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Former Harper aide's smooth style opened doors to bureaucrats

Bruce Carson Speaking at the Banff Conference 2010

Bruce Carson's smooth demeanour and the political credentials he developed during the years he worked as a senior adviser to Prime Minister Stephen Harper opened the doors to cabinet ministers and aboriginal leaders.

Mr. Carson, 66, stands accused of using the access he had to senior members of the Harper government to sell filtration systems to first nations.

His 22-year-old fiancée, Michele McPherson, an escort who also worked for the Ottawa-based water filtration company H2O Pros, was guaranteed to receive 20 per cent of all gross revenues from sales of the filtration systems on reserves, according to the Aboriginal People's Television Network.

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The network, which broke the story that has shaken Ottawa's political establishment, says it has a contract outlining the deal that bears Mr. Carson's signature as witness.

The matter has been turned over to the RCMP by Mr. Harper, and Constable Julie Morel said the force is trying to determine whether a criminal investigation is warranted.

It was the second time in a week the government has referred the activities of a previous staff member to the Mounties. On Monday, Public Works Minister Rona Ambrose alerted the RCMP that Sebastien Togneri, a former aide to Natural Resources Minister Christian Paradis, may have improperly interfered with an access-to-information request when the two were at the Public Works Department.

Mr. Carson resigned from his job as executive director of the Canada School of Energy and Environment after the allegations against him were made public. He took the post after the 2008 election, a campaign he spent on Mr. Harper's plane after more than two years in the PMO.

But he also spent time trying to sell the water filtration systems to aboriginal communities. One office that listened to his pitch was that of John Duncan, the Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs.

"The minister's staff met with Bruce Carson on one occasion," Michelle Yao, a spokeswoman for the minister, said Thursday. "Mr. Carson briefed the staff on the proposed water project. Staff provided publicly available information to Bruce Carson and recommended he work directly with first nations."

Which apparently he did. "I had understood that, as recently as back in October, there were first nations who alerted us that they were being told that I, or officials of the AFN, were endorsing or supporting this filtration system and we just made it very clear that that was not the case," said Sean Atleo, the National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations.

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First nations leaders were allegedly being warned by the promoters of the H2O Pro system that new legislation before the Senate will require them to meet stringent drinking water standards but will provide no resources to do so. The communities were allegedly told that government connections could be used to find money for the equipment and training if they purchased the systems.

At the same time, Mr. Carson was trying to convince the company he still had powerful access to the government. In one e-mail, obtained by the APTN, he wrote two officials at H2O Pros claiming he had spoken with the Prime Minister on Aug. 5 about the pending appointment of Mr. Duncan to the Indian Affairs portfolio. He later admitted to the APTN that he had not spoken directly to Mr. Harper, but rather to someone in his office.

It's not the first time Mr. Carson has had a run-in with the law. He was disbarred in 1981 and sentenced to 18 months in jail in 1983 after pleading guilty to two counts of theft over $200. The charges apparently related to a real-estate deal gone bad.

He also has a long career in Conservative politics dating back to former leaders Joe Clark and Jean Charest. Around Ottawa. Mr. Carson is known as "the Mechanic" because, as he told an Alberta magazine earlier this year, "I fix things."

The members of Mr. Harper's inner circle were well aware of his criminal background when he became part of the transition team after Mr. Harper took office in 2006. But they felt he had paid his dues. "His advice was valued, there is no doubt about that," a Conservative official said.

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