In the midst of a crisis at the Société de l’assurance automobile du Québec (SAAQ), the Minister of Cybersecurity and Digital, Éric Caire, rejects any form of “responsibility” for the imposing queues linked to the transition. Instead, he attacks the company’s senior management, whom he accuses of having poorly planned his implementation project from the start.
“I want to say that I have a responsibility, but the reality is that this project was authorized in 2017 by the CA of the SAAQ. It’s not on government dashboards. And unlike departments and agencies that update their technology projects on a public dashboard on a monthly basis, the SAAQ does not do that, ”assures the main interested party in an interview with The Press.
Mr. Caire says he is “surprised” at the way things have gone so far. “I understand that citizens are angry, that they want answers and solutions, and they will get them, but you have to be objective: I cannot make my teams responsible for a project that existed before they were set up. . »
As for his role as Minister Delegate for Digital Transformation, which he has held since 2018, the elected official argues that “the mandate was not the same”, since it was primarily the responsibility of the Treasury Board.
It’s not that I want to wash my hands. Me, I will always take responsibility for my projects, as much when things are going well as when things are going badly.
Éric Caire, Minister of Cybersecurity and Digital
In the short term, the minister says he wants to “find solutions” to resolve the crisis. He says he is working with the SAAQ’s IT services to see “what we can put in as additional resources to correct the problems quickly”. In the morning, his colleague Geneviève Guilbault, Minister of Transport, announced an additional 90-day reprieve for affected motorists. “The time for the balance sheets will come, and we will ask all the questions we need,” assures Mr. Caire, however.
Green lights turned… red
It was in November that the SAAQ first presented its “game plan” to the government, says the minister. “At that time, all the lights were green, both in their planning and in their deployment. Except that’s not what happened. The closure of services did not occur at the expected time, and the application did not meet performance expectations, ”denounces the caquist, visibly irritated by the decisions of the organization’s management, to whom he asks to render accounts.
In his eyes, the situation precisely demonstrates “that we needed a Ministry of Digital, where we can concentrate a level of expertise and help the various organizations in their project”.
Why was this not done with the SAAQ? For several reasons, explains Éric Caire. “My ministry was created in January 2022. There was a reorganization to be done with the services, and we still had important mandates whose continuity had to be ensured. Then there was the election campaign from July to October, so there was no capacity to make these kinds of decisions, ”he pleads.
According to the elected official, the SAAQ would have had “an interest in dividing its project into several blocks”, by first deploying a first “efficient” operation. “It would have been necessary first to ensure the reliability of the service, and then to go there gradually. That’s how it should work.
We, precisely, the choice we made with the Government Authentication Service [SAG], is to divide it into different blocks. And that confirms to us that it is the right thing to do. It makes the realization and the deployment easier, more solid.
Éric Caire, Minister of Cybersecurity and Digital
The SAG, for its part, “meets expectations”, assures Mr. Caire, recalling that the Ministry of the Family has already been successfully integrated into it, before the SAAQ. “Yes, it was a limited number of individuals, and yes, the SAAQ was our first large volume customer, but our service has been tested. And it works”, concludes the elected official, who swears to have “no fear” for the future, several other ministries before this year to integrate into this Authentication Service.
In the opposition, reactions to Éric Caire’s remarks were quick on Wednesday. “No one is responsible in this CAQ government. This morning, Geneviève Guilbault said that the IT deployment at the SAAQ was Éric Caire’s responsibility. Now, the latter is washing his hands of it and blaming the SAAQ”, first launched the Liberal leader, Marc Tanguay.
The two ministers however “claimed to have done their checks before the launch and they said that everything was going to be fine”. “Is there someone responsible in this government? Never, ”also lamented the liberal.
“It’s irresponsible and frankly embarrassing to see Éric Caire wash his hands of the SAAQ’s setbacks. What is it used for ? asked PQ transportation critic Joël Arseneau. “The fiasco is also his. Certainly, it does not bode well for the future. The CAQ sheriff is missing, fine, but the question is: is there a pilot on the plane? »
Solidarity Étienne Grandmont also condemned the minister’s remarks. “The CAQ has been in charge for more than 4 years. During all this time, the CAQ ministers have never seen fit to put their noses in the biggest digital transition operation of their government. It’s stunning,” he said.