is built upon regional diversity within a single nation?”

Isn’t this the real issue?

Hamar Foster Victoria

Under the influence

Re “The NDP’s effort to ban the promotion of Big Oil misses the mark” (Feb. 12): There are worries about free speech and reassurances that there are already laws against false advertising and greenwashing. Take, however, ad campaigns about carbon capture and storage.

The largest CCS plant in the world in Iceland removes 4,000 tons of carbon a year, an amount produced in seconds. Pretending that we can continue extracting and burning fossil fuels at the present rate, as the industry implies, is a recipe for disaster. Suggestions that individual actions such as cycling or electric vehicles are anywhere near enough should be considered false advertising.

Fossil fuel companies are here to make profit, not to save the world.

Michael Dettman Vancouver

Fossil fuels and tobacco products have much in common, and not only because it is through combustion that they cause significant harm.

For both products, advertising increases social acceptability and drives up demand and use. Lifestyle imagery in such ads can interfere with understanding of the underlying product risks.

Environmentalists are welcome to borrow from the public health playbook, as we should learn from theirs. Canada’s government will end the sale of combustion-engine cars by 2035. Why is there no end date for the combustible cigarette?

Cynthia Callard Executive director, Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada; Ottawa

Thanks to MP Charlie Angus. Now we might have a discussion about climate change and its many causes, but beginning with the fossil fuel industry.

Once again, another New Democrat takes a serious stand for the planet. Perhaps Albertans don’t think so, but let’s talk.

Marianne Freeman Vancouver

Nailed it

Re “Sucker Carlson” (Editorial cartoon, Feb. 12): Just one word: brilliant.

Patricia Moore Brant, Ont.

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