Canada's Auditor General has issued a y2k report that, despite its mild language, ought to scare Canadians into action. It sure scares me. The U.S. economy is too closely linked to Canada for a Canadian crisis not to bring down the U.S. economy. (And, of course, vice versa.)
Consider the closing words of the report:
12.156 The present state of the government's readiness for Year 2000 is particularly vulnerable, given that there is limited time left to convert, test and implement systems. Using the emerging industry standard of allowing one calendar year for addressing delays and unanticipated problems, the government had only 20 months remaining at the time we completed our audit, and the magnitude of the task at hand can be overwhelming. Furthermore, there are formidable exposures ahead that can jeopardize the successful implementation of compliant systems, and substantive contingency plans have yet to be developed.
12.157 We are concerned that if progress were to continue at the rate we observed, it would likely be too slow to overcome the Year 2000 threat. Systems that support major programs and essential services may fail, and continuous delivery of these programs and services could be at risk.
12.158 In our view, there is a need for urgent and aggressive action on the part of the government, including engaging ministers and possibly parliamentary committees to champion Year 2000 projects. We also emphasize the need for substantive contingency planning to serve as a safeguard, particularly for major programs and essential services. . . .
Then comes the capper:
"The government generally agrees with the report's recommendations and acknowledges the Auditor General's contribution to greater awareness of this project."
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12.16 For the federal government, the stakes are high. If systems are not tested and made compliant where appropriate, Year 2000 could threaten the continuous delivery of programs and services. Systems that are critical in supporting major programs and essential services may fail as we approach the next millennium. The potential consequences for the government could be manifest as health and safety concerns, financial implications, disruption to essential services for the public or legal ramifications.
12.17 We prepared the following scenarios to illustrate the potential impact of Year 2000 on government programs and services. The scenarios are hypothetical and are possible only if the systems are not made compliant in time for Year 2000 purposes.
Systems supporting search and rescue efforts may cease to function properly, which could cause undue delay in emergency situations. The Canadian Customs systems may not be able to support commercial cargo clearance and release processes at the border. The impact could be a choice between disruption to businesses and reduced or random inspection without systems support, possibly jeopardizing health and safety or assessment and collection of duties and taxes, which total billions of dollars annually.
The system supporting the Employment Insurance program may not be able to generate proper payments, which could result in errors or delays in providing relief to beneficiaries of the program.
The systems supporting the Receiver General functions may fail, which could lead to disruption or delay in paying vendors and suppliers for goods and services provided to the government.
The system to enforce family orders and agreements may fail to trace and intercept federal payments to individuals who are in default of family support payments. Consequently, it could not redirect the payments to those who are owed the support, causing them financial hardship. . . .
12.150 Limited work has been done to examine and analyze other possible legal implications for the government that may result from Year 2000. Possible scenarios to consider include:
errors in government services and information upon which businesses or the public rely;
interruption in services that result in delays, causing loss of business; malfunction of products or devices certified by the government; and
defects, errors, interruption or failure of goods or services regulated by the government.