McKinsey's influence explodes under Trudeau, especially on immigration

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Justin Trudeau's government gave McKinsey 30 times more money than when the Conservatives were in power. Sometimes with untendered contracts.

The firm McKinsey has long been run by Dominic Barton, here hugging Justin Trudeau at a reception in 2017, before leaving to be appointed ambassador to China, two years later.

The federal government's use of the firm McKinsey has skyrocketed since Justin Trudeau came to power, to the point where the consulting firm would play a central role in the country's immigration policies, reveals a survey by Radio- Canada.

The influence of this private consulting company, already decried in several countries, including France, but also in Quebec, is the subject of criticism within the function federal public.

In total, according to public accounts data from Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC), the Liberals spent 30 times more money on the consultancy than Stephen Harper's Conservatives, while spending less time in office.

Contracts amount to tens of millions of dollars and are sometimes given by mutual agreement, without a call for tenders.

McKinsey is an American firm that employs 30,000 consultants in 130 offices in 65 countries. does business.

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The sums paid to McKinsey exploded between the Conservatives' reign and that of Justin Trudeau, rising from $2.2 million in nine years under Stephen Harper to $66 million in seven years.

The analysis of contracts awarded by PSPC also shows continued growth, year after year, under the Liberal government.

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These data are not exhaustive. We also discovered contracts given in recent months to McKinsey by federal crown corporations.

For example, Export Development Canada has spent $7.3 million since last year on various analyses. For its part, the Business Development Bank of Canada paid 8.8 million for advice between 2021 and 2022.

Tens of millions of dollars have been granted to the firm McKinsey by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC).

L contract analysis shows that Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) has used McKinsey the most since 2015, with $24.5 million awarded for management consulting.

With the Border Services Agency, they add up to 44% of the total amount.

What was the precise role of this firm? Impossible to have clear answers.

The consulting firm refused to answer our questions concerning its various implications and agreements with the federal government. For its part, despite our request, Ottawa did not want to share the reports produced by this firm.

McKinsey's influence on Canadian immigration policy has grown steadily over the past few years, without the public being aware of it.

It was completely opaque! We asked to collaborate, to get our ideas across, but it didn't work, says a source who has an important position within IRCC.

Two people agreed to describe to us McKinsey's actions within this ministry, on the condition of preserving their identity, since they are not authorized to speak publicly. These officials had strong responsibilities at the height of the consulting firm's presence and testified separately to Radio-Canada.

McKinsey, it was a government idea. The politician decides for the civil servants. This causes a lot of operational instability, details our second source.

“These people, these firms, forget the general interest , they are not interested. They have no accountability. »

— A federal source linked to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada

According to the title of the contracts, which is very vague, McKinsey was notably hired to develop and implement various transformation strategies. Their mission focused on reviewing, developing and implementing digital tools, processes and services, says an IRCC spokesperson.

This mandate, he adds, has been revised during the pandemic, with an increase in the value of the contract, in order to help IRCC to respond to these pressures resulting from the pandemic, to manage an increased number of requests and to maintain essential customer services.

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

Representatives of the firm hosted or attended about 10 IRCC Transformation Committee meetings, according to documents obtained under the Access to Information Act. No details on these presentations are there, however.

We had a few presentations on very generic, completely hollow stuff. They arrived with pretty colors, pretty presentations and said that they will revolutionize everything, assures one of our sources.

“Immigration is extremely complicated. You can't show up with big clogs and say you're going to teach us about life.

— A federal source linked to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada

In the end, we have no idea what they did, our source continues, by evoking pretty marketing that is not science.

During a federal panel in late November, IRCC officials briefly touched on McKinsey's involvement. It's for [the department's] transformation efforts and then the modernization of immigration systems, said Deputy Minister Christiane Fox, speaking of the practices [to] see how we can improve our processes and our policies.< /p>

Our internal sources are unconvinced.

According to leaders and politicians, anything that comes from outside is always better, even if there were already a lot of internal resources, judges one of them. They [at McKinsey] always say they have great expertise, but that doesn't make sense because we had the expertise and were completely sidelined, adds our other contact.

The potential influence of McKinsey on Canadian immigration thresholds is also deplored by our sources.

This fall, Ottawa unveiled a landmark plan, with the goal of welcoming 500,000 new permanent residents each year by 2025 to focus on economic growth.

A target and remarks almost similar to the conclusions of a report released in 2016 by a committee formed by the federal government. A group of economic advisers, led by Dominic Barton, then global boss of McKinsey, had been formed by Bill Morneau, the former Minister of Finance.

Former Federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau watches the Chairman of the Federal Government's Economic Growth Advisory Council, Dominic Barton, in February 2017.

This committee recommended that Ottawa gradually increase permanent immigration to 450,000 people per year, particularly for the dynamics of the labor market. Canada was then home to approximately 320,000 permanent residents.

At the time, publicly, this plan was not unanimously approved by the government. Immigration Minister John McCallum was talking about a huge number. It's not me who pushes for that, he said.

Quickly however, and despite internal criticism, we were told that it was the founding plan, assures one of our sources.

Chairman of this economic committee between 2016 and 2019, Dominic Barton left McKinsey in July 2018, after thirty years of service. A few days later, in August, the consulting firm began its first contract with IRCC.

Dominic Barton was appointed Canada's Ambassador to China by Justin Trudeau, in 2019, before stepping down two years later and joining Rio Tinto.

Dominic Barton served as Canada's Ambassador to China between 2019 and 2021, after spending more than 30 years with McKinsey .

