In the shadows, the firm McKinsey was at the heart of the management of the pandemic in Quebec

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In the shadows, the firm McKinsey was at the heart of the management of the pandemic in Quebec

The Legault government has not said everything about the role played by the consultants, paid $35,000 a day.

Prime Minister François Legault, Minister of Health and Social Services Christian Dubé and National Director of Public Health Horacio Arruda just before a press conference on COVID-19 during the pandemic.

On December 14, 2020, when the very first vaccines had just been injected into Quebecers, the director of the vaccination campaign Daniel Paré received an email from an associate of the consulting firm McKinsey: “Bravo for this first day which is taking place good. Here are my notes on follow-ups (action, responsible, deadlines). Feel free to make changes. »

Behind the scenes, McKinsey played a central role in the game plan of the vaccination campaign in Quebec, drawing on its experience with other states, reveals a Radio-Canada investigation. But the American consulting firm did more than that.

In May 2020, the Legault government had rejected a request from the opposition parties to make public the transmission of all the opinions and documents produced by the firm.

Radio-Canada was able to reconstruct specifically McKinsey's role through over 200 emails, contracts and working papers. Some of these items were obtained from sources, others through freedom of information requests.

The American firm is a consulting firm with 130 offices in 65 countries and bringing together 30,000 consultants.

The confidential documents that we obtained show that private consultants contributed to crucial decisions during the pandemic by giving advice to the Legault government, in particular for the communication strategy. They developed scenarios for purchasing protective equipment and worked on the PCR testing strategy. They also proposed solutions to remedy the shortage of personnel in CHSLDs.

The private firm coordinated the decision-making teams and summoned the senior officials it wanted, to meet in groups as well as in individual meetings. We even see a McKinsey associate familiar with the secretary general of the government, Yves Ouellet, the highest civil servant of the Quebec state.

McKinsey's advice was billed in Quebec for $215,000 per week plus tax, or $35,000 per day, for the period April to June 2020. In December, another bill for a week's work gives a total of $247,196, still $35,000 a day.

In total, the government paid out $1.7 million, officially for McKinsey to help to prepare its deconfinement plan, and 4.9 million to support it in the economic recovery plan.

The consulting firm steered committees, organized strategic meetings, distributed roles on working groups… It also had access to confidential information, showed the emails and documents obtained.

To these documents are added interviews with three people in public health who had to work with the firm during the pandemic. We were also able to count on the collaboration of two people who actively prepared the vaccination in Quebec. All are subject to confidentiality agreements with their employer. That's why we agreed to protect their identity.

The use of McKinsey arouses the discomfort of a union of civil servants who accuses the government of having turned its back on internal expertise. The presence of the advisers also irritated members of public health who collaborated with the firm. The government, as well as certain management experts consulted, believe, however, that the exceptional nature of the crisis justified it.

The consulting firm worked closely with the government on the resource file healthy humans. On May 26, 2020, McKinsey sent a document for discussion titled Levers to deal with HR issues in CHSLDs. The objective is to find solutions to remedy the shortage of personnel.

Among the ideas mentioned, we find that of creating [des] training programs accelerated and free of charge […] to reduce the time of training before deployment in CHSLD. The next day, May 27, Legault announced that he wanted to recruit 10,000 beneficiary attendants in three months.

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We have identified the presence of 10 different McKinsey consultants who have worked closely with senior Quebec officials in 2020.

The American firm is a consulting firm with 130 offices in 65 countries and bringing together 30,000 consultants.

During the pandemic, her clients were governments (United States, France, Germany, United Kingdom, Mexico, Ontario, etc.), companies from all economic sectors, particularly pharmaceuticals, and international organizations (World Health Organization , Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation…).

According to a French Senate report, McKinsey had Pfizer as a client during the pandemic. At the start of the vaccination campaign, Pfizer was the only authorized vaccine supplier in Canada.

List of McKinsey clients obtained by a Senate commission of inquiry in France.

On November 25, McKinsey wrote to Jérôme Gagnon, an assistant deputy minister who had just give internal responsibility for the vaccination campaign. The consultant writes: Planning work is underway on several work sites […] We have no advance, even a little behind if we want to be ready for mass vaccination and if we do not go through our regular distribution process.

