OTTAWA -- The dizzying fall, resurrection and steep descent anew of Bruce Carson -- from convicted felon to close adviser to Prime Minister Stephen Harper -- took another turn Friday with word he'd been charged with influence peddling by the RCMP.
The Mounties issued a brief news release Friday that offered few details, other than that Carson is alleged to have accepted a commission for a third party in connection with a business matter relating to the government.
The RCMP investigation began in March 2011 amid the superheated atmosphere of pre-election Ottawa when the PMO contacted police with allegations Carson had illegally lobbied the federal government on behalf of a company that employed his girlfriend.
There was little hint of PMO rancour when Carson left the prime minister's employ in 2008 to become executive director of the Canada School of Energy and the Environment -- an institution that received $15 million in government funding.
On Friday, however, the tone was decidedly different.
"Immediately after being informed of these allegations last year, our government referred the matter to the RCMP commissioner, the ethics commissioner and the lobbying commissioner,'' said PMO spokesman Andrew MacDougall.
"Any individual who doesn't respect our laws must face their full force as well as the consequences that come with them.''
Carson, 66, is charged with one count of fraud on the government, also known as influence peddling, contrary to the Criminal Code. He's scheduled to make his first court appearance on Sept. 10.
His lawyer, Pat McCann, said Carson, who is not in custody, has been served with a summons to appear in court on the appointed day.
"We don't have much information yet,'' McCann said. "Mr. Carson intends to vigorously defend the allegation.''
NDP ethics critic Charlie Angus called the charge of influence peddling a very serious one which goes to the very heart of holding government accountable in a democracy.
"Stephen Harper and his office only mentioned problems with Bruce Carson's activities after the matter was made public by the media -- as usual, Conservatives only acknowledge their ethical problems after they are caught,'' Angus said in a statement.
"The prime minister still hasn't explained, or taken any responsibility, for how his inner circle included someone with previous criminal convictions for fraud.''
Liberal MP Scott Andrews, the party's ethics critic, wasted no time in adding the charge against Carson to a growing registry of ethics controversies currently dogging the Conservative government.
"Mr. Harper seems to have a penchant for surrounding himself with shady characters,'' Andrews said in a statement, also mentioning several cabinet ministers who are at the centre of their own ethical imbroglios.
"If we are the company we keep, I would strongly suggest Mr. Harper re-evaluate who he chooses for his inner circle.''
Dean Del Mastro, Harper's parliamentary secretary, has denied allegations by Elections Canada that he exceeded spending limits in the 2008 election campaign and then took steps to cover it up.
Earlier this week, the former campaign manager for federal Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Peter Penashue apologized for mistakes and omissions in paperwork after a review found Penashue's team overspent the legal limit by $4,000.
And Industry Minister Christian Paradis, formerly Canada's minister of public works, was cautioned by the ethics commissioner after he directed bureaucrats in his department to set up meetings in 2009 with two firms in his Quebec riding.
Paradis subsequently acknowledged the commissioner's comments and insisted there was nothing untoward about the meetings.
In all three cases, none of the allegations has been proven in court and no charges have been laid.
Harper's office first called the RCMP on Carson after allegations connected to a news investigation by the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network. The matter was also referred to the office of the conflict of interest and ethics commissioner and the commissioner of lobbying.
The network reported that Carson had allegedly been lobbying Indian and Northern Affairs Canada and the minister's office on behalf of an Ottawa-based water company that employed his girlfriend. They were allegedly trying to sell water filtration systems to aboriginal reserves with water quality problems.
The APTN report was based on an email sent by Carson to company executives in which he claimed advance knowledge of John Duncan's forthcoming appointment to the Indian Affairs portfolio.
It subsequently came to light that Carson was hired by the Prime Minister's Office in 2006 despite having a criminal record, which he disclosed at the time. That revelation prompted opposition questions about screening processes inside the PMO.
During his PMO stint, it was publicly known that Carson had been disbarred by the Law Society of Upper Canada and jailed in the early 1980s for two counts of defrauding clients. Court documents showed another run-in with the law in 1990, while he was working as a researcher for the Library of Parliament.
Carson was charged with defrauding a rental-car outlet of a 1989 Toyota. He was also charged with defrauding two banks of sums exceeding $1,000 each.
