Why is Ontario developing its own vaccine passport app?

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Why is Ontario developing its own vaccine passport app?
WATCH ABOVE: Despite the existence of a vaccine passport app in neighbouring Quebec, the Ford government is creating its own to be in operation by late October. With the urgency of the Delta variant driving cases, critics say that is a mistake. Matthew Bingley reports. – Sep 2, 2021

New modelling data released by Ontario’s COVID-19 Science Advisory Table suggests time is of the essence to prevent Delta-variant-driven fall lockdowns, yet the full rollout of the province’s new vaccine certificate program won’t happen until late October.

On Wednesday, Premier Doug Ford complained the federal government didn’t create a national vaccine passport. “Imagine travelling around Canada with 13 different vaccine certificates,” said Ford.

Despite his expressed desire for a uniform system, Ford’s government is proceeding to create its own app that will be distinct from others either already in operation or under development by other provinces.

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Prior to the government’s announcement, opposition party members were urging the quick implementation of a new system. Including the NDP’s health critic France Gelinas, who is continuing her calls to adopt Quebec’s existing vaccine passport app.

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“Whoever in Quebec put this program together has been at it for quite some time now, to the point where they rolled it out yesterday,” said Gelinas.

“Why not put our heads together, build upon what already exists so that we get to a product that doesn’t have hiccups as fast as we can, and are able to roll it out for the Sept. 22 deadline, rather than a deadline in October?”

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On Wednesday, Associate Minister of Digital Government Kaleed Rasheed said, “My team has been working around the clock to make sure we have a solid product by Oct. 22 ready to go,” he said.

Global News requested an interview with Rasheed to ask why Ontario is creating its own app instead of adopting Quebec’s. His spokesperson said by creating its own made-in-Ontario app, the government can leverage user experience and design.

“Quebec’s software was purpose-built for Quebec and would require customization and procurement for Ontario’s needs,” wrote Amanda Brodhagen in an email.

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That’s a mistake, said Gelinas, adding the delay in app development won’t address fourth wave concerns with the necessary speed.

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“We all know that there will be hiccups in October when ours comes out,” she said. “Why not copy and paste what Quebec has done, help them make it better?”

The Ontario government, for its part, said it is working in consultation with the private sector to develop the software.

The CEO and co-founder of Kitchener-based software company ApplyBoard told Global News he proactively approached the government.

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Martin Basiri said his company already works with similar technology to approve student documentation for immigration purposes. Once it became clear Ontario was moving towards a vaccination passport, Basiri developed a proof-of-concept program to present which could be used by the province.

One which he said is safe, secure, and could be put into circulation as soon as it’s needed.

“If they ended up using it, good,” said Basiri. “We are a mission-orientated company and our goal is to help people.” He said the province has responded to him, but so far it’s still too early to say if the two will work together.

“If they don’t use it, that’s all good, what matters is our society to go through this difficult phase in our lives and we can all fight COVID battle together,” Basiri said.


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