The Government of Canada’s total spend on the now-optional ArriveCAN app is expected to reach in excess of $54 million this year, according to a new report in the Globe and Mail.
That’s more than double what federal officials recently said has been spent on the controversial platform to date.
Ottawa ended its COVID-19 vaccination requirement for visiting foreign nationals on Oct. 1. On the same date, the government also made it optional for travellers to use ArriveCAN for entry.
There are also new transparency concerns related to the government’s outsourcing tactics.
In analyzing ArriveCAN contracts, the Globe and Mail found that the company that received the most work on the app, GCstrategies, is an Ottawa-based company with fewer than five employees that relies heavily on dozens of subcontractors.
But the government and the company are saying they cannot reveal the names of the subcontractors for confidentiality reasons.
This detail contradicts responses shared by Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) in recent weeks related to the number of companies that have been contracted to work on ArriveCAN.
During the summer, the CBSA submitted documents in Parliament that list 27 contracts involving 23 unique companies.
ArriveCAN has faced heightened criticism from border communities, tourism groups, travel agent advocates and Conservative MPs who, for months, argued the platform has hindered the recovery of Canada’s travel industry.
Since early September, the Canadian government has been promoting ArriveCAN’s effectiveness, unveiling upgrades to the app, such as the optional “Advance CBSA Declaration” feature.
This allows travellers to answer customs and immigration questions up to 72 hours in advance of flying into Canada.
While the app is no longer mandatory as of Sept. 30, it will continue to exist as a voluntary option.