By Jorge Barrera
APTN National News
OTTAWA–Bruce Carson received a top level “secret” clearance to work in the Prime Minister’s Office, but he never disclosed his 1990 fraud convictions to top political staff, according to Ian Brodie, a former chief of staff to Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
Carson, a former advisor to Harper, has been in the midst of a still swirling controversy triggered by an APTN investigation into his lobbying activities for an Ottawa-based water company. The company had a contract with Carson’s fiancee, a former escort, guaranteeing her a percentage from sales of water filtration systems sold to First Nation communities.
The PMO asked the RCMP to probe Carson after a meeting with APTN reporters who disclosed some information uncovered as part of an investigation into the Conservative operative’s activities.
The Canadian Press reported Sunday that Carson was convicted on three fraud counts in the 1990s. This comes in addition to his criminal conviction and jailing in the 1980s on two counts of defrauding clients.
Carson also told the news agency he had received secret clearance to work in the PMO, which he left in 2008, before returning for a brief stint in 2009. Carson told Canadian Press he disclosed his criminal past to Brodie in 2006.
Brodie, however, told APTN Carson never disclosed his 1990 convictions.
“He briefed me regarding his early 1980s criminal record and disbarment. I was not aware of his more recent criminal charges until I read yesterday’s news reports,” wrote Brodie, in an email to APTN.
Brodie said Carson was given secret security clearance by the Privy Council Office, the central agency in the federal bureaucracy, and everything seemed fine.
“As far as I know, Mr. Carson’s clearance did not raise any issues regarding his suitability for his PMO duties,” said Brodie. “I relied, as I should have, on the security clearance process.”
Brodie was Harper’s chief of staff in the PMO from 2006 to 2008. He also served in the same capacity while Harper was in opposition from the summer of 2005 to 2006.
In a short statement to APTN, a Privy Council spokesman simply said that the department handled clearances, but “exempt” political staff like Carson were hired by the PMO.
Harper said during a campaign stop Monday that he also didn’t know about Carson’s 1990 convictions and suggested the Privy Council should improve its clearance process. Harper said he wouldn’t have hired Carson if he knew about the issue.
Carson told APTN that Harper was one of his “closest friends” and the two had known each other for “20 years.”
Court documents uncovered by CP showed Carson was charged with defrauding Budget Car and Truck Rental of a 1989 Toyota vehicle, along with defrauding the Bank of Montreal and the Toronto-Dominion Bank of sums over $1,000 each.
Carson pleaded guilty to all three counts and was given a suspended sentence and 24 months probation which included a condition he continue psychiatric treatment.
Carson also declared bankruptcy in 1993 and 2002.
APTN first reported that Carson was lobbying Indian Affairs for Ottawa-based water company H2O Pros, which later created H2O Global Group to handle potential water contracts with First Nations communities.
The company signed two contracts with Michele McPherson, a former Ottawa escort Carson said was his fiancee.
The first contract guaranteed McPherson 20 per cent of gross revenues from sales of water filtration systems to First Nations communities. It was replaced by a second contract outlining a tiered payment scheme for McPherson ranging from 15 to 20 per cent on the sale of each filtration system.
APTN also obtained a number of emails showing Carson lobbying Indian Affairs for the water company and he also claimed inside knowledge of government activities.