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1998-03-21 07:08:38


Canadian Government: No New Initiatives, Y2K Only



A Canadian government task force now recognizes the threat. The Prime Minister has sent word out: there will be no new inititives that will interfere with y2k repairs.

This is the nail in the coffin of all "y2k is all hype" talk in Canada. This is a deadly serious problem that requires politicians to do the unthinkable: stop legislating. It is doubtful that they will, but the idea is a good one.

This was reported in the Ottowa CITIZEN (March 19).

* * * * * * * *

The millennium bug is forcing the federal government to halt any initiatives, such as tax changes or new pension rules, that could delay fixing its computer systems for 2000.

The government is dramatically changing the way it does business over the next 18 months to ensure all available money and staff are devoted to averting a Year 2000 crisis. . . .

The recommendations of the task force, headed by senior assistant deputy ministers Grant Westcott and Hy Braiter, drive home the message that the Year 2000 problem must be a priority for managers of the government's 80 departments and agencies.

The report has yet to be released, but Mr. Westcott recently outlined the scope of the 19 recommendations to a Commons committee studying government preparedness.

A key recommendation is that the government avoid new policies that include "date-sensitive" changes, ranging from taxation to eligibility rules for licensing, that could divert time, money and staff.

"We can't stop the House of Commons from working, but we're saying time the implementation of new policies so they don't disrupt these repairs," said Mr. Westcott.

"We'll never get it fixed if there's competing priorities, so we have to get management focused on the problem to ensure that what we have today works tomorrow."

To drive home the message, Prime Minister Jean Chretien and Privy Council Clerk Jocelyne Bourgon are sending letters to all ministers and deputy ministers warning them that Year 2000 is the No. 1 priority and all other business is secondary. . . .

The top priority will be fixing the 42 major computer systems the government considers "critical to the health safety and economic well-being of Canadians," by April 1, 1999. They range from Canada Pension Plan to employment insurance to tax collection, policing, border crossing, search and rescue, weather forecasts and paying suppliers and employees. . . .

Certain policy changes may be allowed to proceed. But first they must be submitted to cabinet and Treasury Board with a detailed assessment of how they affect or interfere with the progress of Year 2000 repairs. . . .

Chief Information Officer Paul Rummell said about 44 per cent of the government's systems have already been fixed, but he couldn't promise the rest would be ready on time.

"There's no way we can guarantee all will be ready, but we're confident that things are in good shape."


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