McKinsey offers him to strengthen the governance structure and details the whole process to launch the vaccination campaign, based on a game plan around seven key dimensions, a concept found in several writings of McKinsey.

The next day, November 26, François Legault presents to the public Jérôme Gagnon, his general responsible for vaccination.

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In an end-of-term memorandum, McKinsey explains that it helped the government improve its vaccination strategy and plan in light of best practices in the field.

The firm adds that it has assessed the level of progress of vaccination preparation and has identified pending decisions regarding planning. She also reviewed the proposed governance structure/pace.

In this context, our mandate was to outline the plan created by the government, without however drafting it, specifies the firm. This responsibility was that of the competent authorities.

Emails show advice from the firm about Pfizer. In November, McKinsey recommends reaching an agreement with the manufacturer Pfizer regarding distribution locations.

In an email from December, a consultant encourages the new head of vaccinations, Daniel Paré , to discuss transportation issues with Pfizer. The firm explains to the director of the vaccination campaign how the delivery of refrigerated vials works in order to administer them in CHSLDs.

The vaccination campaign began on December 14, 2020, in Quebec, with only Pfizer vaccines.

In mid-December, the consultant proposed to Horacio Arruda and Richard Massé, the right arm of the national director of public health, to make a recommendation to the minister on the importance of having a substantive discussion with Pfizer regarding if needed keep 2nd dose.

Like other consulting firms, McKinsey works simultaneously for several public and private clients whose interests may be divergent. The firm recognizes this itself in its agreement with Quebec.

It has happened that McKinsey represents at the same time a drug supplier and the public authority which authorizes this drug, such as the revealed the New York Times.

The April 2 contract with Quebec indicates that the service provider [the firm] undertakes to avoid any situation that would put its personal interest in conflict with the interest of the minister [here, the Prime Minister].

< p class="e-p">At the same time, the firm obtained an amendment (modification) to the contract, on April 6, which indicates, in particular, that it does not disclose to the Government of Quebec who its other clients are.

“McKinsey may not inform or consult Client that McKinsey is performing assignments for Client's competitors or other parties. »

— Addendum to the contract between McKinsey and the government, April 6, 2020

According to the Executive Council, the agreement clearly identified the risk of conflict of interest . In the event of default, the contracts provide for the measures required to remedy the situation or their termination, says MCE spokesperson Marie-Ève ​​Fillion.

McKinsey's role was the subject of intense controversy during the last French presidential elections, following a Commission of Inquiry into the influence of consulting firms on public policy, held by the Senate.

Emmanuel Macron's election campaign has been marred by controversy over the role of the consulting firm during the pandemic.

After four months of investigation, the senators concluded that whole sections of crisis management [had been] outsourced to consulting firms and that in France, McKinsey has was the keystone of the vaccination campaign.

The report mentions that McKinsey organizes the day of public health workers. According to the French senators, the practice is actually common in the consultancy sector: consultants can work in an "integrated team" with their clients and are then almost assimilated to public officials.

“The intervention of consultants must remain discreet: during the health crisis, McKinsey indicates that it will remain "behind the scene", in agreement with the ministry. The firm does not use its own logo to write its deliverables, but that of the administration. »

— Excerpt from the report of the French Senate commission of inquiry

The same thing happened in Quebec. We found several working papers produced by McKinsey that bore the logo of the Government of Quebec and the indication “Your government”.

In their report, the senators French propose to prohibit consultants from using the logos of the public administration and to impose a declaration of interest on them.

On July 11, 2022, the following access to information request was sent to the Ministère de la Santé et des Services sociaux du Québec (MSSS): I would like to know what recommendations from the firm McKinsey you received.

Response from the MSSS: Our research during the processing of your request did not identify any document held by the ministry on this subject.

However, we have counted at least four working documents received by the ministry from McKinsey, not to mention the many emails.

In a message dated April 29, 2020, the administrator of State at the Ministry of Health [now deputy minister] Dominique Savoie asks the Ministry of the Executive Council (MCE), the ministry of the Prime Minister, to be able to benefit from the support of McKinsey.

