Canadas Latest Y2K Update -- The Globe & Mail : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

Canadas Latest Y2K Update -- The Globe & Mail

The Globe & Mail -- Canada

Year 2000 bug? Don't worry a bit

Business leaders assure MPs the problem is pretty much under control

Friday, November 27, 1998 SHAWN McCARTHY Parliamentary Bureau

Ottawa -- Forget the apocalyptic scenarios of jet planes falling from the skies over Canada and massive blackouts plunging much of the country into wintry darkness when the clock strikes 2000, nervous parliamentarians were told yesterday.

Industry officials assured MPs that the country's critical infrastructure will be well protected from the "millennium bug" that threatens to disrupt computer-run systems worldwide.

However, there will be some inconveniences for Canadians and even serious economic pain for many companies that are unprepared, the business leaders said.

Jean Monty, head of a private-sector Year 2000 task force, told a House of Commons committee that more than 90 per cent of large corporations are taking action and many are demanding their suppliers do likewise.

As well, representatives from airlines, power utilities and oil and gas companies said they are on schedule for fixing the so-called Y2K problem, and will be testing and retesting their systems well before the much-anticipated date.

Still, Mr. Monty welcomed the federal government's decision to deploy Canadian Forces to handle any civic emergencies that might arise. And he said the problem is so pervasive in computer-supported processes that absolute guarantees are hard to give.

"I believe that Canada is so well prepared at this stage -- not completely done but the progress level is so high -- that while we might have a little panic next summer and there will be a lot of questions, there is so much good work being done that I think we'll be able to comfort consumers," he said.

The Y2K bug results from the outdated programming technique of using just two digits, rather than four, to denote the year in dates. When 2000 arrives, affected systems that haven't been fixed could mistake the "00" in their internal clocks as 1900, or even some random date.

Liberal MP Eugene Bellemare said he has been told Hollywood is making three disaster movies about the bug. He also said the level of anxiety among Canadians is rising with the increasing number of doomsday stories about the potential for chaos on Jan. 1, 2000.

"The fact that a problem like that could occur is going to get all us of -- banks, phone companies, power utilities -- to really make sure that it doesn't happen," Mr. Monty, who is also chief executive officer of telecommunications giant BCE Inc., told reporters.

MPs said Canadians have a growing fear of flying on New Year's Eve and New Year's Day when 1999 becomes 2000.

In fact, French finance minister Dominique Strauss-Kahn said yesterday that it is more and more likely that all aircraft in the world will be grounded on Jan. 1, 2000, out of fear of possible chaos. His statement was denounced by the country's civil-aviation authority.

However, representatives of Canada's airlines and air-navigation system said they are confident that flights within Canada and to major foreign destinations will run as scheduled on Dec. 31, 1999, and Jan. 1, 2000.

Both Air Canada and Canadian Airlines International plan to have fully tested their entire system, including communications with air-traffic controllers, by April next year. "We're confident we're getting there," said Cliff Mackay, president of the Air Transport Association of Canada, which represents commercial and charter airlines.

"We're ahead of schedule on almost all our activity, and we believe that early in 1999 when we start selling tickets that we will be there."

Mr. Mackay said he plans to be in the air over Canada at midnight on Dec. 31, 1999. So does David Honkanen, Y2K project manager for NAV Canada, which handles the country's traffic control; he'll be flying to London's Heathrow Airport.

The airline officials said Canadian carriers will ensure that airports and air-navigation systems in vacation destinations in Mexico and the Caribbean are also free of the Y2K bug before flying there.

"If we at any point in time believe that there is a safety problem, we will not fly," Mr. Mackay said.

Similarly, representatives of Canada's electrical utilities said they are confident the computer bug will not leave Canadians freezing in the dark. Ontario Hydro, Hydro-Quibec and Nova Scotia Power expect to have all systems needed to generate and transmit electricity fixed and tested by the end of this year, and all their Y2K work completed by the middle of next year.

In fact, Ontario Hydro has already run the giant Niagara Falls hydro stations and the Lakeview coal-fired plant with their computers turned to the year 2000, while Nova Scotia Power is operating half its generating facilities as if 2000 has already arrived.

-- Diane J. Squire (, November 28, 1998


Ok. I must be missing something here. Globe and Mail. The same Globe and Mail that two weeks or so ago broke the Operation Abacus story. You remember, the one about the cancellation of all non-Y2K related purchases for the military beginning 1/99, no leave allowed for the 1999 - 2000 holiday, ships docked to serve as hospitals and soup kitchens, open discussion of a martial law type scenario....We've gone from that to "series of inconveniences" in two weeks. How wonderful! Send some of those Canadian super geek weenies over here please. We would love to have 'em. Maybe we could get from the precipace of TEOTWAWKI to "a series of inconveniences" in a month? two months? Ok... Three months. And then there is this gem:

"I believe that Canada is so well prepared at this stage -- not completely done but the progress level is so high -- that while we might have a little panic next summer and there will be a lot of questions, there is so much good work being done that I think we'll be able to comfort consumers,"

My favorite line. First: A little panic. Not a big panic mind you, just a little one. Priceless. Second: Notice the timing: next summer. Hmmm. Third: Comfort consumers? This can only mean One Thing. They will distribute fruitcake!