Just before the pandemic, elected officials questioned him about the relationships he might have had with Chinese companies during his employment with McKinsey. He then gave his definition of the role of his former company.

“[McKinsey] is recognized as a firm that speaks the truth to those in power and tells it like it is .

— Dominic Barton, February 5, 2020, before a federal committee

What was his role in the exponential increase in contracts won by McKinsey from the federal government? Questions posed to Dominic Barton remained unanswered.

Since 2011, a pressure group has emerged, called The Century Initiative or Initiative of the Century. This group defines itself as a diverse network that advocates policies and programs that would bring Canada's population to 100 million by 2100. Its co-founder is none other than Dominic Barton, who was then the big boss of McKinsey. One of the board members of this organization is also a current McKinsey executive.

The Century Initiative has also been registered, since 2021, in the Canadian Lobbyist Registry, with the objective of increasing immigration targets. According to our research, several meetings have already been organized with a member of the Minister of Immigration's cabinet, his parliamentary secretary, a Conservative MP and an NDP MP.

Besides IRCC , other departments have entrusted mandates to McKinsey in recent years.

Public Works and Government Services Canada used this firm for computer services. As for Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada, it is for management consulting, but also scientific and research services that it called on McKinsey.

La Défense has also spent several millions for, for example, a leadership orientation.

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Some of these agreements are still in progress and other expenses will be added.

In total, according to our research, PSPC has signed 18 agreements with McKinsey, since 2021, for various federal entities. The amount climbs to over $45 million.

All of these contracts were awarded to a single supplier, indicate the documents obtained by Radio-Canada. This means that there was no competitive process.

But why did Ottawa choose to hire a private firm?

Questioned by Radio-Canada, the Prime Minister's office referred us to the Secretariat of the Treasury Board of Canada. He explains that the acquisition of professional services allows the government to supplement the work of civil servants by acquiring specific expertise and to deal with fluctuations in the workload.

According to spokesperson Martin Potvin, a contract awarded to a supplier like McKinsey can also help fill shortages in certain job groups and specific geographic locations in order to maintain operations.

Ottawa adds that the decision to use procurement to meet operational needs rests with the departments themselves.

Experts deplore the influence of private firms, including McKinsey, within the Canadian government.

Experts, interviewed by Radio-Canada, are skeptics.

How come McKinsey has the skills to do absolutely everything a government does? asks Benoit Duguay, full professor at UQAM's School of Management Sciences.

Himself a former consultant (but not at McKinsey), he is surprised that the firm has so much power of influence.

“I find that disturbing. […] It looks like another order of government. Almost a supranational government. »

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

These revelations raise a lot of questions, asserts Isabelle Fortier, professor at the National School of Public Administration.

McKinsey is a sprawling phenomenon, says this specialist who has looked into the role of this firm in France. This recourse to consulting firms reflects a politico-administrative rupture, she judges.

Politics can dream of many things, but the administrative machine must be able to tell them what can be done in the current context. We dropped this internal expertise, continues Isabelle Fortier.

“It's a shadow government, but it acts everywhere , without any legitimacy and without any critical perspective, without any transparency. »

— Isabelle Fortier, professor at ENAP

The Government of Canada recalls that it is committed to providing high-quality services to Canadians and that 'it strives to do so by ensuring the best possible value for taxpayers.

Departments are bound by requirements in awarding contracts fairly , open and transparent, adds Ottawa.

The French Senate has investigated the role of private consultants within the state.

These Over the past few years, McKinsey has advised many national governments in the fight against COVID-19, including those in the United States, United Kingdom, Germany and Mexico.

In France, McKinsey has been making headlines for several months.

In March 2022, a Senate investigation concluded that 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 vis-à-vis private firms.

According to the report of the French Senate , consulting firms like McKinsey organize dependence on them.

“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 bring an outside perspective to the administration. »

Extract from the report of the French Senate commission of inquiry

In November, French justice also opened three investigations for allegations of tax optimization, irregularities in the awarding of public contracts and McKinsey's intervention in President Emmanuel Macron's 2017 and 2022 election campaigns.

In Canada, experts are also calling for a public inquiry. We need transparency, to see how these consulting companies manage government contracts, argues Ontario lawyer Lou Janssen Dangzalan, who has been studying digital reforms at IRCC for a long time.

The government has planned to modernize the immigration system, but questions about how to proceed are legitimate, he continues.

I don't know not who [could do it] or how, but I would dream of a commission of inquiry in Canada to dissect everything, supports Professor Isabelle Fortier. We must force the black boxes to open.

Since 2016, the firm has won a total of 38 million contracts to help Hydro-Québec make decisions. The Crown Corporation consulted McKinsey before launching hydroelectric plant refurbishment works, for strategic mandates, procurement issues and innovations, etc.

The firm McKinsey was at the heart of the management of the pandemic in Quebec.

The consulting firm McKinsey has also been talked about recently in Quebec because of the central role it has played in the management of the pandemic with the Legault government. McKinsey gained access to confidential government information and received $35,000 a day for his services, which created unease within the civil service.

In 2021, McKinsey also received $4.9 million from the provincial Ministry of Economy and Innovation to help it plan Quebec's economic recovery and choose the projects to prioritize.

In Ontario, the Auditor General criticized the province for signing a $1.6 million contract with the private firm to create a governance structure to deal with the pandemic. Doug Ford's government also granted $3.2 million to McKinsey to help it plan for the economic recovery and the reopening of schools.

The AG concluded, among other things, that the Consultant's cost was higher than industry standard rates.

With the collaboration of Daniel Boily and Marie Chabot-Johnson

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