“As part of our long-term planning for PPE needs, I would like McKinsey to support us in establishing scenarios that would allow us to aim for a good level of reserves and modulation for the next two years in our purchases and stocks for our priority equipment (masks and gowns). »

— Dominique Savoie, then State Administrator for the Management of Government Health Resources, April 29, 2020

The affair was quickly heard, since on May 4, a committee formed by McKinsey and Dominique Savoie appeared in order to develop scenarios to define the right level of purchases and inventories for the next two years. /p>

The MSSS confirms having participated in meetings in the presence of the firm McKinsey, but did not want to say more. He sent us back to the MCE.

The National Institute of Public Health of Quebec told us twice that it had no collaboration with McKinsey. When we showed evidence in emails, the INSPQ finally confirmed that its Vice-President for Scientific Affairs, Jocelyne Sauvé, did indeed participate in meetings with the firm, but the Institute claims that nothing came out.

Officially, McKinsey's mandate was to put in place a methodology to operationalize decisions surrounding the lifting of COVID-19 pandemic slowdown measures, says the MCE. She was also involved in the development and validation of deconfinement scenarios for the various sectors of economic and social activity.

When the consultants begin one of their mandates, they request access to a lot of information. This is seen in an email dated November 23, 2020, addressed to assistant deputy ministers. To undertake its work to improve the vaccine preparedness plan, McKinsey is requesting access to the ordering process, logistics, transportation and warehousing.

This is clearly indicated in the addendum (modification) to the contract that binds Quebec and the firm. It reads that the government undertakes to make available to McKinsey data, information and personnel necessary for the performance of the tasks or responsibilities which may, if need be, devolved to it.

It is also written that Quebec will share confidential information with the firm. For example, the Ministry of Health's human resources shared with the consultants “the specific issues and challenges that led to the lack of manpower”, thus sharing information on the government's vulnerability.

Several emails indicate the presence of data and artificial intelligence specialists from McKinsey in discussions with the government. What data did the firm have access to? She can't answer because it's confidential.

The contract indicates, however, that the firm has undertaken to restrict access to government information only to persons who must have access to it for the purposes of the execution of this contract.

The day when the Ministry of the Executive Council, that of the Prime Minister, signs an emergency contract, over the counter (therefore without a call for tenders), with McKinsey, the situation is very difficult in Quebec on the COVID-19. As of April 2, 2020, the province has only two million response masks, which is insufficient to last four days.

To stock up, it plays hard. Wealthier countries are buying up the shipments of masks on the tarmac of Chinese airports and Canada is a victim. Prime Minister Legault even admits that representatives of his government are walking around with suitcases of tickets to buy equipment.

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Everyone was overwhelmed, in a state of stress, says a public health source to explain the use of McKinsey. There was so much to organize, adds another public health source. Everything had to be done very quickly.

Invited to respond to our investigation, the Ministry of Executive Council justifies the use of McKinsey by the exceptional situation of COVID-19.

“In order to ensure the best possible management of this crisis and to limit its impact on the population and businesses as much as possible, the Government of Quebec needed an external perspective and the precise and experienced by an entire McKinsey team. »

— Marie-Ève ​​Fillion, spokesperson for the Ministry of Executive Council

The Prime Minister's Department adds that McKinsey had these skills in its team.

Last April, Minister Christian Dubé praised the invaluable help provided by McKinsey, without giving details. .

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When Radio-Canada interviewed McKinsey in June 2022, the firm replied: We are proud to have worked with Quebec officials by providing them with essential, fact-based information they needed (at this time) to make the best decisions on crucial public health issues, in the interest of all Quebecers.

As part of this investigation, the consultancy declined to comment further. We must respect our confidentiality agreements, explains McKinsey's senior partner in Montreal, Éric Gaudet.

A public health source acknowledges that there was a lack of human resources to act on the immunization front and that McKinsey has filled that gap. But there were people who were irritated by his presence, there was discontent, she adds.

It is the disempowerment of the State, believes one second source. I don't understand why they were there.

