Government will review McKinsey contracts, Trudeau says

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he's asked two ministers to review the contracts. (Blair Gable/Reuters - image credit)
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he's asked two ministers to review the contracts. (Blair Gable/Reuters - image credit)

The government will review $66 million worth of contracts it awarded to management consulting firm McKinsey & Company, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Wednesday.

Speaking during a news conference in Mexico City at the North American Leaders' Summit (NALS), Trudeau said he's asked Public Service and Procurement Minister Helena Jaczek and President of the Treasury Board Mona Fortier to examine the contracts.

"I asked Minister Jaczek and Minister Fortier to do a follow-up and look closely at the numbers, and look at the circumstances that we heard about in the news," Trudeau said in French.

WATCH | Treasury Board president open to House committee study of McKinsey contracts

Trudeau said the contracts were part of government efforts to modernize and improve public service delivery. He said the government is open to making changes if necessary.

"We will do a follow-up to make sure that it was done in the right way, and see if we need to modify or change the rules," Trudeau said.

Radio-Canada reported last week that the value of federal government contracts with McKinsey has increased 30-fold since the Trudeau Liberals took office — increasing from $2.2 million under Prime Minister Stephen Harper to $66 million under Trudeau. Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) alone accounted for $24.5 million of the contracts.

McKinsey, which employs 30,000 consultants in 65 countries, has often attracted controversy. It has advised authoritarian governments and has provided consulting services on boosting opioid sales. The Quebec and Ontario governments also have employed the firm.

On Tuesday, Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre called on a House of Commons committee to investigate the government's use of McKinsey. In a statement sent to CBC News Tuesday, McKinsey said its work is non-partisan and it doesn't make policy recommendations. The company said it would appear before a committee if asked.

The NDP and Bloc Québécois also denounced the contracts and called for transparency on the government's use of McKinsey.

Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press
Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press

The Trudeau government spent approximately $432 million on contracts with six large private consulting firms in 2021, according to data compiled by Carleton University professor Amanda Clarke.

In an interview airing Wednesday on CBC's Power & Politics, Fortier said the government has contracted out some public service work, in part because of human resource issues.

"Public servants are able to do a lot of the work, and sometimes we need to contract it out because there's not enough of the expertise," Fortier told guest host Catherine Cullen.

Fortier said information technology is an area of particular concern when it comes to labour shortages in the public service.

Fortier added the government is open to opposition parties' request for a probe.

"If they do ask for it ... we will look into it," she said.

"I think that we have to be fair, and we have to look at what will come out of that exercise."