By Jorge Barrera and Kenneth Jackson
APTN National News
Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Duncan is “hiding behind his staffers” and “ducking” questions on his relationship to Bruce Carson, a former aide to Prime Minister Stephen Harper currently under an RCMP investigation, the NDP said Wednesday.
Timmins-James Bay NDP MP Charlie Angus said Duncan’s office was “at the centre” of the Carson scandal that broke after APTN National News revealed the former political operative nicknamed “The Mechanic,” was lobbying for a water company that had a financial deal with his fiancée, a former Ottawa escort, on the sale of filtration systems to impoverished First Nation communities.
“At the centre of it is his office and the fact that Bruce Carson and his girlfriend were going to hit up a bunch of impoverished First Nations communities,” said Angus, in the House of Commons during Question Period. “What is (Duncan) trying to hide…what does he know and what was his involvement with the Bruce Carson gang?”
Duncan responded saying he couldn’t comment because the matter was under investigation.
“We know that the member from Timmins-James Bay likes to throw dirt around this place,” said Duncan. “All I can say is that it is under investigation, therefore it is inappropriate to comment. The member knows that and I don’t know why he is pursuing this type of questioning.”
Duncan cancelled a planned interview with APTN National News on the budget Tuesday after his staff discovered that the minister would also face questions on his relationship to Carson.
Carson is currently facing probes from the RCMP, the Lobbying Commissioner and the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner. The lobbying probe is ongoing, while the ethics probe was suspended last November. None of the investigations have reached their conclusions.
The OPP is also investigating the water company, H2O Pros, for allegedly defrauding customers.
“Talk about investigation. We have the Lobbying Commissioner, we have the Ethics Commissioner, we have the RCMP, we have the OPP,” said Angus. “When you think about the Conservative Party and Bruce Carson, this man is like a one-man stimulus package for the police.”
APTN National News reported this week that the lobbying investigation was scrutinizing Carson’s claimed links to Duncan.
Carson met with at least two officials in Duncan’s office about the water company and its product in January 2011, two months before Harper called for the three-pronged investigation. Carson and the president of the now shuttered company met at least three times with Aboriginal Affairs department officials in the fall of 2010.
Carson told APTN National News that Duncan’s office was aware of the company and its product and he was hoping to involve Environment Minister Peter Kent in the discussions.
Duncan and Kent both denied ever discussing the water company with Carson.
Questions still linger over how Carson managed to obtain “secret” level clearance to work in the Prime Minister’s Office, despite being convicted on three counts of fraud in the 1990s. He was disbarred and convicted on two counts of fraud and sentenced to 18 months in jail in the 1980s. Carson also declared bankruptcy in 1993.
“How a four time convicted fraudster gets an all-access-pass into the Prime Minister’s Office remains a mystery,” said Angus, during question period. “But we know that wherever Bruce Carson goes he leaves a lot of ethical violations and a lot of unanswered questions.”