Monday, April 4, 2011

Harper says he wouldn't have hired adviser Bruce Carson had he known of his past

April 4, 2011 |Joan Bryden and Jim Bronskill, The Canadian Press

OTTAWA - Prime Minister Stephen Harper says he would never have hired Bruce Carson to advise him had he known about his past.

The federal government will have to do a better job of vetting top-level employees in light of weekend revelations about Carson, Harper said Monday at a campaign stop in rural Ontario.

The Canadian Press reported that Carson was convicted on five counts of fraud — three more than previously known — and received court-ordered psychiatric treatment before becoming one of Harper's closest advisers.

"I did not know about these revelations that we're finding out today. I don't know why I did not know," Harper said.

"Had I known these things, I would not have ... hired him."

Carson's lawyer, Patrick McCann, says his client disclosed his entire criminal record during a security check that was required to become a senior staffer in the Prime Minister's Office.

Harper indicated Monday something went awry.

"Obviously we're going to have to go back, look at our systems — and Privy Council Office is going to have to look at its systems — to make sure these things get caught."

The fresh disclosures raise new questions about Harper's judgment in hiring Carson as his chief policy analyst and troubleshooter, roles he held until 2008.

The PMO asked the RCMP last month to investigate Carson after a probe by the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network alleged the 65-year-old may have illegally lobbied the federal government on behalf of a company that employed his girlfriend, a 22-year-old one-time escort.

"I think it's important to remember that Mr. Carson is not accused of anything that has to do with his employment in my office," Harper said Monday.

"These accusations relate to things that occurred afterwards. As soon as we found out about those matters, we turned them over to the authorities."

In his job as a senior adviser to Harper, Carson would have been privy to highly sensitive government files.

During his stint at the PMO, it was publicly known that Carson had been jailed and disbarred by the Law Society of Upper Canada in the early 1980s for two counts of defrauding clients.

But court documents uncovered by The Canadian Press show he had another run-in with the law in 1990, while he was working as a researcher for the Library of Parliament.

He was charged with defrauding a Budget Car and Truck Rental of a 1989 Toyota vehicle. He was also charged with defrauding the Bank of Montreal and the Toronto-Dominion Bank of sums exceeding $1,000 each.

In June 1990, Carson pleaded guilty to all three counts and received a suspended sentence and 24 months probation on condition that he "continue treatment at the R.O.H. (Royal Ottawa Hospital)" and make restitution of $4,000 within 23 months to the car rental company.

McCann, who represented Carson in 1990 and is acting for him again now, said the suspended sentence demonstrates the charges were "not considered to be that serious."

"He genuinely had a bit of a meltdown as a result of his marital break-up," McCann said in an interview.

"It was part of the situation at the time that he was having some ... psychiatric counselling and that was a factor, I think, that came into play too."

A friend of Carson's said he suffered "a stress-related mental collapse brought on by an ugly divorce."

Nina Chiarelli, Harper's acting director of communications, said Sunday that due to privacy law the PMO does not comment "on the security screening details of current or former employees."

Treasury Board guidelines require that all individuals who work in or for the office of any minister have a Level 2 (Secret) security clearance prior to appointment.


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I have been a resident of Coldstream since 1976. I have had 15 years of experience on Council, 3 years as Mayor. As a current Councillor I am working to achieve fair water and sewer rates and to ensure that taxpayers get fair treatment. The current direction regarding water supply is unsustainable and I am doing all I can to get the most cost effective water supply possible.