(Photo: Michele McPherson. www.ottawaescorts.me)
By Kenneth Jackson and Jorge Barrera
APTN National News
A former senior advisor to Prime Minister Stephen Harper was lobbying Indian Affairs to land water contracts potentially worth millions of dollars for an Ottawa-based water company that employed his fiancee who was an escort.
The name of Michele McPherson, 22, appears on a secret contract witnessed by Bruce Carson that guaranteed her 20 per cent of all gross revenues from sales related to water contracts on First Nations reserves, according to a copy of the contract obtained by an APTN investigative team.
APTN unearthed the contract as part of its investigation into Carson’s involvement with H2O Pros and its attempts to sell water filtration systems to First Nations with the poorest water quality.
Carson, who was one of Harper’s longest serving advisors, left the Prime Minister’s Office in 2008 to take over the newly minted Canada School of Energy and Environment that received $15 million in federal funds.
The Prime Minister’s Office asked the RCMP, the Commissioner of Lobbying and the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner to investigate Carson’s activities after APTN disclosed some of the information gathered in the course of the investigation.
Carson says on-camera he witnessed the contract’s signing between H2O Pro and McPherson, who also goes by the escort name Leanna VIP.
“I didn’t sign it…I witnessed it,” said Carson, when he asked by APTN about the details of the contract.
According to records, Carson and McPherson share a $400,000 house with an in-ground pool that sits on a 2-acre lot near Winchester about 60 km from Ottawa.
The home was bought in December. Carson rarely stays there. He works out of Calgary and when he does come to Ottawa he also books a room at the Chateau Laurier next to Parliament Hill.
McPherson also drives a black Mercedes SUV that Carson purchased.
H2O Pros created a company called H20 Global Group to deal with the possible Indian Affairs contracts.
An APTN Investigates team initially approached the company to do a story about their so-called “First Nations Water Project.”
In the course of the investigation, Carson and company officials opened up about plans to sell up to 40,000 water filtration units to 50 identified First Nations with dire water problems.
The secret contract, called an agency agreement, stipulates that McPherson would act as the “agent” and the face of the company when dealing with Native people on all water deals.
Throughout the investigation APTN was not able to get McPherson to appear on camera or comment about her job with the company. Sources have told APTN the deal would have given McPherson “money for nothing.”
The contract stated: “The principal hereby appoints the Agent, and the Agent hereby agrees to act, as the exclusive agent for the purpose of representing the Principal in all matters including trade shows, pilot projects, sales and all related activities dealing with First Nations and the Principal’s water purification products.”
Former company insiders told the APTN Investigates news unit that another, more detailed contract was also signed earlier this year.
Company president Patrick Hill told APTN each of the units ranged in price between $3,500 to $6,000.
APTN has since learned the price of the units could have hit $10,000 each, as a result of assessments and shipping costs.
The resulting contracts would have resulted in tens of millions of dollars in sales and a healthy profit for McPherson.
The company has faced financial difficulty of late, failing to pay employees and witnessing a high turnover.
According to former employees, at least 15 people had left the company since December.
Carson and Hill both told APTN they believed the company was on the “cusp” of making a breakthrough into the on-reserve water market.
Despite repeated requests, Hill has refused further comment.
Company employees attended the Alberta chief’s assembly last Thursday in Calgary and were in active talks with the Tyendinaga Mohawk reserve near Belleville, Ont., when APTN began to investigate its activities.
Carson, who recently stepped down from the Canada School of Energy and Environment which was given $15 million by the current federal government, also told APTN how he planned to use his position with the school to push the water contract forward.
Carson also told APTN that Indian Affairs Minister John Duncan’s office was aware of the project and doing what they could without appearing to interfere.
Carson did meet with officials in Duncan’s office, a spokesperson for the minister said.
“The minister has never met with, been spoken to or been lobbied by Bruce Carson on these matters. The minister’s staff met with Bruce Carson on one occasion. Mr. Carson briefed the staff on a proposed water project. Staff provided publicly available information to Bruce Carson,” said Michelle Yao, spokeswoman for Duncan.
Carson also managed to land several meetings with Indian Affairs departmental officials, according to a department spokesperson who referred to Carson and company representatives as “stakeholders.”
“Ms. (Gail) Mitchell, along with members of her staff, have met with Mr. Carson and representatives of H2O Global Group on several occasions over the last several months to discuss issues related to water infrastructure on reserve,” said a department spokesperson.
Gail Mitchell is the director general of community infrastructure for Indian Affairs.