By Kenneth Jackson and Jorge Barrera
APTN National News
The RCMP should investigate the activities and relationships around Bruce Carson, a former confidante of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, and his escort turned fiancee to ensure no sensitive information flowed from pillow talk to criminal or foreign elements, according to two former agents with the Canadian Security Intelligence Service.
While the Carson controversy may be about nothing more than a man with a “late blooming mid-life crisis” getting entangled with a 22-year-old former escort, there are enough elements already in the public domain to give police investigators reason to pry a deeper into both Carson and Michele McPherson’s background activities and associations, they said.
“For the moment, we don’t know, and in the law enforcement and intelligence world, not knowing is not good,” said Michel Juneau-Katsuya, a security analyst and former CSIS agent
What is known is that Carson moved in elite political and industry circles that put him in proximity to potentially sensitive files involving the energy sector, Ottawa and the Alberta government. Carson also claimed to have direct, informal contact with cabinet ministers and the prime minister himself, whom he called a “friend.”
Carson, 65, became involved with Michele McPherson, 22, a former Ottawa escort who went by the name of Leanna VIP. Carson told APTN he was engaged to McPherson and took her along for meals with senior politicians and political players.
Emails obtained by APTN show Carson lobbied Indian Affairs to land contracts with First Nations communities afflicted by dirty water for an Ottawa-based company that had a contractual arrangement with McPherson guaranteeing her profits on each deal.
The Prime Minister’s Office asked the RCMP to investigate Carson’s activities after APTN reporters showed a PMO official the documentation related to this story and asked for comment.
The PMO also asked the Commissioner of Lobbying and the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner to probe Carson’s activities.
While much of the political attention has focused on Carson’s attempts to promote H2O Global Group, which was created by the president of H20 Pros to deal with potential Indian Affairs contracts, the security experts said police investigators need to pry deeper in to the background activities of both Carson and McPherson.
“If there is somebody behind (her), is he sort of a lover that happens to benefit from the kind of work his girlfriend is doing? Or is he a pimp that has a business relationship and she is a girl working for him? If that is the case…is there someone who ultimately says, ‘you know what I have here access to something else,’ and ultimately…would attempt to use that something else,” said Juneau-Katsuya, who published a book in 2009 about foreign espionage in Canada called, Nest of Spies.
David Harris, a former chief of strategic planning for CSIS, says the RCMP needed to look into Carson’s activities and explore his contacts and connections.
“It would seem only prudent on the part of the RCMP and any other investigative agencies to examine the full extent or any of the involvement that Mr. Carson may have had with his more intimate associates and friends,” said Harris, who now works for private counter-terrorism and research and strategy company Insignis Strategic Research.
“If we are looking at a situation that by its very nature raises questions about illicit influence, then it could be very useful, could be very important to determine what the scope of the possible influence might have been. Did it extend to some of his close associates and affiliates…could one or more connections lead to other places, persons, organizations, countries of interest or concern in relation to Canadian security?”
Canada has arguably the largest oil reserves outside of Saudi Arabia and, given the current upheaval in the Middle East and northern Africa, is becoming an increasingly key supplier of energy to the U.S.
Before the controversy broke, Carson was heavily involved in task forces and committees on oil sands development, energy and climate change. He also sat at the table with the biggest government energy players on the continent. The Liberals on Wednesday highlighted Carson’s presence at an April 2009 meeting between former environment minister Jim Prentice, former Canadian ambassador to the U.S. Michael Wilson and U.S. Energy Secretary Steve Chu.
Carson was named chair of the Federal-Provincial Oil and Gas Industry Working Group on Climate change and appointed member of the Thermal Electricity Task Force on Climate Change. Carson was also on the Alberta government’s 12-person advisory panel tasked with creating an environmental monitoring system for the oil sands. He recently took a temporary leave of absence.
He also took a temporary leave of absence from his job as head of the Canada School of Energy and Environment, a joint project between University of Calgary, University of Alberta and University of Lethbridge, which received $15 million from Ottawa and brought him into contact with the latest academic thinking and research.
Carson was also heavily involved with the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers in their attempts to polish the image of the oil sands.
Carson also told APTN in a taped interview, that he was in regular contact with the prime minister and all his cabinet ministers. Carson described himself as a friend of Harper during the interview where he also revealed his plans to involve at least two cabinet ministers in his push to land First Nations water contracts for H20 Global Group.
