Friday, March 25, 2011

Harper buck-passing on Carson allegations

The Harper public relations firm sprang into action yesterday on the Bruce Carson illegal lobbying allegations: "Harper felt betrayed after ex-PMO aide tied to lobbying allegations: sources." A "high-level Conservative" is dishing on the PM's feelings in the Bruce Carson matter. Probably a sign that the PMO is very concerned about the issue going into an election. The spin seems to be saying to us that we're supposed to feel sorry for the betrayed Harper, as if he is a victim here, was powerless to prevent any of this from happening and ultimately has no responsibility for this situation. Yet:
The prime minister was well aware of Carson's past. The Law Society of Upper Canada disbarred Carson in 1981, and he served time in jail after pleading guilty to two counts of defrauding clients.

Minutes from a July 16, 1981, meeting of the society's discipline committee explain why Carson was disbarred.

Their report "found that the solicitor was guilty of professional misconduct."

"He had forged the signature of the president of a corporation and misappropriated over $15,000 belonging to the corporation for which he acted," the document says.

"(He) forged the signature of a client from whom he misappropriated over $4,000; and misappropriated $4,900 belonging to another client."
They say Harper brought Bruce Carson into his office when the Conservatives came to power believing that the disbarred and once-jailed ex-lawyer had paid his debt to society and deserved a chance at rebuilding his life.
In other words, in the spinner's tale, Harper acted benevolently here and that's what we should care about. Bunk. The allegations are piling up and but for Carson with his questionable past having been blessed by the PM, we would likely be reading about none of it.

There has been further attention on the Canada School of the Energy and Environment. It received $15 million in federal funding in 2007, Carson became Executive Director. A former Jim Prentice adviser became deputy director. The school hosted a Conservative friendly speech Carson gave on its website, a site that should be non-partisan. There are larger questions about this government funding arrangement of the school and whose purposes it served.

Carson, private citizen who had left the PMO by April 2009, nevertheless attended at that time as an adviser to former Environment Minister Jim Prentice at a high level bilateral meeting in Washington with U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu. He attended under a conflict of interest cloud given Carson's role in an oil and gas lobby group.

Further: "...five months later the Conservatives sent Mr. Carson to yet another international climate change summit, this time as one of Canada's four official delegates. Mr. Carson was there as the representative of the Prime Minister. However, Mr. Carson's day job was to advise the oil and gas industry on energy and climate change policy. Every Canadian knows this is a conflict of interest."

Both of these attendances by Carson raise questions about how Canada's environmental policy, at the highest levels, was being conducted by the Harper government.

Carson had money problems when he joined the PMO: "While working there, negotiated with revenue agency to avoid defaulting, documents show."

It's all speaking to risky judgment on Harper's part for which he bears responsibility. None of it suggests a PM as a passive observer wrongly done by in this tale.