Bruce Carson had no problems getting his calls returned in Ottawa after he left the Prime Minister’s Office in 2008. Working in the energy sector, he was in regular contact with the top federal bureaucrats and senior Conservatives, including ministers and PMO officials, such as former chief of staff Nigel Wright.
Mr. Carson’s network was so valued at the Energy Policy Institute of Canada (EPIC) that one of his colleagues dubbed him the “secret sauce” in the organization’s ability to sell its pro-business agenda to the government.
On Monday, however, the RCMP announced a series of charges against Mr. Carson, alleging he used the contacts that he cultivated in his time in Conservative circles to engage in illegal lobbying and influence peddling. The RCMP said the charges were related to Mr. Carson’s work with EPIC and the Canada School of Energy and Environment (CSEE). He is scheduled to appear in court on these matters on June 18.
Mr. Carson is already facing another trial, scheduled to start on May 26, over the alleged use of his connections in Ottawa to sell filtration systems to First Nations.
In a recent interview, he denied any wrongdoing, stating he was ready to fight the 2012 charges “tooth and nail.” Mr. Carson also rejected allegations of illegal lobbying at EPIC and CSEE, which were first laid out in document filed in court by the RCMP last year.
“There was no lobbying involved in that at all,” Mr. Carson said. His lawyer, Patrick McCann, added on Monday that “Mr. Carson was simply attempting to gather support for the creation of a national energy policy.”
According to RCMP documents filed in court last November, Mr. Carson collected an honorarium of $60,000 a year at EPIC, a non-profit group formed by business organizations in the energy sector in 2009.
In February, 2010, EPIC’s board adopted a motion stating that Mr. Carson “would not lobby the federal government on behalf of EPIC,” given he faced a five-year freeze on lobbying activities after leaving government two years earlier. However, the RCMP is alleging that “Mr. Carson’s lobbying activities increased after the motion ‘not to lobby the federal government on behalf of EPIC’ was passed.”
The documents show that Mr. Carson set up meetings with the Clerk of the Privy Council and deputy ministers at Natural Resources, giving him access to some of the top bureaucrats in Ottawa. He also was in touch with ministers and political officials, including Christian Paradis, who was at Natural Resources. In 2011, Mr. Carson sent an e-mail to Mr. Wright, who had recently become the Prime Minister’s chief of staff.
“I don’t think we have ever met – but we have a few mutual friends – so firstly good luck with this great adventure you have taken on – and secondly thought I would share with you a report I just finished on energy,” Mr. Carson wrote in an e-mail exchange quoted in the RCMP documents.
Mr. Wright replied: “I’ve heard a lot of good things about you. Feel free to give me a call at any time. I’ll read the report over the weekend.”
A colleague at EPIC, Doug Black, told Mr. Carson in July, 2010, that “We could do nothing of this without you.” Later that year, Mr. Black (now a Conservative senator) added: “We are making progress and you are the secret sauce.”
The RCMP saw the meetings in another light.
“This continues to demonstrate Mr. Carson was constantly promoting EPIC’s initiative with members of the federal government, namely, ‘public office holders,’ contrary to … the Lobbying Act,” Constable Marie-Josée Robert wrote.
The RCMP also alleged that Mr. Carson was EPIC’s point person in dealing with government officials because of his “perceived influence” in Ottawa. Regarding a $13,000 agreement between EPIC and the federal government, the RCMP alleged that it was “a prime example of his influence” in Ottawa.
With a report from Kathryn Blaze Carlson