Skip to main content

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberals started seeking advice from “deliverology” expert Sir Michael Barbershortly after last year’s election victory, flying him in to speak at the three cabinet retreats this year.Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press

The federal government is spending at least $200,000 to obtain advice from British "deliverology" guru Sir Michael Barber, according to documents that shed more light on the contract with the political consultant.

Sir Michael's Delivery Associates Limited, based out of London, will attempt to help the Liberals deliver their ambitious campaign promises through its data-driven and results-based management theory, according to a contract obtained under the Access to Information law by Ottawa researcher Ken Rubin. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's Liberals started seeking advice from Sir Michael shortly after last year's election victory, flying him in to speak at the three cabinet retreats this year in St. Andrews by-the-Sea, N.B., Kananaskis, Alta., and Sudbury, Ont.

The Privy Council Office offered Mr. Barber and his Delivery Associates colleague Nick Rodriguez a two-year contract in April, with the option to extend the deal for one year.

"Delivery Associates … has been contracted to work with PCO's Results and Delivery Unit over a two-year period to provide ongoing information, recommendations and advice on a tailored program to guide departments to meet commitments and deliver on priorities," said Raymond Rivet, PCO's director of corporate and media affairs.

"Delivery Associates is uniquely positioned as the world's leading expert on establishing delivery units in Westminster-style parliamentary systems."

Sir Michael has been in the business of "deliverology" – the art of ensuring governments fulfill their commitments – for years. After working as the chief adviser to the British education minister, Tony Blair named Sir Michael as the head of the Prime Minister's Delivery Unit from 2001 to 2005.

Sir Michael then got into consulting, providing services to a wide variety of governments around the world including: Australia, Egypt, Iraq, Myanmar, Pakistan, the American state of Maryland and former Liberal premier Dalton McGuinty's Ontario government. He even references the work of Mr. McGuinty's "talented" former adviser Gerald Butts – now Mr. Trudeau's principal secretary – in his 2015 book How to Run a Government. Mr. Butts travelled to Britain more than a decade ago to learn about the Blair government's delivery-unit methods and played a key role in applying them in Ontario.

The federal government did not issue a tender for the contract because Delivery Associates offers "unique expertise" that no one else could provide, according to the PCO. The PCO did not respond to The Globe and Mail's repeated requests for comment.

The contract consists of two periods, and states that Sir Michael and his team must conduct two to four in-person visits annually and provide two reports a year on the "implementation, management and evolution of a results and delivery-based approach to federal government initiatives."

The initial contract period from April, 2016, to March 31, 2018, is valued at $100,000 annually, excluding taxes, and has a firm schedule tied to a series of deliverables and meetings. The government has the option to extend the contract for an additional year until March 31, 2019, if it wishes, but it's unclear how much the "extended contract period" is worth, as it was blacked out in the access to information response.

The documents also included examples of Sir Michael's work, such as a sample meeting schedule for a delivery team consisting of quarterly meetings, which he calls "stocktakes," monthly notes and semi-annual reports in the policy areas of education, health, transport and crime. Another attachment explains Sir Michael's "delivery chain" concept, which is described as a "set of actors (people or organizations), and the relationships between them, through which a given strategy will be implemented."

Opposition parties accused the Liberals of buying into their "friend" Sir Michael's "trendy" deliverology theory.

"This government has no qualms when it comes to spending taxpayer dollars on whatever they think is trendy and cool," Conservative MP Blaine Calkins said. "Again, this appears to be Liberals looking after their friends."

The NDP's Charlie Angus questioned why the Trudeau government is seeking help from "Mr. Deliverology Guru," who has helped a number of "dodgy" governments deliver on their promises.

"It shouldn't be all that difficult for deliverology for Justin Trudeau. He made some clear promises. He said he'd keep them," Mr. Angus said. "Why do we need a guy who works in Iraq, Libya and Myanmar to come in and tell us how Justin's going to somehow look credible for walking away on these promises?"

Aaron Wudrick, federal director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, said "deliverology is certainly delivering for Mr. Barber." While $200,000 may seem like a bargain in the world of government spending, Mr. Wudrick said the deliverologist still has to prove that the taxpayers' $200,000 investment in his expertise is worth it.

With a report from Doug Saunders

Interact with The Globe