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Evidence of laxity, but no influence from the McKinsey firm

Photo: Adrian Wyld The Canadian Press Former McKinsey&Company boss Dominic Barton before his appearance before the standing committee on government operations and budget estimates in Ottawa on February 1, 2023.

Even after finding the government guilty of repeatedly violating the rules to award contracts to McKinsey&Company, the Auditor General of Canada in no way accuses the consulting firm of having influenced the immigration policies of the Trudeau government.

“[These are] contracts for comparative analyses, to support a transformation. Sometimes it’s professional advice,” Karen Hogan detailed regarding the contracts awarded to McKinsey by the federal government, the subject of a devastating audit published Tuesday.

“Often, the contracts [being reviewed] are to help the government change, to transform itself. Often, external advice is essential,” the auditor general continued, before elected officials gathered in Ottawa on Monday by the Standing Committee on Government Operations. Her office itself seeks external help to improve itself, she illustrated.

Karen Hogan cut short the questions of a Conservative MP who suggested that the former head of McKinsey, Dominic Barton, was behind the federal government’s immigration policy. A former McKinsey executive and later ambassador to China, Mr. Barton took part in 2016 in a committee that had recommended accelerating immigration to boost Canada’s population to 100 million people by 2100.

“It's clear that the Liberals have used McKinsey as a shadow government to control official policies,” accused conservative Stephanie Kusie on X (formerly Twitter), when sharing the video of Ms. Hogan saying she knows nothing about this effect.

Expert advice

Questioned directly by Le Devoir to know if the international consulting giant was able to influence the Trudeau government's immigration policies, Karen Hogan was more categorical.

“We have seen some contracts that were [granted by] Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada [IRCC], but we have not really seen that they were involved more than the expert advice they offered through these contracts,” she said when revealing the results of her investigation which took place over more than a year.

The report unveiled by the Auditor General last week rather deplored the fact that the Government of Canada had made a habit since 2011 of not documenting anything about contracts awarded without a call for tenders to McKinsey, in disregard of basic standards of good management. Public Services and Procurement Canada is also being blamed for letting these rule-breaking activities slide.

“This is not unique to McKinsey&Company. We would expect to see the same behavior towards other professional services firms,” said Karen Hogan on Monday. She found no trace of undue involvement of a minister in the awarding of the 93 contracts examined, nor of criminal or malicious intentions in the federal machine.

The Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates (OGGO), and then the Auditor General of Canada, launched an investigation into the contracts awarded to this consulting firm in early 2023, after Radio-Canada revealed that the number of contracts had exploded under the Trudeau government.

Policy influence

The original article also suggests that McKinsey was able to play a central role in Canada’s immigration policies. This detail was central to the reaction of opposition parties in Ottawa, at a time when the Trudeau government was proposing to welcome half a million immigrants per year.

The Bloc Québécois had thus directly linked the immigration target to a desire of the firm McKinsey, arguing that it was consistent with the plan developed seven years earlier by the working group of which its ex-boss, Dominic Barton, was part. The latter had already thought about this project by writing “the initiative of the century” (or “Century Initiative”) with business people.

“This idea [ to thus increase immigration] comes from a working group, mandated in 2016 by the Trudeau government and chaired by Dominic Barton, then a senior executive at the firm McKinsey… And co-founder of the Century Initiative,” declared the Bloc MP Mario Simard in May 2023.

The main person concerned had the opportunity to categorically reject the allegations regarding his influence in federal immigration policies last year , suggesting that parliamentarians misunderstood the role of a consulting firm. “McKinsey never proposes public policies to governments! », replied Mr. Barton.

The McKinsey&Company firm is embroiled in various scandals in several countries around the world, and has notably made headlines in Quebec for its services offered to the Legault government for the management of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Last February, a majority of federal elected officials adopted a motion from the Bloc Québécois calling for a review of the immigration target, set by the Trudeau government at 500,000 new permanent residents per year, until in 2025.

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116