(Patrick Hill, the owner of H2O Pros in March 2011. APTN/Photo)
Jorge Barrera and Kenneth Jackson
APTN National News
Patrick Hill believed Bruce Carson, a former aide to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, would help him land the deal of a lifetime.
Instead, the former president of a now bankrupt water company says he ended up broke, working in Doha, Qatar, and under police investigation.
“I wish I never met Bruce,” said Hill, in a recent telephone interview from a place he claimed to be Doha. “My whole life got destroyed.”
For several years Hill owned Ottawa-based H2O Water Professionals (H20 Pros) and was making good money selling hundreds of water filtration systems. But it wasn’t enough. Hill envisioned something greater for himself.
Once he met Carson in the summer of 2010, the plan was to make millions of dollars. Using Carson’s knowledge of the Ottawa bureaucratic machinery and his political connections, Hill’s company would sell water filtration systems to First Nation communities with water problems.
And for a time, Hill believed he was on the cusp of landing the deal that would change his life. The man who started out as a vacuum cleaner salesman was about to go to another level.
Hill suddenly found himself sitting across from federal Aboriginal Affairs officials at meetings set up by Carson and sitting next to television handy-man Mike Holmes at a table sponsored by his company and the Canada School of Energy and Environment that Carson headed during the Assembly of First Nations Christmas banquet in 2010.
“I saw a huge business out of it … it was worth so much money. I am a businessman and of course I am going to look for something that is going to pay off well and also make my name great in the country,” said Hill.
But there was a catch.
Hill, who says he was “star-struck” by Carson, was told the only way he could use Carson’s high-powered help was by agreeing to a financial arrangement with Carson’s fiancee, Michele McPherson, a former Ottawa escort, for a percentage of gross profits from water filtration sales to First Nations communities.
“I had to give a percentage to someone who was going to help me and that was his girlfriend,” said Hill.
Then it all fell to pieces last March after the Prime Minister’s Office asked the RCMP, the Lobbying Commissioner and the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner to investigate Carson’s activities on behalf of Hill’s company.
He never landed any deals and lost it all.
“I was almost suicidal over this,” said Hill. “That is how devastating it was.”
Bombarded with reporter phone calls, Hill saw his life disintegrate on the nightly national news.
“It was just a nightmare, a nightmare. Every day, watching the media, every reporter calling me from Peter Mansbridge on down, you don’t know what to do,” said Hill. “And then there was the election … so many things run through your mind.”
Now the Ontario Provincial Police is investigating Hill for allegedly defrauding customers. Ontario Consumer Protection Services is also investigating Hill, and his devastated company H2O Pros is now on the province’s “consumer beware list” for failing to respond to complaints.
In an exclusive APTN National News interview last week, Hill said he’d been contacted by the OPP, the Lobbying Commissioner and the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner, but not the RCMP. Hill contacted APTN this week and said he’d been contacted by the RCMP.
Hill says that in his interviews with investigators he was trying to protect Carson and McPherson. Now, with “no love lost” between him and Carson, Hill says he is ready to tell his side.
Now lamenting the fact he is being investigated, he says things couldn’t have turned out worse.
Financially, Hill says he’s ruined. A $150,000 credit line he obtained from his family is gone; a lot of it spent trying to land the water filtration deals with First Nation communities.
Bank records obtained by APTN National News show money flowed in as fast as it flowed out of the company’s bank account. In one month, as much as $100,000 would cycle through the account.
“I lost so much money. My family lost so much money thinking that I was going to get this deal,” said Hill. “My family were . . . like, ‘we’ll help you, here’s $150,000 line of credit.’ Done, gone, over. Everybody lost everything.”
And, like his money, Hill says his business prospects evaporated in Canada after the story broke about his company, Carson and McPherson.
“If I was trying to get a job in Canada, somebody would go on the Internet and see my name. It would be ridiculous,” said Hill. “If you Google my name and Bruce Carson the whole nine yards comes up. It has been a very difficult situation. I miss my family a lot, my two boys and my mom and dad.”
Hill says he was left with no option but to use his airline points to fly to Doha and find work, which came at the suggestion of McPherson’s mother, Christine McPherson who also claims to live in the country.
Hill asked APTN National News not to reveal information about the company that currently employs him.
Now, the elder McPherson is filing statements against him with the OPP and sending reporters information about his personal life and past business conflicts. Former employees have little good to say about Hill’s management style.
Hill, however, says he’s the victim and everyone around him was trying to squeeze him for every last cent.
“A lot of people tried to do things to me and asked me for advances and loans,” said Hill. “It was just a nightmare … Everybody was trying to grind me (but) I didn’t have a penny, I didn’t have a deal … because they knew that Bruce was involved and he was in government, people started seeing dollar signs. All I knew is that I was spending dollar signs and spending dollar signs and people got very greedy.”
Despite his feelings now for Carson, Hill still believes the former political operative was motivated by love.
“I am pretty pissed off at Bruce.” said Hill. “Truthfully, he wanted to change her life…he was in love with her. Head over heels.”
Hill says he never gave Carson any money specifically to lobby for the company.
Hill says that in his three meetings with Aboriginal Affairs officials to discuss his company’s product, Carson always made a point of saying he wasn’t lobbying and had no financial interest in the affair.
“He’d walk in and he’d say, ‘I’m not lobbying,’ and make a joke about having a pretty girlfriend, or it all comes down to a pretty girl and the meeting would start,” said Hill. “He would help steer the meeting, he had a lot more information about stuff than I did.”
Despite repeated attempts through his lawyer and a family member, Carson could not be reached for comment.
Hill says he still remembers that day in August 2010, in a meeting room on the fourth floor of Ottawa’s luxurious Chateau Laurier, when he was handed a contract to sign giving McPherson 20 per cent of all gross profits from the sale of water filtration systems to First Nations communities.
“The reason (I signed it) was I thought that Bruce could help us,” said Hill. “(Carson’s) body language and everything else (told me) you either sign it or we walk away.”
After consulting a lawyer, Hill says he later drafted a second contract giving McPherson 15 per cent.
Hill says he felt some pressure to hire McPherson’s mother Christine McPherson to seal the deal.
“I should have walked out of this a long time ago,” said Hill. Still, Hill says he holds on to a sliver of hope he’ll be able to make everything right again.
“You know what I would really love to do, I would love to just clear my name,” said Hill. “I don’t care if I made a nickel on it.”