Quebec government criticized for McKinsey pandemic contracts

03 October 2022 2 min. read
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Coalition Avenir Quebec (CAQ) leader Francois Legault was criticized by rival party leaders on Friday after a Radio-Canada investigation revealed US consultancy McKinsey & Company billed the Quebec government $6.6 million ($35k per day) for pandemic management strategy work.

The Radio-Canada investigation noted that McKinsey played a central role in the province’s response - conducting strategy meetings and advising the government on personal protective equipment (PPE).

Legault said awarding the McKinsey contract without a public procurement process was justified because of the urgency of the situation. The premier also defended hiring McKinsey, noting the firm was a standard choice for many governments

"It's expensive, McKinsey, but, obviously, that's in line with the service they provide," Legault said.

"Ultimately, it was up to me and my team to make decisions, but I think the recommendations that we received from McKinsey helped us save lives.”

Quebec government criticized for McKinsey pandemic contracts

The pandemic was a boon for management consultancies, including large firms like McKinsey and Deloitte, who snapped up a large amount of contracts to support panicked governments scrambling to address pandemic-related challenges. Consultancies advised on issues including pandemic response strategy, Covid-19 tracking, vaccine rollout, and unemployment benefit IT system support. 

Rival political leaders called for a public inquiry into the McKinsey contract and how the province managed the pandemic.

"It's very concerning. How is it that a firm like this one — a foreign firm — was able to play such a large role in such a major crisis?" said Éric Duhaime, leader of the Conservative Party of Quebec. "We have the right to know what happened."

Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, co-spokesperson for Québec Solidaire, accused Legault of privatizing the management of the pandemic and listening to a foreign multinational instead of the province’s healthcare experts.

According to the Radio-Canada report, one of McKinsey’s contract stipulations demanded the firm not reveal its other clients to the Quebec government. One of those clients was Pfizer, a major Covid-19 vaccine manufacturer.

The firm has faced a US Congress investigation for potential conflict of interest for working for the FDA while also advising opioid manufacturers on boosting sales.