In June 1990, Carson pleaded guilty to all three counts and received a suspended sentence and 24 months probation on condition that he continue treatment at the Royal Ottawa Hospital -- a psychiatric institution -- and make restitution of $4,000 within 23 months to the car-rental company.
Carson was one of the more experienced hands in Harper's generally young government when it came to power in 2006, having worked in politics for decades. Many Conservatives lamented his departure when he left for Calgary in 2008.
Carson had dealt specifically with energy and environment issues inside Harper's office. The opposition called his appointment a direct conflict of interest.
Former colleagues have said Carson was well-liked by MPs, whom he served on Commons committees, and described him as a bright, affable, easy-going individual who produced solid, reliable research.
He also impressed politicians in more than one party. According to a friend, he worked freelance for the Liberal caucus research bureau at some point during John Turner's 1984-90 term as leader. He also served in the Progressive Conservative research service at the Ontario legislature and for Conservatives senators on the Hill during the 1990s.
The Huffington Post Canada's <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/althia-raj/" target="_hplink">Ottawa Bureau Chief Althia Raj</a> lists the MPs who stumbled during the Parliamentary session. (CP)
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2011/11/25/rob-anders-sleeping-video_n_1113337.html" target="_hplink">Anders said a car accident was to blame after video of the Calgary MP sleeping</a> in the House of Commons went viral. Then he was accused of falling asleep again, this time during a Veterans Affairs committee meeting. Instead of apologizing to the veterans he'd greeted with a snore, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/03/06/rob-anders-sleep-video-apology_n_1324139.html" target="_hplink">Anders accused them of being NDP hacks</a>. They said they were card-carrying Conservatives. Anders apologized soon after, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/03/28/rob-anders-tory-mp-veterans-affairs_n_1386484.html" target="_hplink">but he was booted from the committee</a>. (CP)
Dean Del Mastro
If he hadn't been so <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/03/16/rocobocalls-scandal-dean-del-mastro_n_1354739.html?utm_hp_ref=robocalls-scandal" target="_hplink">sanctimonious</a> about the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/news/robocalls-scandal" target="_hplink">robocalls scandal</a>, Canadians might feel a bit sorry for the guy. In court documents, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/news/dean-del-mastro" target="_hplink">Elections Canada seems to suggest Del Mastro committed electoral fraud</a> by over-contributing to his campaign by writing a personal $21,000 cheque for, you guessed it, robocalls. It is alleged his campaign overspent it's allowed limit and tried to hide it. Del Mastro initially appeared genuinely shocked by the allegations but more than two weeks later, as more evidence mounts, he still can't provide <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/06/11/dean-del-mastro-spending-election_n_1587236.html?utm_hp_ref=robocalls-scandal" target="_hplink">answers</a>. (CP)
This NDP MP from Montmorency--Charlevoix--Haute-Côte-Nord <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/04/30/marc-garneau-mail-stolen-jonathan-tremblay_n_1465618.html" target="_hplink">opened mail marked for Liberal MP Marc Garneau</a> and then kept the contents, toy spaceships, for his own purposes. Seriously, he stole mail. And what was with that rat-tail? (Handout)
This minister needs to tone down the rhetoric. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/05/01/peter-kent-charities-laundering_n_1469641.html" target="_hplink">Accusing charities of laundering money</a> is not only a criminal allegation, it doesn't help his argument. Why doesn't Kent come up with rational reasons to justify the government's actions on the environment? It's one of the reasons no one believes the Conservatives care about the file. (CP)
It isn't the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2011/12/15/peter-mackay-hotel-expense-munich-istanbul_n_1151049.html" target="_hplink">expensive hotels</a> but the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/news/f-35" target="_hplink">F-35 procurement fiasco</a> that really lands this minister in hot water. Did MacKay allow officials to sneak something past him without appropriate scrutiny? Did he knowingly mislead Canadians about the cost of the fighter jets? This minister needs to take control of his department. (CP)