“They weren’t public health consultants, they were organizational people.

— A third public health source, who worked with McKinsey.

They would come in with proposals and consult with us, says this source. The experts were consulted, but they were the ones who organised. They were testing us. She adds: It's as if we were summoned, we had documents to discuss.

The interim president of the Union of Professionals of the Government of Quebec (SPGQ) Lydia Martel is flabbergasted by our revelations. We have people who have great expertise in management, including crisis management, she says.

I find it hard to understand why the internal skills were not called upon to play this role of coordination, of high-level management, she adds.

“[In government], we are convinced that we are not good people who cannot find good formulas and good ways of doing things to apply. »

— Lydia Martel, interim president of the SPGQ

The president of the union does not see any harm in an external firm bringing in proven models elsewhere, but she thinks that this use of consulting firms should be limited to specific skills that we do not have in-house.

In June 2020, the government had already explained to Radio-Canada that McKinsey's services were complementary to the expertise of state employees and were inspired by the experiences of other countries.

< p class="e-p">The consultancy said its work on COVID-19 was intended to support, not replace, decision-making by government authorities and that McKinsey has relevant expertise and experience. in the management of public health issues.

According to lawyer Patric Besner, vice-president of the Institute for the Governance of Private and Public Organizations (IGOPP), external help was perhaps necessary to coordinate the work of several ministries on the same crisis management . I don't see any problem in principle, given the magnitude of the situation and seeing that resources were very limited internally.

Professor Benoit Duguay at UQAM's School of Management Sciences is overwhelmed by McKinsey's achievements during his tenure. It's not the kind of role I'm used to seeing in a consulting firm.

“You have to make a distinction between internal and external in a government. How come a consulting firm is in such a close relationship? »

— Benoit Duguay, full professor at the School of Management Sciences at UQAM

The expert admits that the machinery of government is very heavy: Maybe it was to go faster, because we were overwhelmed by events, because the pandemic was horrible and maybe it was the right one thing to do.

On the other hand, Benoit Duguay criticizes the government for having lacked transparency as to the role played by McKinsey: If they came to help us and if we owe them a proud candle, so tell us what they did, let's go thank them.

“If we need advisers to coordinate the action of different ministries, help. I don't know if we have that expertise, but we should have it. We should be able to handle a crisis [without the help of consultants]. »

— Benoit Duguay, full professor at the School of Management Sciences at UQAM

In a November 23, 2020 email, we see a new McKinsey associate, whose profile sets her apart from her colleagues. This is a Quebec emergency physician associated with a McKinsey office in the United States.

On December 10, one of McKinsey's emails indicates that at the same time, this consultant of the firm works with several states in their vaccination strategy.

The Executive Council told Radio-Canada that McKinsey had no responsibility for government communications. However, in the emails, we see that the firm is present in the working group preparing the “communications strategy”.

In a message from April 22, 2020, a consultant presents a plan worked with public health and the MCE whose objective is to maintain confidence in the government and public health and to maintain the follow-up of the rules by the population.

It talks about the importance of press briefings and the complicity [between] Dr. Arruda, Mr. Legault and Ms. McCann.

The plan also refers to the need for specific communication about children and the return to school and daycare. The email suggests involving other influential health actors, giving the example of paediatricians, to say that resuming school is possible.

Later the same day, François Legault announces to Quebecers that a plan will soon be presented for a gradual return to class.

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In a working document provided by the firm to the government, we also read that McKinsey supported [the] narrative of the first communications surrounding the reopening of the various sectors (example: criterion public health as paramount).

On May 14, 2020, McKinsey is planning a strategic meeting with various public health executives, including Horacio Arruda. In anticipation, she gives them a document on the use of face coverings in the world (countries that require it or not), always flanked by the logo of the Government of Quebec.

The firm's consultant announces in the email the three questions to be discussed during the meeting. Among these, she asks them: Should the government provide support to citizens to facilitate access to face coverings? (for example: distribution at the entrance to public transport…)

The next day, May 15, François Legault announced the donation of one million masks to Montreal and the money for transport companies to distribute masks.

