198151
In-Your-Service

Questions remain about recent Rogers massive network outage

Why no network back-up?

Many Canadians woke up a few weeks ago across the country to discover the entire Rogers telecom network wasn't operating.

The widespread outage affected financial institutions, law enforcement, government services and consumers. Not only were internet users affected, but Interac (banking) was also down and the most concerning issue was 9-1-1 and emergency alerts were not working across much of the country.

As sitting members of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Industry and Technology, Conservatives called for emergency committee meetings, which took place last week. The purpose was to not only hold Rogers Communications to account, but to press the federal government and the telecommunications regulator, the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) on answers of their oversight.

In my line of questioning, I wanted to know from Rogers why no risk-based, back-up existed for 9-1-1 and public emergency alert systems on their network and why neither the industry minister nor the CRTC was upholding the CRTC's own stated mandate of, "Canadians can access services such as 9-1-1 and are warned through a public alerting system in the event of imminent perils."

We know that during the outage, areas of the country were without notifications of one dangerous person alert from the RCMP and three Environment Canada tornado warnings. That was unacceptable and put lives at risk, especially in an era of increasing cyber-attacks.

Rogers’ apparent lack of strict protocols and risk assessment for emergency responses was disappointing, especially considering how integrated the connectivity of their network is to public safety.

We heard the outage was due to internal technology decisions, not external factors such as a weather event. I questioned the Rogers CEO as to why there was no senior executive overseeing risk management, which many smaller and less complex corporations than Rogers now have.

The minister responsible for telecommunications in Canada has seen two 9-1-1 service outages for Canadians in just over a year. It became evident from the minister’s answers that after an outage in 2021 that left 9-1-1 services inoperable, there was no action, leadership or questioning of the regulator to investigate.

For the CRTC—as the federal government regulator—the disinterest in risk assessment and proactive oversight of those who regulate, and their inaction to fulfill their mandate, was concerning. I felt like the answers they gave were coming from a telecom executive rather than from a regulator. In former roles, I’ve been a regulator and worked within two regulated industries and was frankly shocked by their testimony.

My questions on whether CRTC executives received bonuses went unanswered.

Despite having an action plan on the books since 2014 to identify vulnerabilities in Canadian networks when reaching 911, it is obvious we are still unprepared for future outages of this nature.

Much has been said recently by the government expanding the CRTC's mandate with Bill C-11, giving them roles of oversight of the internet. It is clear that they are not fulfilling their current mandate and the Minister hasn’t made it a priority to hold the CRTC to account.

My questioning and observations of Rogers, the CRTC and the Minister received national media coverage and I believe there is more work to do holding all these parties to account.

•••

On another note, I would also like to take an opportunity to remind everyone that public nominations are still open for Queen's Platinum Jubilee pins and local recognition medals to recognize worthy individuals in our community.

I am asking for your help to nominate those who you feel have contributed significantly to our community of Kelowna-Lake Country. Please get in touch with my office via email at [email protected] to receive a nomination package or for more information.

Nominations will close at 4 p.m. Pacific Time on Aug. 15.

If you need any assistance with programs or have any thoughts to share, feel free to reach out, at 250-470-5075 or at [email protected].

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.



198850


Interest rate increases

Many residents here in Kelowna-Lake Country woke up to the news last week that the Bank of Canada had hiked its benchmark interest rate a full percentage point.

It represents the most significant one-time increase since August 1998.

The governor of the Bank of Canada, Tiff Macklem, made clear the Bank was moved to take this historic step because of the inflation rate, which was announced this week to now be 8.1% - the highest it's been in 40 years.

Inflation, as everyone has noticed, is taking a hit on our wallets whenever we look to buy groceries, gas or even housing.

Many of you have written to me with alarm about what interest rate hikes will mean to mortgages and personal finances here in the Okanagan.

I wanted to provide some answers and explain what our Parliament should be doing to provide fiscal relief. It is always best to consult with those who work in the field to gain the best advice for your personal situation. Here are a few high levels points.

Those currently on fixed-rate mortgages will not see a change in their payments unless their fixed-rate plan is up for renewal. Those with variable mortgages, however, will be more immediately affected, with larger shares of their payments going to interest and potentially an increase in monthly payments.

Those with loans such as variable rate lines of credit, personal loans, or car loans will also see more of their payments going to interest. This is especially punishing, as increased or lengthier debt payments will compete with inflationary gas and grocery prices and eat into household savings.

Debt payments could also affect local small businesses, despite already being strangled by rising inflation, snagged supply chains, and onerous tax burdens. Let's all continue to do our part to support local small businesses.

Lastly, the Bank of Canada rate hikes will be particularly crushing for renters who are looking to get into home ownership. With Kelowna's average rental prices already among the highest in the country, this is punitive.

