Liberal MP Scott Brison owned up yesterday to sending an e-mail to a bank official discussing an imminent government decision on income trusts, telling the employee that he would be pleased with the outcome.
"I think you will be happier very soon . . . this week probably," Mr. Brison wrote in the e-mail, which the former public works minister released yesterday. The e-mail was written the day before the government announced it would not slap a punitive tax on the trust market, which some investors had feared.
Trading in income trusts spiked the next day, leading to an RCMP probe into whether there had been a leak from the federal government.
Mr. Brison, a potential candidate for the Liberal leadership, made his admission after The Globe and Mail reported that the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce had turned over an e-mail under Mr. Brison's name to the RCMP and stock market regulators. The RCMP announced a probe into the issue in the middle of the recent campaign, and many Liberals say that was a turning point in the election.
Mr. Brison said yesterday that he regretted sending the e-mail, but maintained that he had neither advance knowledge of the decision, nor was he speculating.
"This was certainly something I would certainly not send again," he said. "I did not expect that, in fact, there would be any confusion created by it. I did not communicate any information that was privileged because I did not have any information that was privileged."
He said his e-mail conveyed no more than what was already being speculated about publicly.
Mr. Brison explained that he initiated an e-mail conversation with the CIBC employee in late morning of Nov. 22. Mr. Brison would not name the individual, although the e-mail identifies him as Dan. Mr. Brison said the individual was an acquaintance who he ran into at a Rolling Stones concert in Moncton last summer.
A source told The Globe that the recipient was Dan Nowlan, a senior investment banker at CIBC's brokerage arm, CIBC World Markets.
Mr. Nowlan could not be reached for comment, while the bank declined to discuss the matter.
However, people familiar with the issue said that the bank launched an internal review of its trading during that time and did not find anything unusual. The bank, nevertheless, brought the matter to the RCMP and the Ontario Securities Commission.
According to the e-mails released by Mr. Brison, the recipient expressed displeasure with the state of the equity markets. About six hours later, Mr. Brison made the controversial remarks.
Mr. Brison also admitted yesterday he wasn't as transparent with a Globe reporter as he might have been when he was asked this week whether he sent the offending missive.
"At the time, I was reluctant to discuss what I knew to be the subject of an RCMP investigation. I realized, upon reading the article, that I should have been more clear in my comments."
Mr. Brison also acknowledged the RCMP discussed the matter with him on Jan. 18, five days before the election, an issue he would not comment on earlier this week. He said he did not make similar remarks to any other individuals.
Mr. Brison was also asked whether the issue might cloud his potential run for the Liberal leadership.
"I think that, in fact, dealing with it directly and immediately demonstrates a certain level of leadership in doing the right thing."
Mr. Brison said his e-mail was not the spark that led to the RCMP investigation. He said there was no indication from the police whether he might face charges.
"I was participating in a fact-finding mission and would continue to, if asked."
A senior Liberal source said it was still unclear whether Mr. Brison's hopes for the leadership would be harmed. But the Liberal said many party members were expressing concern yesterday because the Nova Scotia MP is seen as an asset to the party.
NDP finance critic Judy Wasylycia-Leis said that, even if Mr. Brison did not know of the details, he should not have been speculating.
She said Mr. Brison was wrong to send the e-mail, "whether it's inadvertent or advertent, deliberate or not."