Procurement Minister Helena Jaczek will be in the hot seat during a House of Commons committee meeting on Monday, where she’ll face questions as part of a probe into a spike in contracts awarded to the consulting firm McKinsey since the Liberals were elected in 2015.
The House of Commons government operations and estimates committee agreed to launch a study into the contracts after reports emerged that deals with McKinsey increased under the Liberals compared with when the federal Conservatives were in power.
Since Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government was elected in 2015, the consulting firm has been awarded 24 contracts worth $104.6 million, according to data provided by Public Services and Procurement Canada.
Radio-Canada has reported that the Conservatives awarded $2.2 million in contracts to McKinsey over the nine years that party was in power.
Following the reports, Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre called for a probe into contracts awarded to the firm, a call the government operations and estimates committee answered when it voted to launch the study on Jan. 18.
“We want to know what all this money was for,” Poilievre said, speaking at a press conference earlier last month.
Poilievre also expressed concerns about the potential influence of the firm, and Trudeau’s decision to appoint former McKinsey director Dominic Barton as his ambassador to China for just over two years, ending in 2021.
Barton testified before the government operations and estimates committee last week, where he expressed disbelief that he was being portrayed as a “puppet” of the Liberal government. He said he had wanted to “give back” and “help” his country after living in Asia for decades when he was named ambassador.
The former ambassador also pushed back on MPs’ suggestions that he is a personal friend of Trudeau or other top ministers, like Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland and former finance minister Bill Morneau. Barton chaired the government’s advisory council on economic growth in 2017.
“It was a professional relationship, there was respect, there were always people in the room,” he told the committee after flattering comments from Trudeau, Freeland and Morneau about him were read into the record.
“I am not a friend.”
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Meanwhile, Trudeau has tasked Jaczek and Treasury Board President Mona Fortier with looking into the contracts granted to McKinsey.
“We will do a followup to ensure it was done the right way and to see if we need to modify or change the rules,” Trudeau said, speaking in French in mid-January.
When pressed on the issue during question period last week, Jaczek said the government is “committed” to ensuring its contracts “stand up to the highest standards.”
“I will be testifying on Monday at the government operations committee, along with my officials, and I look forward to answering the opposition’s questions more fulsomely at that time,” she said.
Fortier, who was also pressed on the issue during question period on Feb. 2, promised that she and Jaczek will “get to the bottom of this.”
“It is important to know that we are upholding the highest standards of openness, transparency and fiscal accountability,” Fortier said.
— with files from Global News’ Sean Boynton