Conservatives ask auditor general to investigate Liberals' McKinsey contracts

10 February 2023 3 min. read
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The federal Conservatives has asked the auditor general to investigate the Liberal government’s heavy spending on consulting contracts with McKinsey & Company.

Since PM Justin Trudeau came to power in 2015, the federal government has spent more than $100 million on consulting contracts with the New York-headquartered strategy consultancy. In contrast, the Conservative government under Stephen Harper spent $2.2 million on contracts with McKinsey.

The federal Liberal government has repeatedly tapped McKinsey for advisory support on pressing challenges, such as Covid-19 response and the related immigration backlog.

Conservatives ask auditor general to investigate Liberals' McKinsey contracts

Conservative MPs have questioned why the Liberals would hand so much public money to a scandal-laden organization. MP Garnett Genuis pointed to McKinsey’s marketing working on opioids, as well as its work for authoritarian regimes in China and Saudi Arabia.

Conservatives has also raised concerns about Dominic Barton’s potential involvement in a rapid uptick in contracts for his former firm. Barton served as global managing partner of McKinsey from 2009 to 2018, having previously served as the management consultancy’s chairman in Asia.

Trudeau appointed Barton as Canada’s ambassador to China in 2019, with Barton stepping down in 2021. He also previously chaired an advisory council on economic growth for former finance minister Bill Morneau.

Barton told a House of Commons committee on February 1 that he played no role in the government’s decisions to grant consulting contracts to McKinsey in the past several decades. He also denied having a close relationship with PM Trudeau.

Responding to questions from MPs, Barton stated he does not have Trudeau’s personal phone number, hasn’t been in a room alone with him, doesn’t consider him one of his 50 best friends, hasn’t exchanged birthday gifts with him, and has never exercised with him.

Procurement Minister Helena Jaczek has said the government is performing a review of its McKinsey contracts to ensure compliance with Treasury Board policies, but Conservatives have questioned the efficacy of a Liberal self-audit. Instead, they want Auditor General Karen Hogan to investigate.

Though MPs can ask the auditor general to investigate various matters, it is ultimately the AG’s decision as to which investigations they will pursue.

The NDP, meanwhile, is interested in reviewing the Liberal government’s wider reliance on consulting firms. The party says it wants to review all contracts awarded to Deloitte, PwC, EY, KPMG, and Accenture.

"We have a competent public service that could be doing this work, but the federal Liberals would rather fund his wealthy consultant friends,” said Gord Johns, the NDP’s procurement critic. “We need to get to the bottom of how much money has been spent in contracting with private companies, outside of McKinsey, under both the Liberals and Conservatives."