Bruce Carson leaves the courthouse after appearing in court for a verdict in his case, Tuesday, November 17, 2015 in Ottawa. A one-time senior aide to former prime minister Stephen Harper has been found guilty of influence peddling by Canada’s highest court. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Supreme Court rules former Stephen Harper aide guilty of influence peddling

A one-time senior aide to former prime minister Stephen Harper has been found guilty of influence peddling by Canada’s highest court.

A one-time senior aide to former prime minister Stephen Harper has been found guilty of influence peddling by Canada’s highest court.

Bruce Carson’s case will now be sent back to the trial judge for sentencing after an 8-1 decision by the Supreme Court of Canada that rejects his interpretation of the influence-peddling law.

He could face up to five years in prison.

Carson worked in the Prime Minister’s Office as a senior adviser between 2006 and 2008 and briefly in 2009, during Harper’s tenure.

After leaving the PMO, he tried to use his government connections at what was then called Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, as well as in cabinet, to push the sale of water-purification systems for First Nations communities made by a company known as H2O Pros and H2O Global.

In exchange, Carson had the company pay his then-girlfriend a commission of the sales.

Carson was acquitted at trial after his lawyers argued he couldn’t be guilty of influencing “any matter of business relating to the government” because it was the First Nations communities, not the government, that purchased the water systems.

The Ontario Court of Appeal took a broader view of the wording and, in a split decision, overturned the acquittal. And because of that split, the case automatically went to the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court followed the same path as Ontario’s highest court. The majority took a broad view of the statement, saying the phrase should include anything that depends on or could be facilitated by the government.

Writing for the majority, Justice Andromache Karakatsanis said federal officials could have made it easier for First Nations to purchase the systems by changing funding terms and conditions to the company’s benefit, or by funding pilot projects that used the company’s systems.

He said the Criminal Code provisions that deal with frauds on the government — including influence peddling — are designed to target behaviour that “risks depriving citizens of a true democracy.”

“Corruption and the sale of influence, whether real or apparent, with government may undermine the integrity and transparency that are crucial to democracy,” Karakatsanis wrote.

“Whether a person accepts a benefit in exchange for a promise to influence the government to change its policies or funding structure, they flout the notion that government decision-making should not be the object of commerce.”

Justice Suzanne Cote was the lone dissenter, arguing the provision is intended to protect actual, not perceived, government integrity.

Cote said Carson needed to have influence over something that was actually related to government operations and not potential changes to federal operations as her colleagues argued.

“The matter of business must relate to the government in reality and not merely be believed by the parties to the agreement to relate to the government,” she wrote.

Related: Mulcair, Trudeau tee off on Harper’s niqab comments

Jordan Press, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

North Beach clam harvest closed due to biotoxin results

Marine biotoxin results in closure for all bivalve harvesting from Wiah Point to Rose Spit

In Pictures: Rock the Plank! brings in the booty

Pirate-themed skate party raises $2,500 for new Masset Skate Society

Haida Gwaii fishing grounds are key to survival of northern resident killer whales: DFO

Plan marks waters from Langara to Rose Spit as critical habitat for northern resident killer whales

Masset suggests a simpler structure for Gwaii Trust

Change would parallel existing municipal, regional district representation for non-Haida communities

Grade 9s on Gwaii Haanas trip visit “the best spot on Haida Gwaii”

Now in its fourth year, Grade 9 trip gives Haida Gwaii youth a chance to visit Tanu and Windy Bay

VIDEO: Trudeau shuffles familiar faces, adds new ones to expanded cabinet

Justin Trudeau shuffles his front bench Wednesday to install the roster of ministers that will be entrusted with leading the Liberal team into next year’s election.

‘Amazing Race Canada’ competitors face B.C. challenge

They drove Corvettes, mastered falconry basics, and ate blueberry pie in the Cowichan Valley

Grizzly bear jumps in river, chases B.C. kayaker

The bear got a bit too close for comfort along the Elaho River near Squamish

Evacuation alert issued due to Dog Creek Trail Wildfire

An evacuation alert has been issued by the Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako… Continue reading

Parks Canada looks to shine light on cloudy future for historic sites

A plan is in place to produce 10-year plans designed to turn around sagging attendance figures

B.C. poet shines a bright light on struggle with homelessness

Book launch for John La Greca’s Homeless Memorial is at Vernon’s Gallery Vertigo July 21.

Ontario police say attack on Muslim man was motivated by hate

Two men, aged 27 and 19, have been charged with assault in the incident

Canadian Tire delivers toys to ease kids’ street play pain in B.C. neighbourhood

It’s like Christmas for 11 kids who are supposed to be confined to their yards by strata bylaw

City orders largest Kinder Morgan protest camp to leave

Residents of Camp Cloud near the Trans Mountain work site have 72 hours to leave

Most Read