What Did the Prime Minister Really Know About Bruce Carson’s Past?


MEET BRUCE CARSON, as early as the 1970s a compulsive thief and fraudster and, in more recent decades, a fixture of Parliament Hill. He is the man who today begs the necessary question, Who exactly has failed to do their job?

Carson makes you shake your head in impotent disbelief. He bounced cheques, bought a car and a house and failed to make payments on both, was sued by the Hudson’s Bay Co. for non-payment of goods, and was disbarred and jailed after being found guilty of defrauding clients – yet still found the doors to Parliament wide open.

He was charming and friendly and good at research. To most he was at worst a person with a distant, troubled past. So they gave him his second chance.

The Liberal Party of Canada hired him not long after his release from prison, in the mid 1980s. While still working on the Hill, Carson was soon enough hatching new fraud schemes, this time targeting the car rental company Budget, Toronto-Dominion bank and the Bank of Montreal. In the early 1990s he divorced and went through an emotionally difficult time, during which he sought psychiatric assessment and support at the Royal Ottawa Hospital.

Politicians continued to request his services. In the 1990s he worked for a number of Conservative Senators. He was known in the 1980s for an excessive lifestyle, but his financial troubles in the early 1990s had more to do with the expenses of supporting two families. Carson declared bankruptcy in 1993, and less than ten years later he again faced bankruptcy, but this time around agreed to an arrangement whereby he would pay debts.

All of this, and more, was reported by Joan Bryden and Jim Bronskill, of the Globe and Mail, on April 3, 2011. By that time, Bruce Carson was a senior advisor to the Prime Minister of Canada, Stephen Harper. He had been given the stamp of approval by William Elliott, national security adviser at the Privy Council Office.

Carson’s past might have gone unnoted and unremarked, had he not engaged in  lobbying of Indian Affairs, on behalf of a company that wanted to sell water filtration systems to First Nations and which also happens to have employed his fiancée. Even though he had left the Prime Minister’s Office, the terms of Carson’s employment agreement prohibited such lobbying. He is now the subject of an RCMP investigation.

Carson’s supporters are emphatic that the rules governing lobbying are misguided and that he’s done nothing wrong. The Prime Minister says he didn’t know the detailed history, and that he would’t have gone ahead with the hire if he had. But if a journalist could find this history, how could the national security services of the federal government not? It does looks as though either someone in the Prime Minister’s Office didn’t do their job, or (more likely) they did do it, and none of today’s inconvenient facts were of concern to the Prime Minister.

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