How global consultancy firm McKinsey helped craft Quebec's profits-before-lives pandemic policy

How global consultancy firm McKinsey helped craft Quebec’s profits-before-lives pandemic policy

Recent revelations showing that McKinsey, one of the world’s largest consulting firms, helped determine essential elements of the Quebec government’s disastrous response to the COVID-19 pandemic provide a graphic illustration of the dictatorship that big business exercises over society.

In its interactions with the government of Francois Legault, McKinsey articulated the principles that have guided Quebec’s COVID policy: the prioritization of corporate profits over public health; exclusive reliance on vaccines instead of a comprehensive strategy to eliminate the virus including mass testing, contact tracing and quarantining; and the premature and hasty reopening of schools and non-essential industries to bail out financial markets and investors.

The toll of this criminal policy, fully endorsed by Justin Trudeau’s federal Liberal government, is nearly 17,000 official COVID deaths in Quebec and nearly 46,000 nationally, almost all of which were preventable—not to mention the 20 million victims of the pandemic worldwide.

McKinsey is a US-based company that employs 30,000 consultants and support staff in 130 offices across 65 countries and has annual revenues of $10 billion. Associates of the consulting firm become prominent government officials or rise to senior positions in the world’s largest companies. Such is the case of Dominic Barton, who went from McKinsey’s top boardroom to head Canada’s embassy in China and is now the chairman of the board at Rio Tinto. McKinsey charges governments and big business exorbitant fees for “strategic management” advice that leads to the privatization of public services and brutal attacks on the working class.

Because Quebec’s health care system was utterly unprepared for the pandemic, the Legault government had to call in the military to assist at the worst hit long-term care homes during the calamitous first wave of the pandemic.

Working with the most predatory companies and reactionary governments, McKinsey has been involved in a number of scandals. It advised cigarette manufacturers as they knowingly developed a more addictive product. It was working with Purdue Pharma as it developed its ultra-aggressive sales techniques for Oxycontin, the painkiller at the root of the US opioid crisis (in 2021, McKinsey agreed to pay US states $600 million for its role in the crisis). And it backed the US Border Patrol as Trump implemented his brutal anti-immigrant measures.

On September 30, just days before the October 3 Quebec election, Radio-Canada revealed that the Legault-led right-wing Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) government paid McKinsey more than $6.5 million for consulting services related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Under two untendered contracts signed on April 2, 2020, and July 28, 2021, the firm played a key role in managing the pandemic in Quebec. He advised the Legault government and Quebec Public Health on communications, the purchase of protective equipment, testing strategies, and staffing shortages in residential and long-term care centers (CHSLD).

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