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

Time to let go

Northern Lights Wildlife shelter near Smithers set to release orphaned animals this spring.

All that jazz

Smithers Secondary show they have all that jazz with their performance of Chicago.

Minerals North to draw hundreds

This is second time Houston has hosted northern mining industry.

NWCC gets green light for name change

The name Coast Mountain College in effect as of June 18

Tree branch damages VIA Rail train between Prince Rupert and Prince George

Passenger train has delayed the scheduled route on April 22

Toronto van attack suspect faces 10 counts of first-degree murder

The suspect in the Toronto van attack that killed 10 people and injured 15 others on Monday is a 25-year-old man named Alek Minassian

Memorial to victims of Toronto van attack continues to grow

The subway station where a van was used to run down pedestrians has reopened in Toronto

Small aircraft touches down on Calgary street

The twin-engine plane was apparently short on fuel forcing an emergency landing

B.C.’s living wage increase curbed due to MSP cuts, child care subsidy: report

Living wage varies between $16.51 in north central B.C. to $20.91 in Metro Vancouver

Doctor sees healing power in psychedelic plant as Peru investigates death of B.C. man

Peru’s attorney general has ordered the arrest of two suspects in the killing of 41-year-old Sebastian Woodroffe

Toronto police officer ‘gave himself the space and time’ in van attack

Footage shows officer standing up, turning off his siren and talking clearly to the suspect

$1.18 to $1.58 a litre: Are you paying the most for gas in B.C.?

Gas prices across B.C. vary, with lowest in Vernon and highest in – you guessed it – Metro Vancouver

Inquest set 10 years after B.C. woman shot, left to die

Lisa Dudley, and her partner, Guthrie McKay were shot in their Mission home in September 2008

B.C. hockey team to retire Humboldt Bronco victim’s number

BCHL’s Surrey Eagles to retire Jaxon Joseph’s No. 10 in light of bus tragedy

Most Read