McKinsey & Company management consulting firm has been given free rein to manage Quebec’s public institutions and this is being exposed more and more. It is now back in the news, with regards to Hydro-Québec. It This time round, the firm is said to be “managing hydro-electric dams.”
According to an article in Le Devoir, Hydro-Québec has confirmed that McKinsey is working on “strategic mandates, problems of supply and innovations.” This jargon, typical of consulting firms, explains nothing about what McKinsey is actually doing. Why is the Legault government so cozy with McKinsey with which it is clearly having an ongoing, hush-hush “affair?”
Even though McKinsey’s trademark is secrecy, confidentiality, non-disclosure and the like, there is still enough out there to demystify the narrative of a firm whose sole mission is giving multi-million-dollar advice. The fact is that Hydro-Québec’s expertise is world-renowned. What expertise does it need from McKinsey which is touted as the most powerful and most influential private institution on the planet?
A CNBC documentary provides information that in the 1950s McKinsey assisted the White House with staffing organization leading to the creation of the role of Chief of Staff. Today, this intimate access to and involvement in U.S. government affairs is explicit on McKinsey’s website. In one instance, a McKinsey employee who is a former U.S. military officer explains how, along with a “group of partners,” he works within the U.S. Federal Government. He speaks of his commitment to making the U.S. Federal Government “the best government in the world.” He serves various agencies from the Defence Department to Veteran Affairs and the Environmental Protection Agency, putting the best experts and resources of the firm at their disposal. They are referred to as a “SWAT team of analysts.” SWAT stands for Special Weapons And Tactics.
Former McKinsey alumni include Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google, James Gorman, CEO of Morgan Stanley, Jorgen Vig Knudstorp, Chairman and former CEO of The Lego Group, Sheryl Sandberg, former chief operating officer of Facebook, as well as Susan Rice, director of the Biden administration’s Domestic Policy Council and former national security advisor under the Obama presidency. The firm is involved with 90 of the Fortune top 100 companies worldwide. In a CNBC documentary, Duff MacDonald, author of The Firm: the story of McKinsey and its secret influence on American business, points out: “McKinsey is everywhere. They have built a machine in which the alumni interaction with the current firm sort of feeds itself in a constant virtuous circle of fees and engagements. It’s kind of stunning to behold.”
McKinsey runs a multi-billion-dollar hedge fund that, according to the New York Times, may have a stake in the outcome of some of the corporate restructurings the company consults on, including their involvement in trying to “turn around” Puerto Rico’s public finances.
A June 22, 2020, Balkan Insight item, entitled “Asylum outsourced: McKinsey’s secret role in Europe’s refugee crisis,” points out that in 2016-2017, McKinsey was “at the heart of the efforts in Europe to accelerate the processing of asylum applications on over-crowded Greek islands and salvage a controversial deal with Turkey, raising concerns over outsourcing of public policy on refugees.”
In September 2016, McKinsey made a proposal to the European Asylum Support Office (EASO) entitled Supporting the European Commission through integrated refugee management. The driving logic of McKinsey’s intervention was “maximum productivity,” that is, getting as many asylum cases processed as quickly as possible, whether they resulted in transfers to the Greek mainland, in the case of approved applications, or the deportation of “returnable migrants” to Turkey. During those years people were fleeing countries which the U.S. imperialists had either destabilized, attacked, occupied or destroyed — all four in some cases — mainly Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.
The pact that ensued was deeply controversial. Human rights groups said it put at risk the very right to seek refuge. Also controversial was the previously unknown extent of McKinsey’s influence over the implementation of the refugee accords and the lengths some European Union bodies went to conceal that role.
In October 2017, the EU’s ombudsman, the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) launched a probe into the EASO which dealt directly with McKinsey, chiefly concerning “irregularities and wrongdoings” ranging from breaches of procurement to staff harassment. According to Balkan Insight, OLAF’s 1,500-page report sheds light on the role of a major private consultancy firm in what has traditionally been the realm of public policy — the right to asylum.
Some also point out that McKinsey played a major role in the rebuilding of Afghanistan, or rather, in looking for opportunities for U.S. companies as billions of dollars were being handed out supposedly for reconstruction purposes. In past years, a report was sponsored by the Pentagon’s Task Force for Business and Stability Operations (TFBSO) whereby McKinsey was called upon, among other things, to “identify potential projects in priority provinces and define TFBSO’s strategic focus for Afghanistan.”
In light of the above, Quebeckers are rightly concerned about the role and influence of McKinsey in taking over the functions of the Quebec state. It is a great cost borne by the people that reveals more than ever the urgent need for Quebeckers to provide themselves with a modern constitution which enshrines a raison d’état –– a reason of state — which favours them. The Legault government has already announced that it intends to increase the number of hydro-electric projects to cater to the needs of foreign companies, mainly American, for cheap electricity in the name of “clean energy.” It has well-known plans to make Quebec a hub for the extraction and refining of critical minerals and for lithium and EV battery production as part of the U.S. National Security Strategy and U.S. “vital interests.” This directly means U.S. war production and its striving for world hegemony.
As the new session of the National Assembly begins under a majority Legault government, it is more than relevant to know what exactly McKinsey is up to, and the extent of decision-making away from and opposed to the economic, political and environmental concerns of Quebec workers and the Quebec people. The Legault government must be made accountable for its backroom deals and for giving private interests such a privileged place in Quebec’s public sphere and political affairs.