Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Carson story still raising questions about Harper's judgment

Update (10:30 p.m.) below.

Strange breaking news tonight on the Bruce Carson story, Harper's senior adviser with the many fraud convictions in his past and present day illegal lobbying allegations: "Harper aide sent letters to ethics chief on Carson." Greg Weston is reporting that Guy Giorno, Harper's former chief of staff, wrote two letters to the Ethics Commissioner about Carson in 2008.

One is reported to have occurred upon Carson's travelling with Harper during the 2008 election campaign. Carson had just left government to head up that Canada School of Energy and Environment, an entity funded by Canadian taxpayer dollars and presumably carrying with it a burden of independence.

The second letter by Giorno is reported to have occurred when Carson returned to the PMO during the 2008 constitutional crisis.

Further, news that the deputy minister of the Environment, Ian Shugart, also wrote to the Ethics Commissioner. That may have been in connection with Carson having been "officially retained as an unpaid adviser to the federal environment ministry" while simultaneously serving as director of the Canada School of Energy and Environment. Recall too that Carson worked for an oil patch industry lobby group, the Energy Policy Institute of Canada.

What the feckless Ethics Commissioner did here remains unknown given the rules of how her office operates, that's one thing. Given how the Carson story has blown up, it's worth wondering about.

The larger point, the questions here always return to why Carson was anywhere near a Prime Minister given his background and the ongoing conflict of interest questions.

The latest today on Giorno's letters also strains credibility that Harper knew nothing about ongoing questions about Carson, as he stated to the nation recently:
Stephen Harper says he wouldn’t have installed former adviser Bruce Carson in his Prime Minister’s Office if he had been aware of his past.

The Conservative Leader says he was never told of Mr. Carson’s full criminal record.

“Had I known these things, obviously I wouldn’t have hired him,” the Conservative Leader said after a campaign stop in Ontario’s Niagara region.

“I am [just] learning these things as well.”
Well did he ever talk to Giorno, his chief of staff, as Giorno was apparently writing up a storm to the Ethics Commissioner?

Slippery, slippery.

Update (10:30 p.m.): The PMO  has released the two Giorno letters referenced above. They deal with addressing conflict of interest issues in connection with Carson's continued intermittent employment with the PMO while holding that position at the Canada School. No information on the deputy minister's letter to the Ethics Commissioner there. No further light shed on the conflict referred to above, Carson's other role in that oil patch lobby group and his role as an unpaid adviser for the federal environment ministry, his attendance in Washington for high level bilateral meetings or for that matter, his attendance at an international climate change meeting in a similar capacity either.

Update II: See this Star report on one of Giorno's letters:
Giorno wrote Dawson on Jan. 23, 2009 after concerns that Carson may have been lobbying for the school for a $25 million project while on unpaid leave from the school and working in the Prime Minister’s Office.
Giorno was flagging an email sent from Carson’s account at the school to a senior bureaucrat at the department of natural resources flagging the school’s intention to make an application under Ottawa’s Centres of Excellence program.
Carson was hoping to win a five-year research project for Carbon Management Canada, a program led, in part, by the school.
“We . . . hope that you will be willing to work with us to ensure that CMC is best positioned to move to full proposal,” Carson wrote on Jan. 6, 2009.
But the day the email was sent, Carson was working for Harper in Ottawa.
According to Giorno’s letter, Carson said the email was drafted while he was still at the school and sent in error after he took his unpaid leave. (emphasis added)
Again, the questions remain, how much Harper knew about his adviser's acivities, such as this incident here, that was being defended by Harper's own chief of staff.