OTTAWA — A business pitch by convicted fraudster and ex-PMO aide Bruce Carson piqued the interest of senior political staff at Indian Affairs, a newly released document shows.
A one-page note from a January meeting suggests top aides to minister John Duncan were considering Carson’s proposal for a First Nations water filtration system.
The 65-year-old is now being investigated by the RCMP over allegations of illegal lobbying on behalf of an Ottawa-based water company that employed his 22-year-old girlfriend.
Indian Affairs says it has not awarded any contracts to H20 Global Group or its parent company, H20 Water Professionals, the firm for which Carson’s girlfriend worked.
But a handwritten note from the Jan. 11 meeting suggests Carson’s proposal interested political staff. But first they wanted to see how a similar project panned out in Ontario.
“At the current time, no $ to do pilot but we may want to do this after we get results of the NA,” the note says. The acronym “NA” stands for “national assessment” of water and wastewater systems in First Nations communities.
“Ontario government is doing this and we are tag tailing with them.”
The note adds: “Test these before rolling them out widely.”
The January meeting involved Kym Purchase, the minister’s director of policy, and Ted Yeomans, his director of parliamentary affairs.
Next to an asterisk and the name “Kim,” perhaps meaning Purchase, the note-taker wrote: “How can the process be competitive if we fund but (First Nations) procure?”
The note also mentions that under Bill S-11, proposed safe drinking water legislation, “These systems would be under INAC’s care.”
At the bottom of the page, the note-taker writes that the department’s assistant deputy minister was to prepare a briefing note.
The Canadian Press obtained the handwritten note under the Access to Information Act.
A spokeswoman for Duncan could not explain why the notetaker indicated Indian Affairs might want to pursue Carson’s proposal.
“All I can tell you is that they met him once, and nothing was untowards,” Michelle Yao said.
No one from the department or Ontario’s Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs was immediately available to comment. And neither Carson nor his lawyer returned a request for comment.
A spokeswoman for H20 Global Group, Christine McPherson, who is also the mother of Carson’s girlfriend, told The Canadian Press the company hasn’t done any business with the Ontario government. The Jan. 11 note suggests a similar project was underway in the province.
“No we have not worked with the Ontario Government nor have we had any contracts with them,” she said in an email.
“We did though start to communicate with them as they do cover water issues for Ontario communities. Our objective was to have them evaluate the technical capability of our products.”
The Aboriginal Peoples Television Network aired a story about Carson’s alleged lobbying of Indian Affairs and the minister’s office on behalf of the company that employed his girlfriend, Michele McPherson. She stood to benefit from a plan to sell water-filtration systems to reserves with water-quality problems, APTN reported.
According to the network, McPherson signed a contract last Aug. 31 that would entitle her to 20 per cent of the project’s gross sales in a venture Carson was pushing.
The company, H20 Global Group, says Carson never did any lobbying for the company. The firm also says it cancelled McPherson’s 20-per-cent contract in February.
Carson was convicted on five counts of fraud and received court-ordered psychiatric treatment before becoming one of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s closest advisers.
He left the PMO in 2008 to head up the Canada School of Energy and Environment. But Carson took a leave of absence from that job after APTN’s story aired.