-- Rob Michaels (, November 28, 1998.

Sounds like the same double speak CNN used when describing the militarys readiness. "d-" one day and "we are compliant" the next.

A Hollywood production? Now thats a thought. Note to self: hurry along with preparations before the movies hit.

Whaaaat is the truth???!!!


Thanks, Diane, for posting this interesting stuff. I'd call it information, but I doubt that's the right word for it. My sister took about two days to get it, she thought "they would fix it" until she saw a TV program that was as soothing as this article. Then she panicked. Hopefully there are lots of others like her out there who are smart enough to wonder why TPTB are shouting so loudly that "There's no fire, there's no fire!"

Rob,ROFL! I'm standing in line for my fruitcake now, you can never have too many, ya know. Long live the RCFL (Royal Canadian Fruitcake League)!!

-- Tricia the Canuck (, November 29, 1998.

The Globe and Mail may have a "no big deal" article this week, but I did find this in the Ottawa Citizen:

The article is called "Region Prepares Y2K Disaster Plan."

-- Kevin (, November 29, 1998.

Note the different author for this article: SHAWN McCARTHY Parliamentary Bureau whereas the authors for the "troop movement" article were Ottawa and Toronto -- JEFF SALLOT in Ottawa JOHN SAUNDERS in Toronto.

What do you want to bet a few phone call were made to the Canadian Parliment from mucky mucks in D.C. telling 'em to tone it down?? When will Washington "get it?"

Kevin thanks for the other tip. It keeps crashing my browser but I'll try the link again.

Yes, it's time to bake fruitcakes for Canada now!


(Tricia, part of why I'm so interested in Canada is both my Grandfather and Grandmother became Canadian citizens, I have lots of loved relatives there and I used to spend quite a bit of time in B.C.)

-- Diane J. Squire (, November 29, 1998.

" When will Washington "get it?"

When they start getting more e-mail from the likes of us then they get phone calls from the mucky mucks. They want to sell papers, first and foremost. It isn't 'truth, justice and the American way', nor is it 'all the news thats fit to print'. It's competition and the bottom line. $$$$$

Also Diane, thanks for your remark (on another thread) about what an optimist is. LOL.

-- Rob Michaels (, November 29, 1998.

Thanks Kevin for the link -- finally got it. Ill just slap the full text in here for our De Yourdon Y2K research project illustrating the media disinformation potential in all its glory! I guess the lesson is: Look At The Source, Read Between The Lines And Collect Alternate Data Points. -- Diane

[The Globe & Mail e-mail address for SHAWN McCARTHY Parliamentary Bureau is likely: -- Most employees of the Globe have e-mail addresses in the form of first initial + surname The Contact wb-site page is at the bottom of:] The article is called "Region Prepares Y2K Disaster Plan."

LOCAL NEWS Wednesday 25 November 1998

Region prepares Y2K disaster plan

Police on full alert for critical period

Ian MacLeod, The Ottawa Citizen [Note: Cant find the E-mail address for Ian, but chances are its:]

Concerns over the millennium bug have led the Ottawa-Carleton police force to ban its 1,300 employees from taking vacations during the critical period surrounding Jan. 1, 2000.

The ban, from Dec. 28, 1999 to Jan. 31, 2000, was issued this month and covers 1,029 officers and about 300 civilian workers. As well, a senior officer this week has begun preparing police contingency plans in the event of a public emergency should other essential services fail.

In January, all of the players in the region's emergency response system, from police and fire departments to hospitals, are expected to begin working on an overall Y2K disaster plan.

No one knows for certain what will happen at midnight on Dec. 31, 1999, but scenarios range from minor power outages to full-blown failures in the computers that control everything from water supplies and traffic lights to banking and air traffic control.

Most computer systems use two digits, not four, to denote years. This means that when 2000 comes, they could read "00" as "1900," potentially fouling up or crashing any service that relies on computers.

For police, such an emergency would be immediately exacerbated by the thousands of people from around the country expected to attended millennium festivities on Parliament Hill. Crowd projections range from 70,000 to upwards of 500,000.

But what would a local worse-case scenario really look like? Especially considering Canada is among the world's leaders in aggressively trying to snuff out the threat before the millennium arrives.

"That's difficult to comment on," says Greg Geddes, director of the region's Year 2000 program.

"We had Ontario Hydro down here a couple of weeks back to discuss how they felt about potential failures in the hydro system.