The loose-lipped New Democrat from Winnipeg not only dropped a few <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2011/11/17/pat-martin-twitter-swearing_n_1099126.html" target="_hplink">F-bombs</a> on <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/03/17/pat-martin-twitter-tweet-stephen-gordon_n_1355308.html" target="_hplink">Twitter </a>this year but was also too quick with his vocal criticism of the robocalls scandal. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/06/08/racknine-lawsuit-pat-martin_n_1582347.html" target="_hplink">Now he finds himself the subject of a $5 million lawsuit that won't go away</a>, no matter <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/04/16/pat-martin-apology-racknine_n_1428508.html" target="_hplink">how many times he apologizes</a>. (CP)
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/04/23/bev-oda-savoy-hotel_n_1444818.html" target="_hplink">$16 orange juice</a>. Hundreds more for fancier hotels. Thousands more for limousines. She's the minister in charge of helping starving children. Need we say more? (CP)
First the Public Minister said Canadians who opposed the government's desire to spy on the public whenever it wishes<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/02/16/vic-toews-youtube-vikileaks-twitter_n_1281633.html?utm_hp_ref=vic-toews" target="_hplink"> were standing with child pornographers</a>. Then, in a radio interview, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/02/20/vic-toews-lawful-access-bill-c-30_n_1288252.html?utm_hp_ref=vic-toews" target="_hplink">he appeared to have little knowledge of what his bill actually contained</a>. His comments created an uproar and the bill has been shelved -- <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/05/16/bill-c-30-lawful-access-online-surveillance-vic-toews_n_1521477.html?utm_hp_ref=vic-toews" target="_hplink">for now</a>. This week, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/06/19/canada-border-audio-monitoring-listening_n_1609093.html?utm_hp_ref=vic-toews" target="_hplink">Toews also had to back down from a CBSA plan to spy on travellers in Canadian airports</a>. The government now plans to talk about its proposal with the Privacy Commissioner before moving forward. (CP)
This rookie MP from Saint-Maurice--Champlain <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/01/10/lise-st-denis-ndp-join-liberals_n_1196406.html" target="_hplink">announced in January that she was switching parties and joining the Liberals</a> after spending ten years volunteering with the NDP. She told reporters she ran for the New Democrats but never expected to be elected and infamously declared, in one of the year's least tactful comments: "They voted for Jack Layton. Jack Layton died." St-Denis said she didn't want to spend three years listening to a party defend policies she disagreed with. She pointed to the NDP opposing the mission extension in Libya, opposing public-private partnership for large-scale infrastructure deals and its desire to abolish the Senate. We can only ask, did St-Denis read any of the NDP's policies during her 10 years as a volunteer? We're not sure the Liberals got the best of the batch here... (CP)
This <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/05/23/david-wilks-budget-bill-c-38_n_1540471.html" target="_hplink">B.C. MP from Kootenay--Columbia told his constituents he agreed with them that there were problems with Bill C-38</a>, the Tories' omnibus budget legislation, and said he was prepared to oppose it if other Conservatives joined him. But as soon as the story, and his comments, hit the Web, Wilks did a complete 180, saying he supported the Conservative government's budget bill. Although <a href="http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/inside-politics-blog/2012/06/david-wilks-still-towing-line-on-budget-bill.html" target="_hplink">he recently told CBC's Julie Van Dusen that after reading the bill he now thinks the legislation is "great for Canada,"</a> we think he either misled his constituents or sold them out after being disciplined by the Prime Minister's Office. (Handout)
Best MPs Of The Session
The Huffington Post Canada's <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/althia-raj/" target="_hplink">Ottawa Bureau Chief Althia Raj</a> lists the MPs who deserve credit for strong performances during the Parliamentary session. (CP)
The Edmonton MP and Public Works Minister didn't have an easy time as environment minister a few years back but now <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/06/19/rona-ambrose-public-works_n_1609668.html?utm_hp_ref=canada-politics" target="_hplink">everything Ambrose touches seems to come out smoothly</a> -- at least, that's what the government hopes. After successfully managing a $33-billion shipbuilding contract that didn't split the country apart, she's now entrusted with ensuring another billion-dollar procurement, the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/news/f-35" target="_hplink">bungled F-35 jet deal</a> (through the <a href="http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/story/2012/05/02/pol-f-35-secretariat-name-change.html" target="_hplink">national fighter procurement secretariat</a>), goes smoothly and fairly. (CP)
