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Ex-PMO aide held talks with Kent on native water quality

PMO officials Bruce Carson, left, and Mark Cameron are pictured in Ottawa, on Jan. 23, 2007.


Former Conservative adviser Bruce Carson raised the issue of water quality on reserves in a meeting last month with Environment Minister Peter Kent but did not promote the specific services of the company with which he was working, according to the government.

Mr. Carson is under fire over allegations of unregistered lobbying in relation to meetings with officials at Indian and Northern Affairs Canada on behalf of H20 Pros, including two senior staffers in the office of Minister John Duncan.

A spokesman for Mr. Kent said the Environment Minister met with Mr. Carson on Feb. 7 to discuss "issues related to the environment and clean energy, in Mr. Carson's capacity as head of the Canada School on the Environment and Energy."

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"Mr. Carson did raise general water issues on First Nations but did not name any specific company or companies during the discussion," said Bill Rodgers, director of communications for Mr. Kent.

According to a report on the Aboriginal People's Television Network, which broke the story on Mr. Carson's links with H20 Pros, he was planning to call on Mr. Kent and other government officials to help find a way to sell the company's water filtration system to First Nations.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has referred the matter to the RCMP. Under legislation brought in by the government in 2006, senior federal officials cannot engage in lobbying activities on behalf of private companies for five years after retiring from the government.

The matter was raised in the House of Commons on Monday, with the opposition stating that the controversy raised questions about Mr. Harper's judgment and fuelled allegations of influence peddling.

"Bruce Carson was illicitly using his government connections to finance the purchase of $400-million worth of water filtration units," Liberal MP Dominic LeBlanc said. "According to the contract witnessed by Mr. Carson, his fiancé stood to gain $80-million from the scam. Carson had inside information that could only have come from the Prime Minister's office, like, for example, who was going to be the next minister of Indian Affairs."

Conservative House Leader John Baird praised the government's response to the APTN revelations.

"Immediately after serious allegations were brought to our attention about a former member of the office, the matter was immediately referred to the RCMP, immediately referred to the Ethics Commissioner and immediately referred to the Commissioner of Lobbying. That was the right thing to do," Mr. Baird said. "Let me be very clear, this is the government that brought in tough penalties for people who break the law. Anyone convicted of breaking the law will face the full force of Canadian law."

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Mr. Carson told APTN he felt his work with H20 Pros did not need to attract the attention of the Commissioner of Lobbying, because it constituted a fraction of his overall work for the company.

"I really don't want the Lobbying Commissioner sort of going crazy over my involvement in this," he said. "This would be like one-tenth of one per cent of my time so we're all right."

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