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The government needed help determining the capacity of the health system to test the population. McKinsey estimated the number of tests required and recommended purchasing additional machines. The firm also claims to have completed the development of the first milestones of the testing strategy, in a document submitted to the government.

McKinsey participated in the development of the PCR testing strategy and estimated the quantities required.

A May 4 email signed by McKinsey reads: Testing – Develop testing strategy(prioritization of testing between different population groups) Richard Massé in collaboration with McKinsey – IN PROGRESS.

And another: Estimate the amount of testing required for the testing strategy endorsed (McKinsey in collaboration with Jocelyne Sauvé [INSPQ] and modeling team).

The firm also produces a report of everything that is done elsewhere in the world in terms of testing. She submits this document on May 11

On May 13, François Legault uses this information in a press conference to show that Quebec is doing better than countries like Germany or the United States in terms of testing per million inhabitants.

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Our investigation shows that between April and June 2020, McKinsey also collaborated with other ministries and organizations, such as the Ministry of Labour, Employment and Social Solidarity, the Ministry of Public Security, the CNESST and the Quebec Secretariat for Canadian Relations.

The emails consulted do not show direct links with the Ministry of Education. However, McKinsey writes in a working paper that it has highlighted issues surrounding the reopening of CPEs and elementary schools (for example: protective measures and student-teacher ratios).

On April 29, 2020, the Minister of Culture Nathalie Roy is organizing a telephone meeting with 14 representatives of museums and art galleries in Quebec about the revival of this sector. His diary indicates that Julien Truchon-Poliard, engagement manager at McKinsey, is also present on the line, along with a representative public health.

The McKinsey firm has been mandated by the Quebec government to provide management advice during the health crisis, explains the department's communications department. Mr. Truchon-Poliard is the resource of the firm that has been assigned to the Ministry of Culture and Communications. This is why he was invited to the meeting.

In July 2021, the Ministry of Economy and Innovation concluded a private contract of 4, $9 million with McKinsey to help it plan Quebec's economic recovery and choose the projects to prioritize.

In the special decree, we can read that specialized advisory services, in the context of the global COVID-19 pandemic, are necessary for successful economic recovery.

This work aimed to allow the government to put in place the conditions to accelerate the growth of the Quebec economy in order to reduce the wealth gap with the United States and Ontario, explains the spokesperson for the MCE, Marie-Ève Fillio.

She adds that, to do this, he wanted to obtain an external perspective, complementary to his own data, to better assess the impact of all of his economic measures and the programs he had put in place.

< p class="e-p">While Quebec signed a $1.7 million contract with McKinsey on April 2, 2020, Ontario signed a contract the next day with the same firm for $1.6 million.

The objective was to develop an organizational structure of intervention to respond to the crisis. A few months later, Doug Ford's government added $3.2 million to the same firm to help with COVID-19 recovery planning and strategy preparation reopening for education.

In a November 2020 report, Ontario's Auditor General (AG) criticizes the province for responding to the crisis by hiring an external consultant to create a governance structure.

The VG says the cost of the consultant was above industry standard rates.

According to the National Post, the use of consultants of any kind should represent expenditures of more than $17 billion in 2022 compared to $8.3 billion in 2016 for the Canadian government.

In France, the senators' report concludes that there is a sprawling phenomenon and a massive use of these consultants, which raises questions about the proper use of public funds and our vision of the State and its sovereignty in the face of private firms. .

The use of consultants is now a reflex: they are called upon for their expertise (even when the State already has in-house skills) and their ability to provide an outside the administration.

“A relationship of dependency can arise between the administration and its consultants. […] Consulting firms organize dependence on them. »

— Excerpt from the report of the French Senate's commission of inquiry

On July 20, 2020, when the firm's mandate ended for almost two months, McKinsey is trying an approach with an executive from François Legault's ministry.

Is the COVID-19 management structure changing to your liking? the consulting firm representative asks in the email. Don't hesitate if we can help with anything.

And he informs her that several jurisdictions in North America are currently reflecting on the modernization of the State and preparing for future pandemics.

Quebec will call on the firm's services again four months later, then again a year later.

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