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Canada’s ports go digital, safety minister promises ‘success’

Canada's ports go digital, safety minister promises 'success' Port of Vancouver

Posted on May 29, 2024

Public Safety Minister Dominic LeBlanc on Wednesday promised “success” for a new program to begin collecting border tariffs electronically as of October 21.

The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) Assessment And Revenue Management program (CARM) was initially set to go into effect May 13, but it was delayed by the agency.

Shippers and Customs officers however predict a costly failure and both groups have depicted the launch of CARM as a computer-made disaster that has already gone 42% percent over budget.

The project originally budgeted at $370 million has cost $526 million to date, by official estimate.

“Delaying the coming into force of the legislative amendments sets industry partners up for success,” LeBlanc wrote in a regulatory notice.

Some 81,000 of 200,000 shippers to date have registered for CARM.

CBSA in cancelling the May start date wrote, “The Agency will not be introducing any additional changes to the CARM system that would have any impacts on stakeholders who have already upgraded their internal systems and have completed their certification.”

The Customs and Immigration Union on April 27 warned of CARM shortcomings. “We have general concerns regarding the decision to implement it in the first place. It seems to follow the same pattern established by previous projects, notably ArriveCan, where a rushed system is deployed as a solution to a non-existent problem,” it said.

CARM is intended to replace all paper-based invoicing and collection of tariffs worth $32 billion annually with digitized transactions. Registration is mandatory. Shippers testifying at a March 21 trade committee hearing detailed numerous problems.

“The system is not ready. We have no confidence in where we are now,” testified Kim Campbell, past chair of the Canadian Association of Importers and Exporters.

Corinne Pohlmann, executive vice president of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, testified many small importers had not heard of the changeover.

“The smaller the business the less likely they are registered,” said Pohlmann. “For those not registered to CARM, about half are just not aware of it.”

Pohlmann noted 11% of Federation members surveyed rated the registration process “confusing,” 22% were unsure whether the system was relevant to their business and 55% questioned the feasibility of the program.

Conservative MP Kyle Seeback earlier said cabinet had only itself to blame if CARM fails.

“If it launches and launches poorly this will land on the government’s feet because they have been warned,” Seeback told the trade committee.

“Every single stakeholder that has submitted something has said the system is not ready, that it won’t work and that it will have disastrous effects on importers in this country.”


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