Hydro-Québec continues to spend large sums to gain access to outside lawyers, i.e. $ 9.2 million in 2020, despite the fact that it already has its own legal department which costs it $ 10.8 million.
According to data provided to Newspaper, the bill for mandates granted to external firms jumped 16.5% last year, compared to 2019. This is the largest expense since 2016.
In five years, the electricity supplier has injected $ 38.9 million to call on various law firms. Last year, more than a dozen firms received checks, including Norton Rose Fulbright ($ 3.2 million), Lavery ($ 1.3 million), LCM Avocats ($ 800,000) and McCarthy Tétrault (300 $ 000).
” Not normal “
According to the Canadian Taxpayers Federation (FCC), it “is not normal” for Hydro-Quebec to spend millions of dollars each year to obtain expertise outside its walls. The FCC believes that the crown corporation should perhaps consider hiring new talent.
“It is normal to seek expertise from time to time, however, year after year, these external costs are very high. This exceeds $ 7 million. In this context, Hydro-Quebec should look at what could be done internally in order to reduce the bill for Quebec taxpayers, ”suggests Renaud Brossard, Quebec director of the FCC.
The legal affairs department at Hydro-Québec has 70 workers, including 46 lawyers. Year in and year out, the payroll for this division hovers around $ 11 million.
For its part, Hydro-Quebec ensures to limit “as much as possible” its recourse to external organizations. Management nevertheless considers this practice necessary to “seek out cutting-edge expertise” in order to support its legal team for “specific cases”.
“From year to year the expertise we need varies. […] By using external firms, this gives us flexibility, ”replies spokesperson Louis-Olivier Batty. “Hydro-Québec has revenues of $ 14 billion. We spend little compared to similar businesses, ”he adds.
In 2020, Hydro-Québec notes that it needed help in particular when signing contracts with Innergex and Enerkem.