Many people ask how Canada came to an inflation crisis where the Bank of Canada needed to drastically hike interest rates. The root of our inflation crisis comes from a government too willing to spend public money.

Our last two federal budgets were unfocused, as even the Parliamentary Budget Officer's report noted much of the touted pandemic spending did not actually go to pandemic relief.

I have repeatedly joined colleagues in calling for the government to break free of its spending habits and to stop printing money. The Liberals attempted to deny that there would be an inflationary effect and then, as inflation increased, said it would be transitory.

Now in Summer 2022, with record high inflation stretching our wallets thinner than ever and with the looming weight of crushing debt, rent and mortgage payments overhead, the government insists on maintaining the course of unfunded spending.

They tout even more spending as the "solution" to our inflation crisis while passing the buck on their responsibility by suggesting Canada's inflation crisis is solely global.

Halting the practice of political money-printing and controlling discretionary spending will, of course, only be a start. In the short term, I continue to call for much-needed tax relief. Halting all scheduled tax increases and temporarily lifting the GST on gas to lower our prices at the pump will help with transportation costs, which make everything cost more.

These are measures I would have pushed the Prime Minister for in person had he come to the Okanagan this week to hear from residents and elected members. Unfortunately, as we learned, his visit was simply a photo-op, and local media outlets reported they were forbidden from asking questions.

I will continue making the case to Ottawa of leaving more dollars in your pocket and protecting the value of the money you earn.

If you need any assistance with programs or have any thoughts to share, feel free to reach out, at 250-470-5075 or at [email protected].

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.



Federal services are a mess says MP

Complaints about services

Getting the basics right to serve people is the first step of customer service small businesses deal with every day.

It's unfortunate it has not been the rule for the current federal government. The basic services Canadians deserve and pay for with their taxes are not being achieved through blatant mismanagement and lack of leadership from our federal government, and it's a mess.

I have countless constituents reach out to me every day regarding backlogs and non-responsive issues from every federal department, including CRA, Citizenship and Immigration Canada (IRCC), Service Canada (including passports), and veteran's disability applications.

While many Canadians were hoping to go camping this summer, they were likely not expecting it to take place in the parking lot of a Service Canada office.

We've now seen wide-scale reports of unmanageable backlogs, dawn to dusk line-ups and mounting frustrations of people seeking a basic service like a passport application. This isn't federal employees not working hard, it's mismanagement from above. Our constituency office deals with heartbreaking situations daily.

The government can say it’s deeply concerned about backlogs, but it cannot say they were not warned about potential issues months ago. (Oh, if the government only had a way of knowing when passports expire. Of course it does).

The government even allowed many senior officials to get bonuses, even though many of their departments were failing.

Another fact is the amount of passport applications is less than at pre-pandemic levels. Andrew Griffith, a former director-general with IRCC, and a former top official at Service Canada, said IRCC's own 2022-23 department plan told the government there would almost certainly be a surge in passport applications as COVID restrictions were lifted.

Common sense would dictate that as borders opened abroad, Canadians would seek the opportunity to travel. Common sense would also dictate a response should have been ensuring appropriate processes and staffing at airports and for passports.

Yet again, the government waited until we were deep in dysfunction before moving to hire more workers, of whom only a fraction will be able to issue new passports due to a lack of full training, according to Kevin King, president of the Union of National Employees, which represents Service Canada workers.

That was despite the government's claims of trying its best to handle "unprecedented" volumes.

The truth is, the government’s 2022 stats show, on average, 54,200 passport applications per week, with spikes up to 75,000 per week. That falls well below the 90,000 to 98,000 per week Service Canada issued before the pandemic, discrediting the government's claims of "unprecedented volumes."

This dysfunction has also imperilled the ability of my office to serve constituents in Kelowna-Lake Country and help with IRCC applications. The case backlog has now surpassed more than two million applications across all categories. As a result, it limits the number of cases an MP office can reach out to help with to only five at a time.

Immigration cases at our office range from temporary foreign worker visas to refugee status. Upon questioning this at the Industry Committee I sit on, IRCC officials said it would take until the end of this year to even meet the regular service standard processing times.

Writing off a year's work of immigration will have wide-ranging and adverse effects on the Okanagan economy, including our agricultural sector and for others who are suffering labour shortages. Limiting my office's ability to serve local families and small businesses isn't acceptable.

We now hear Canada topped the global list of flight delays last weekend.

The government's response to all this? A ministerial task force to better "listen to concerns," according to its co-chair. Canadians have made their case very clear as where (the feel) the problems lie, and it's time for the government to do its job to ensure the basic services your tax dollars pay for are accessible in a manner that doesn't involve sleeping bags in parking lots.