They weren't guaranteeing that there would be no loss in power, they were talking in terms of, if there were interruptions, we might have to deal with (isolated) brown outs and that type of thing. But certainly they weren't telling us it was going to be the Armageddon.

"We're in the process of engaging all of theses utilities and all of our critical suppliers to try and really get a picture on what we think the extreme environment is going to be."

About $940,000 is being spent by the region to ensure the police department's own computer-aided systems are Y2K compliant and able to operate during an emergency.

"The big concern is to ensure that our buildings will be hardened, meaning that no matter what happens they'll be able to be operate," says Insp. Karl Erfle, who took over Monday as the police department's Year 2000 project manager.

A chief concern is the 911 telephone system, the backbone of the region's emergency services. Already, plans are in place for uninterrupted emergency power and heating to the Elgin Street police headquarters, where the 911 system is based.

"If the 911 system fails, we're in a very bad way," says Mr. Geddes. "So we've already gone through that particular assessment, developing a contingency plan around that facility."

Also, the region expects to have three key computer-driven components of the 911 system - switching, police radios and dispatch - Y2K compliant by the end of the year or early next.

Another worry is the fuel supply for police cars, buses, snow removal equipment and other regional emergency vehicles, in the event a major and prolonged power failure shuts down gas stations and other suppliers.

"One of the things that we're going to be doing is trying to work with other agencies, like the RCMP, in terms of being able to make sure that we have adequate fuel supplies," says Mr. Geddes.

The RCMP recently issued a nationwide ban on all vacation and leave to ensure a full force is available to fight the millennium bug. And the the military has been ordered to plan for the worst -- dubbed Operation Abacus -- with troops and frigates ready to be deployed across the country to provide emergency services should computer foul- ups in 2000 create civil chaos.

Note: Other Ottawa Citizen Address, Phone & E-mail addresses of interest: HOW TO REACH US The Ottawa Citizen, 1101 Baxter Road, Box 5020, Ottawa, Ont. K2C 3M4 (Unless specified, all numbers are 613 area code.) Main Citizen number: 829-9100 Newsroom: 596-3664


Russell Mills, Publisher & President 596-3500

James Orban, V.P. Marketing, Assistant to Publisher 596-3726

Neil Reynolds, Editor 596-3554

Scott Anderson, Managing Editor 596-8503

Don Butler, Exec. Editor 596-3671

Noreen Rasbach, Senior News Editor 596-3507

David Guy, News Editor 596-8808

Bruce Garvey, News Editor 596-3570

Derek Shelly, Night News Editor 596-8806

Laura Robin, News Editor / Features 596-3769

Christina Spencer, Editorial Pages Editor 596-3786

Brian Sarjeant, Letters Editor 596-3785

Giles Gherson, National Affairs Editor 751-3342

Peter Robb, News Editor, National Bureau 751-3305 Fax: 232-2620

-- Diane J. Squire (, November 29, 1998.

Cant seem to pull up this site. Can someone else try? Thanks, Diane

The Canadian Federal Government Year 2000 Information Website

Treasury Board Of Canada Secretariat

-- Diane J. Squire (, November 29, 1998.

Diane, make that info2000 instead of 200 and it will work.

-- Gayla Dunbar (, November 30, 1998.

I read the GLobe and Mail "Nothing to Worry about" too. Did they really say "all systems needed to generate and transmit electricity will be fixed and tested at the end of THIS year"?! The software maybe, but not embedded systems. Haven't they said its not possible to do testing on all of this equipment? Never mind the year 2000, these hydro companies have ALREADY started keeping us in the dark!We are getting very little information on Canadian progress. The silence is deafening. The Manitoba Provincial Government and the Municipal governments have no information about 2000 on their web sites. At -30 degrees(in the south) we can not afford local blackouts that last more than 24 hours.We need reliable information so that communities can prepare contingency plans before next summer. What would be helpful is public access to transcripts of these hearings at the House of Commons and elsewhere. Do they exist and I'm just not aware? Yes, Canadians are becoming more concerned and articles like this one didn't lessen them.We want details.Am I right in my understanding that Canada is BEHIND the USA in y2k readiness?

-- Lisa (, November 30, 1998.

Lisa: We all need more information and aren't getting much. It has been widely reported that the U.S is ahead with Y2K, followed by (not necessarily in this order) Canada, Great Britain, Singapore and Israel. Unfortunately, we are in a race against an unmovable deadline that will have, unlike otherr races, no 'winners'. I remember seeing a study a few weeks ago about the international risks for each country. It may have been a Gartner study. As far as the transcripts, it would be well worth checking into. Here in the U.S., some of the Senate Hearings have been televised, along with press release statements.

-- Rob Michaels (, November 30, 1998.

Lisa: I couldn't find the study, but remembered the following is considered to be one of the best Canadian sites. It is the Global Millennium Foundation - - Hope this helps.

Millennium Foundation

-- Rob Michaels (, November 30, 1998.

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