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Government’s new chief technology officer will work remotely

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While Luc Gagnon is based in Montreal and will be working remotely, he will maintain a regular in-office presence in Ottawa “as needed,” a spokesperson said.

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The federal government will soon welcome a new chief technology officer, and he will be working remotely.

The Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat confirmed Wednesday that Luc Gagnon would take on the role effective July 8.

The role was previously filled by Minh Doan, who has been on extended leave. The former Canada Border Services Agency vice-president, Doan has been linked to the ArriveCan app scandal, with an internal complaint alleging that he altered data files, leading to the destruction of emails and documents potentially related to GC Strategies, the contractor that developed the app.

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The position has been filled internally on an acting basis, with Gagnon to be appointed in an indeterminate capacity, meaning there is no end date indicated on the offer of employment.

Gagnon is being appointed by Chief Information Officer of Canada Dominic Rochon. He is expected to provide direction across the government on information-technology matters.

According to TBS spokesperson Joie Huynh, while Gagnon is based in Montreal and will be working remotely, he will maintain a regular in-office presence in Ottawa “as needed.”

The timing is ironic, given the government’s rush to get public servants back to the office more regularly.

The federal government updated its policy on remote work in May, stating it would require public servants to spend three days a week in the office by mid-September. Executives will be expected to be on-site at least four days per week.

The policy no longer offers any group exceptions, including for call-centre and information-technology employees, to “ensure greater consistency and fairness across the public service.” The government said the transition may require more time for these employees and organizations to adapt, so they can begin phasing in the policy in September, with full implementation expected by 2025.

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One of the key executives behind the policy update, Catherine Blewett, was working remotely at the time for health reasons. She has since stepped down from Treasury Board and moved to a “senior official” role at the Privy Council Office, which she is expected to hold until she retires.

“The direction on prescribed presence in the workplace does not eliminate the option to hire remotely, if necessary, and allows for exemptions under certain circumstances,” Huynh said of Gagnon’s appointment, adding that the chief information officer decided to fill the position due to its “critical role” within Treasury Board and across the government.

Nathan Prier, president of the Canadian Association of Professional Employees, said that union found it “supremely telling” that the department who put together the “archaic rules” on return-to-office was making exceptions for executives.

“The double standard is infuriating to our members who have had to fight tooth and nail only to be denied the right to work from home to care for elders or to accommodate disabilities, or for those Canadians in regions across Canada who didn’t want to uproot their lives to move to Ottawa just to sit on Zoom calls,” Prier said. “This government knows remote work rights are the future, but apparently thinks only management should enjoy those rights.”

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Gagnon is currently employed with Health Canada, where he has been the department’s assistant deputy minister and chief digital transformation officer since January 2022.

This newspaper has reached out to Gagnon for comment.

According to Huynh, Gagnon has more than 30 years of experience in large technology corporations and start-ups, both in Canada and abroad.

“Luc has accumulated a wealth of knowledge in leading-edge technologies, emerging trends and innovation,” Huynh said. “He also brings with him a deep understanding of the strategic demands and operational intricacies of the role, having held previous CTO positions in government and in the private sector.”

The Government of Canada website indicates that Gagnon took on the role of Shared Services Canada’s first chief technology officer in 2019 and planned to divide his time between the 99 Metcalfe St. office in Ottawa and the Peel Street offices in Montreal.

In a question and answer post on the SSC website, Gagnon said he was a long-distance runner who began building electronic circuits when he was two years old. He said he was always using his e-reader and that, if he had been an animal, he’d like to be the “immortal jellyfish” because “it’s the only animal that only ever dies by accident.”

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