Carson was nicknamed “the mechanic” and was known as Harper’s fixer. He followed Harper from the opposition office into the centre of power that is the PMO, leaving there in 2008, before returning temporarily in 2009.
Then in March 2010 he met a girl named Michele McPherson through an internet posting. In December of the same year, he bought her a nearly $400,000 house and put it under both their names.
By July, Carson was working emails and the telephone to get the Ottawa water company onto the radar screen of First Nations chiefs. He then set to work on pushing the project through Indian Affairs officials in the department and in Indian Affairs Minister John Duncan’s office. Carson’s next step was to involve Environment Minister Peter Kent.
Carson said in one email, obtained by APTN, that he was doing it for “Michele.” He told APTN she was his fiancée, and when asked if he got down on one knee, Carson said, “something like that.”
Juneau-Katsuya said the Carson affair carries echoes of the scandal that embroiled former foreign affairs minister Maxime Bernier after he left documents at the home of former lover Julie Couillard. Bernier was eventually removed from his cabinet post by Harper.
Carson’s relationship with McPherson and the apparent ease with which he revealed his connections to power showed poor judgment and potentially placed sensitive information about the government and the country’s most important economic driver, the oil sands, in a vulnerable and exploitable situation, the former CSIS agents said.
Though the current Carson scandal may simply be nothing more than it appears on the surface, the situation has again revealed just how vulnerable the inner sanctum of the state could be to criminal or foreign entities.
“This is extremely poor judgment of someone in high power,” said Juneau-Katsuya. “How come the government didn’t know better? Here I will bring back the exact same criticism that I had when the Bernier affair happened. There was the lack of background checks, a lack of security.”
Several sources with knowledge of McPherson and her relationship with Carson, pointed to another individual in the background also actively involved in her life.
The individual’s identity is known to APTN and in one conversation with a reporter revealed a piece of information known only to McPherson and those close to her, including Carson, that confirmed the intimate nature of the individual’s connection to the 22-year-old.
Carson was also confronted with the individual’s identity.
Adding to this winding tale is McPherson’s mother, Christine McPherson, who said she worked for a high ranking government official in Qatar for four years. In an interview with APTN, McPherson said she ran companies for a high-ranking government official and cousin of Qatar’s prime minister.
“I worked with him and some of his companies,” said McPherson. “The companies we ran together were really focused on trying to make Qatar a better place from a development point of view.”
When asked how she ended up going from with a senior government official in Qatar to working for an Ottawa-based company, McPherson said friends brought them together.
“We kind of all have mutual contacts,” she said.
According to McPherson’s Linkedin account, one of the companies she worked for was Maximus HRM.
According to its Web site, Maximus HRM provides workers to Canada from Qatar and the Philippines, facilitates joint ventures with companies in Qatar and helps Canadian companies set up “operations in Qatar.”
The company’s address is shared with that of H2O Pros, according to its Web site.
“No one I have worked with in Qatar or know there even knows of Bruce Carson and he has never been discussed with anyone. My work there was completely different and there is no relevance to Bruce Carson or H2O,” Christine McPherson said when asked about her work in Qatar.
Christine McPherson has emerged as the main spokesperson for H2O Global Group, which shares the same president with H2O Pros, Patrick Hill.
McPherson said in a press release Wednesday that H2O Global Group had cancelled a contract signed in August between Michele McPherson and H2O Pros giving Michele 20 per cent of gross revenues from sales.
On Tuesday evening, Hill told APTN the August contract was a “sample contract,” and that a second version had since been signed giving McPherson a cut on every water filtration system sold to each home on a reserve.
Hill said McPherson would get 15 per cent on the sale of each system if it was below $6,500 and 20 per cent if above.
According to Office of the Superintendent of Bankruptcy Canada records,
Carson went bankrupt in 2002 and 1993. In 2002, he had total liabilities of $369,000 and zero assets. In 1993, Carson had liabilities of $103,359, and $250 in assets, records show.
During background checks before hiring for sensitive positions such as in the PMO, candidates are asked if they’ve ever declared bankruptcy or carrying extreme debt. The information is used to asses where the candidate could be susceptible to financial-related influence.
Carson was disbarred in 1981 and served time in jail after pleading guilty to two counts of defrauding clients.