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

‘Beauty amongst such tragedy:’ B.C. photographer captures nature’s trifecta

David Luggi’s photo from a beach in Fraser Lake shows Shovel Lake wildfire, Big Dipper and an aurora

B.C. declares state of emergency as more than 560 wildfires rage

This is only the fourth state of emergency ever issued during a fire season

UPDATE: 5 injured in plane crash following Abbotsford International Airshow

One in critical condition in incident involving vintage plane

Shag Creek area under evacuation order, area expanded

93 properties are being told to evacuate immediately

B.C. Wildfires 2018: Thousands prepare to leave their homes at a moment’s notice

Northwest B.C. and Cariboo seeing most fire activity in province as crews battle 490 fires

‘We will not forget:’ Thousands attend funeral fallen Fredericton officers

Hundreds of officials marched in the parade, which included massed band, several police motorcycles

Lions give up late TD in 24-23 loss to Argos

B.C. falls to 3-5, fumbling away last-minute chance in Toronto

Eagle tree cut down legally a 1st for B.C. city

Planned eagle preserve ‘a first for City of Surrey’

Northern B.C. residents face more evacuation orders as some smoke clears up

Regional District of BulkleyNechako issued new, expanded evacuation orders for remote areas Saturday

Smoky skies like a disappearing act for sights, monuments around B.C.

Haze expected to last the next several days, Environment Canada said

Canadians react to death of former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan at age 80

Nobel Peace Prize-winning former UN leader died early Saturday following a short illness

44 drownings so far this year in B.C.

Lifesaving Society urging caution to prevent deaths while on lakes, oceans and in pools

Some of B.C.’s air quality levels worse than Jodhpur, India

Okanagan, northern B.C. seeing some of the worst air quality globally

Most Read