If you need any assistance with programs or have any thoughts to share, feel free to reach out, at 250-470-5075 or at [email protected].

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.



193972


Concerns with government's proposed new rules for online streaming

Online streaming act

One of the most publicly contested pieces of federal legislation in 2021 was Bill C-10, where the government looked to update the Broadcasting Act to provide regulatory oversight of digital platforms and digital content creation to the Canada Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC).

That bill ultimately did not go forward when the prime minister triggered last year's snap election. It was revived as Bill C-11, the Online Streaming Act.

While the bill's name has changed, all the past legislation's flaws returned.

Bill C-11's proposed purpose is to support Canada's digital artists and content creators within Canada over that of their international competitors by updating the Broadcasting Act to create new enforcement of Canadian content regulations in digital media. Basically, the yet-to-be-defined provisions would dictate where and how content appears on digital platforms.

By using the CRTC as the policy creator and enforcer of changes to the Broadcasting Act, the government is giving the agency, which currently regulates television broadcasts and radio waves, extraordinary power over what you can see, share and post to online digital platforms. The government is essentially regulating free speech on the Internet.

The government tried to sidestep that by saying the regulations will not apply to Canadians’ YouTube videos or Facebook posts. However, the current chair of the CRTC, Ian Scott, confirmed to the House of Commons Heritage Committee the bill will provide the CRTC with the "provision" to regulate individual users creating content.

Requesting the CRTC to approve the "Canadian-ness" of every generated video posted online is well beyond the ability of the entire Canadian government, let alone the 500 employees of the CRTC. Such inability will only invite broad, blunt, and forced approaches that will potentially leave Canadians with less free viewing of the Internet than seen today.

But even if applying decades-old Canadian content regulations to how we interact with digital platforms daily were possible, it would still be a solution in search of a government-invented problem.

The government said it will not release its policy directive to the CRTC until after the legislation passes, leaving many unanswered questions.

It is also concerning there is no clear definition of discoverability which would artificially promote some digital creators over others.

Right now, some Canadian content creators are succeeding on digital platforms with the support of fellow Canadians, making their full-time living creating digital content, while receiving billions of views.

We know Canadians are succeeding in these spaces because if they weren't, why would the federal government have spent $600,000 last year to pay personal “influencers” to sing the government’s messages through digital platforms.

Overregulation is the swiftest eliminator of innovation. That's why so many Canadian artists and content creators came forward to testify to Parliament that they didn't need this legislation to succeed and were more worried about burdensome regulation harming their ability to grow internationally and at home.

Their words fell on deaf ears as Liberal and NDP MPs moved to curtail debate on C-11, cutting off dozens of expert witnesses who were scheduled to testify. That shortening of debate, however, did not stop the government from forcing through over 100 amendments and dozens of clauses to Bill C-11 without explanation or debate.

It's no wonder Prof. Michael Geist, the University of Ottawa's Canada research chair in internet law, claimed the government "badly bungled the entire process."

Bill C-11 continues to be as concerning as the previous iteration Bill C-10, and as your voice in Ottawa I will continue to fight against the government’s attempts to regulate what you see and post on the internet.

Arbitrary deadlines, pushing aside witnesses and rushing debate to pass legislation as potentially transformative as Bill C-11 is not how Parliament should serve Canadians in making our laws.

If you need any assistance with programs or have any thoughts to share, feel free to reach out, at 250-470-5075 or at [email protected].

(Editors note: The bill was passed by the House of Commons earlier this weekend and now heads to the Senate for consideration before it can become law.)

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.



More In Your Service articles



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About the Author

Tracy Gray, Conservative MP for Kelowna-Lake Country, is the official Opposition’s critic for Small Business Recovery and Growth.

She is a member of the national caucus committee’s credit union caucus, wine caucus, and aviation caucus.

Gray, who has won the RBC Canadian Woman Entrepreneur of the Year Award, and the Kelowna Chamber of Commerce Business Excellence Award, worked for 27 years in the B.C. beverage industry.

She founded and owned Discover Wines VQA Wine Stores, which included the No. 1 wine store in B.C. for 13 years. She has been involved in small businesses in different sectors — financing, importing, oil and gas services and a technology start-up — and is among the “100 New Woman Pioneers in B.C."

Gray was a Kelowna city councillor for the 2014 term, sat on the Passenger Transportation Board from 2010-2012 and was elected to the board of Prospera Credit Union for 10 years.

In addition, she served on the boards of the Okanagan Film Commission, Clubhouse Childcare Society, Kelowna Chamber of Commerce, Okanagan Regional Library and was chairwoman of the Okanagan Basin Water Board.

She volunteers extensively in the community and welcomes connecting with residents.

She can be reached at 250-470-5075, and [email protected]

 



195867
The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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