Premier of Alberta Jason Kenney Accuses Federal Authorities of Obstructing Repair of Contact Finder

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Alberta Premier Jason Kenney accuses the federal government of preventing tech companies like Google and Apple from working with the provinces to improve their contact tracing applications.”Unfortunately, the Government of Canada has told Google and Apple not to work with the Alberta government – or other provincial governments – to improve the TraceTogether app,” Kenney said at a conference on press earlier today.

The Alberta app, called ABTraceTogether, uses Bluetooth technology to identify other nearby smartphones that have also installed the app.

But the province’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, said the app doesn’t work on iPhones unless the app is opened and the phone is unlocked.

A report released last week by the Alberta Privacy Commissioner indicated that leaving the app open could be a privacy issue.

Watch: Jason Kenney on the line of Albert vs National contract tracking applications:

“They effectively reduce the functionality of an application that can help us in the midst of a public health crisis.” 0:40

“Running the app on Apple devices requires that a device stay unlocked, which greatly increases the risk of theft or loss,” said Privacy Commissioner Jill Clayton in a Press release.

Kenney said he wanted to work with Apple and Google to resolve the problem, but Ottawa wants to deal with the technology companies himself.

“They [the federal government] want cooperation on one national platform, but there is none, “said Kenney.

“They effectively reduce the functionality of an application that can help us in the midst of a public health crisis. ”

Kenney is not the first prime minister to accuse Ottawa of interfering with provincial plans for a contact tracing application. New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs said in June that the federal government has stymied his province’s attempts to implement its own application.

Last month, the federal government announced that it would be developing a national contact finder app for use across the country.

The project is led by the Canadian Digital Service, a federal initiative, and the Ontario Digital Service, with the help of volunteers from the tech firm Shopify. It incorporates Bluetooth technology provided by Apple and Google.

The app was supposed to launch in Ontario last week before launching in other provinces, but the initial launch in Ontario has been delayed.

Federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu has announced that a national contact tracing application will soon be launched. (Justin Tang / The Canadian Press)

In response to Kenney’s comments, Health Minister Patty Hajdu said the federal government is working with Apple and Google and that the national app will be launched soon.

“We are continuing to work with Apple, Google and our partners in jurisdictions across Canada on a voluntary national application that will be ready for download very soon,” said Hajdu in an email to CBC.

Alberta Health Minister Tyler Shandro said the province would support a national app, but still wants to be able to work with companies to fix the Alberta app.

“If we are asked to help [the federal government] in the development of another application, that’s fine. But listen, let Google and Apple work with us to make sure the ABTraceTogether is fully functional, “said Shandro.

Kenney said he raised the issue with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during a recent weekly call with the premiers. The Council of the Federation is expected to hold another such call later this week.

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