In business with a former high-ranking official

A Health Ministry executive managed to co-found a company with a lobbyist that targeted his own ministry, while receiving his full civil service salary.

In business with a former high-ranking official

A Health Ministry executive managed to co-found a company with a lobbyist that targeted his own ministry, while receiving his full civil service salary.

Our Bureau of Investigation discovered that on January 19, Stéphane Brossard, director of information technology at the ministry, became president and shareholder of Plakett digital health.

He did not officially leave the ministry until February 11.

In his new professional adventure, the former senior civil servant is associated with Isabelle Girard, president of Plakett Clinical Services.

Little known to the general public, this company specializes in consulting services for medical clinics and primary care.

Plakett has multiplied its links with the Ministry of Health for several years (see opposite). Ms. Girard is a lobbyist and has obtained two contracts by mutual agreement.

In addition to Stéphane Brossard, the company hired the former senior political adviser to the minister and gave consulting mandates to a former associate deputy minister.

Ministry not informed

The Ministry of Health maintains that Stéphane Brossard notified him on January 16 that he intended to leave his post to go into business.

However, he indicates that he was not informed at this time of the creation of Plakett digital health and of Isabelle Girard's role in this company.

"At that time, the MSSS [ministère de la Santé et des Services sociaux] asked Mr. Brossard not to begin his business activities before his departure from the MSSS," said a spokeswoman for the ministry, Marjorie Larouche.

The regulations do not prevent a former manager from going into business, but he must respect the applicable ethics and post-employment rules.

"We have no information that allows us to believe that Mr. Brossard did not respect these rules," said the ministry.

No interview

When contacted by telephone by our Investigation Office, Stéphane Brossard refused to answer our questions and promised to call us back. Rather, it was a public relations firm that provided explanations by email.

"By the nature of our consulting mandates, the majority of the members of Plakett's team may have come into contact, at different times, with employees of several ministries, including the Ministry of Health, in particular Mr. Brossard", indicated Maxime Couture of Catapult communication.

For Professor Marie-Soleil Tremblay of the National School of Public Administration (ENAP), the situation is questionable.

"We are in the gray, there is a reputational risk," she said.

The public management specialist recommends a period of one year between the departure of a senior official from a ministry and employment with a private supplier.

“There is a certain distance that must be kept between the public apparatus and the suppliers,” she says.

– With Pascal Dugas Bourdon and Nicolas Lachance, Bureau of Investigation

A former associate deputy minister who subsequently obtained consulting mandates with Plakett denies any favouritism.

Luc Bouchard left the ministry in May 2021. It was he who signed the two contracts given without competition to Plakett in 2020.

Then, in the fall of 2021, he got two paid terms from Plakett.

Contacted for the first time by our Bureau of Investigation, he initially denied having worked for the company.

A few days later, he admitted having done representation for Plakett outside Quebec.

Two mandates that did not exceed a few hours, assures the company.

In an interview, Mr. Bouchard acknowledges that as deputy minister, he had contact with Plakett and its president, Isabelle Girard.

“Plakett is the company that works the most with FMGs [family medicine groups] and medical clinics and others […] It is the authority in Quebec in this,” he says.

Over-the-counter contracts

One of the contracts given without competition to Plakett was for the analysis of different technologies for making appointments with a doctor.

According to documents obtained under access to information, Isabelle Girard presented her analysis to the deputy minister in November 2019.

For this same contract, she also had the mandate to study the computerization needs of specialists in private practice.

Luc Bouchard now works at the Institute for the Relevance of Medical Acts (IPAM). He acknowledges continuing to meet with Plakett employees on occasion.

“We meet suppliers [in particular those referred by Plakett]. We listen to what they have to say, that's it, that's all. Afterwards, we refer them to the Ministry of Health or the FMSQ,” he says.

IPAM was created as part of the agreement between the Federation of Medical Specialists of Quebec and the Treasury Board, when Christian Dubé was in charge. The Institute aims to identify sources of annual savings in the remuneration of physicians.

Recruitment of the Dubé advisor

Last January, Plakett recruited Patrick-Emmanuel Parent, senior political adviser to Minister Christian Dubé, who had announced his departure from the cabinet a month earlier. He says he learned after joining Plakett that the company was playing a strategic advisory role with people involved in rolling out the physician appointment scheduling orchestrator. This orchestrator is essential to the patient access counter, one of the centerpieces of the health overhaul plan presented by Christian Dubé in March.

The Minister makes a speech

Minister Christian Dubé gave the opening speech at the last Frontline Health Symposium, organized by Plakett, on May 13. Isabelle Girard also maintains links with the Associate Minister of Health, Lionel Carmant. Last December, the two ministers were also reunited during an activity of the UP Pediatric Center in Brossard in the company of the boss of Plakett.

An active lobbyist

Isabelle Girard has been lobbying the Ministry of Health since 2017. She has notably represented the UP Pediatric Emergency Center, the Radiologix group and the Carpe Diem Medical Clinic. His company also offered its lobbying support services. She is currently registered in the register of lobbyists on behalf of the computer firm Logibec.

Two contracts without competition

Plakett received two over-the-counter contracts from the Ministry of Health in 2020. A first contract was awarded to provide an analysis of the different technologies for making appointments with a doctor on the internet. The company also received a contract to deploy the “orchestrator” for making appointments in medical clinics. In both cases, the contract was issued with reservations from the Departmental Contract Management Branch. However, the comments related to these reservations were redacted in the response to an access to information request provided to our Bureau of Investigation.