The NDP MP for Timmins--James Bay <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/charlie-angus/attawapiskat-emergency_b_1104370.html" target="_hplink">drew international attention to the plight of the Attawapiskat First Nation in his northern Ontario riding after writing a blog about it on The Huffington Post Canada</a> this fall. The blog and the public pressure it garnered forced the federal government to take action on a situation it had largely ignored. (CP)
The former NDP leadership contender may have lost the <a href="http://huffingtonpost.ca/news/ndp-leadership-race" target="_hplink">leadership race</a> but he earned a lot of respect. His willingness to reach across party lines and work with Liberals may come in handy later on. Watch for him now in his more visible role as NDP house leader. (CP)
After two minority governments, the prime minister is now taking the long view on Canada's future. While he tends to appear more statesmanlike abroad than at home, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/01/26/harper-davos-immigration-ottawa_n_1233664.html" target="_hplink">his speech in Davos this January signalled his willingness to make tough decisions to ensure long-term economic growth</a>. Harper's suggestions: pension reform, new free trade deals, more intense development of Canada's natural resources, lower health care spending and major immigration reforms. (CP)
He may have taken his lumps for <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/06/19/kenney-hits-reply-all-_n_1609294.html" target="_hplink">calling the deputy premier of Alberta an "asshole,"</a> but one thing we appreciate about Kenney is that he says what he thinks and doesn't mince words. He maintains a delicate balance between currying favours with immigrants and <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/04/22/bill-c-31-human-smuggling-canada-refugees-jason-kenney_n_1444267.html?utm_hp_ref=jason-kenney" target="_hplink">taking a hard line on would-be refugees</a>. While it may appear the hard-working MP sometimes lacks compassion, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/04/17/jason-kenney-huffington-post-canada-immigration_n_1432940.html?utm_hp_ref=jason-kenney" target="_hplink">his focus on ensuring immigrants serve Canada (rather than the other way around) is good for the economy</a> and should help new immigrants by giving them easier access to quality jobs. (CP)
Megan Leslie & Michelle Rempel
The NDP's environment critic and the environment minister's parliamentary secretary are two smart women who make question period worth watching. Leslie, left, asks intelligent questions and has a knack for baiting her older Conservative colleagues into saying something stupid. Rempel has outshone her minister, Peter Kent by managing to deflect opposition attacks in clever ways without ever putting her foot in her mouth. These are two rising stars. (CP)
The Green Party Leader has shown what one MP can do with a team of volunteers and a lot of heart. Canadians with any knowledge of<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/news/canada-budget-2012" target="_hplink"> C-38, the Conservative omnibus budget</a>, likely have May to thank. May has been ferocious in her attacks on the bundled bill and her ability to work with opposition parties resulted in the<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/06/14/bill-c-38-omnibus-budget-amendments-twitter_n_1597755.html" target="_hplink"> longest series of marathon votes Canadians have seen in a long time</a>. (CP)
It's always difficult for politicians to put their personal ambitions aside. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/06/13/bob-rae-liberal-leadership-run-off_n_1593269.html" target="_hplink">In stepping away from the Liberal leadership race, Rae took another one for the team</a>. Highly regarded by colleagues in and out of his party, he's an effective communicator who kept the Liberals alive in the Commons despite third place status. (CP)
Not only did the Liberal MP for Papineau shame Conservatives across the country when he <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/news/justin-trudeau-boxing" target="_hplink">pummeled Tory Sen. Patrick Brazeau in a nationally televised boxing match</a>, but he re-energized Liberals into believing former goals were possible. Trudeau doesn't yet have the experience, but he's smarter than many people give him credit for and <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/06/20/liberal-leadership-justin-trudeau_n_1613739.html?utm_hp_ref=justin-trudeau" target="_hplink">he could cause the NDP headaches if he decides to throw his hat in the leadership ring</a>. (CP)
Quiet and unassuming, the rookie NDP MP from Aylmer, Que., was thrown into a leadership role she didn't want last August and steered the official opposition through months of difficult polling and stories about her ineffective leadership. Turmel doesn't get enough credit for keeping the NDP caucus (mostly) together after the death of Jack Layton and through the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/news/ndp-leadership-race" target="_hplink">subsequent leadership race</a>. (CP)