MPs will call 7 cabinet ministers to testify on $100M in contracts awarded to McKinsey

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau embraces Dominic Barton, then the global managing partner at McKinsey and Company, at the Public Policy Testimonial Dinner in Toronto on April 20, 2017. (Christopher Katsarov/The Canadian Press - image credit)
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau embraces Dominic Barton, then the global managing partner at McKinsey and Company, at the Public Policy Testimonial Dinner in Toronto on April 20, 2017. (Christopher Katsarov/The Canadian Press - image credit)

Seven senior cabinet ministers will be called before a parliamentary committee to explain why their departments have issued more than $100 million in consulting contracts to McKinsey & Company since the Trudeau government came to power in 2015.

The news comes after Radio-Canada revealed that the Liberal government awarded $66 million in business to the firm — a number that rises to $100 million when new contracts, signed in recent months, are included in the total.

McKinsey, an American firm with 30,000 consultants in 130 offices in 65 countries, provides advice to both private and public entities. In the nine years of the Harper government, McKinsey was awarded $2.2 million in federal contracts.

MPs on the House of Commons government operations and estimates committee said they also want to hear testimony from the most senior McKinsey executive in Canada and from McKinsey's former global managing director Dominic Barton.

Barton, who worked for the firm for 30 years, left in 2018 and was appointed Canada's ambassador to China in 2019. Barton held the position for two years before leaving to join the mining firm Rio Tinto.

On Wednesday, the committee met and passed a motion listing the ministers being called to testify:

  • President of the Treasury Board Mona Fortier

  • Public Services and Procurement Minister Helena Jaczek

  • Deputy Prime Minister, Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland

  • Defence Minister Anita Anand

  • Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Minister Sean Fraser

  • Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos

  • Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino

Each of the ministers is expected to give an opening statement and face three rounds of questions. Each minister's appearance is expected to last a little longer than an hour.

Members of the committee have until Tuesday, Jan. 24 to submit lists of additional witnesses. The committee will begin hearing from witnesses over the week of Jan. 30 to Feb. 3.

A demand for documents

MPs on the committee also voted to ask each government department, agency or Crown corporation that hired McKinsey to provide the committee with detailed documents going back to 2011.

The Conservatives on the committee initially asked for the probe to go back to 2015. The committee instead adopted a Liberal amendment to extend the timeline to cover former prime minister Stephen Harper's last term in government.

The documents being sought include requests for tenders, bids and proposals, contracts, emails, text messages and other communications between McKinsey and the government officials.

Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press
Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press

The committee agreed to ask for the value of those contracts and details of the work done, including all invoices and records of payments made to the firm.

The committee also asked for a complete global list of all of McKinsey's clients and the names of all McKinsey project managers who worked with the Canadian government going back to 2011.

MPs also agreed to ask the Office of the Auditor General to look at the value received by government departments, agencies and Crown corporations through McKinsey's work. The federal government has three to five weeks to produce those documents.

McKinsey worked for Ontario, Quebec

After Radio-Canada published the results of its investigation earlier this month, Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre called on Parliament to look into the matter.

"It's time for Canadians to get answers," Poilievre said. "We need to know what this money was for, what influence McKinsey has had in our government, and it is time for Canadian taxpayers to have answers to these questions."

While attending the North American Leaders' Summit in Mexico City last week, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the contracts were part of government efforts to modernize and improve public service delivery.

WATCH | McKinsey under scrutiny for $100M in government 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.

"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."

McKinsey played a role in the modernization of the Royal Canadian Navy, the promotion of cultural diversity at the Department of National Defence and a complaints management system for sexual misconduct in the army.

McKinsey has advised many national governments on their COVID-19 pandemic response in recent years, including those in the U.S., U.K., Germany and Mexico.

The governments of Quebec and Ontario also hired McKinsey to advise them on their pandemic responses and to help them plan for economic recovery.

An investigation by the French Senate accused consulting firms like McKinsey of undermining national sovereignty and making the state dependent on them.

McKinsey also has been under investigation in France over tax filings, the awarding of contracts and its role in President Emmanuel Macron's 2017 and 2022 election campaigns.