Bruce Carson was the 'grey-haired sage' linking PM Harper to oil lobby. Now he's accused of influence peddling for a young former prostitute. Latest in a series.
A former advisor to Prime Minister Stephen Harper -- now at the centre of a major political scandal -- worked closely with Canada's biggest energy companies over past years to improve the public image of Alberta's oil sands.
That advisor, Bruce Carson, did this while leading an academic think tank funded with $15 million in federal money.
What this suggests, say environmental advocates, is that the line dividing Harper's Conservative government from Canada's oil industry is very blurry, if it exists at all.
"Carson is the spider at the centre of the web... directing the whole pro-tar sands effort," Greenpeace Canada's Keith Stewart told The Tyee. "He's been moving between the political and business worlds to make that happen."
As previous reporting in this series explained, the close relationship between Canadian government officials and major oil companies has existed since at least 2008, when a lobbying coalition formed to battle clean energy laws in the United States.
But until recently, The Tyee's investigation has uncovered few direct linkages between the Prime Minister's Office and major oil sands players. Carson's advocacy, as documents below would suggest, appears to establish such a linkage.
Allegedly flogging connections for girlfriend
Carson's oil sands connections are less well known these days than the lobbying which has landed him in the middle of an RCMP investigation.
The 66-year-old former political advisor, as the Aboriginal People's Television Network first reported, used his political connections to land a lucrative contract for his 22-year-old fiancée, previously a prostitute.
Allegations of criminal influence-peddling have created a national scandal for Harper's Conservative government.
Federal Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff jumped on the Carson case earlier this week to gain political ammunition for what many observers expect to be an imminent federal election.
"How can Canadians remain trusting of a government guilty of such flagrant abuse of power?" Ignatieff said in Question Period.
Though such issues are worthy of discussion, Greenpeace's Stewart said, much more significant in the long-term are Carson's close connections to Alberta's oil sands industry.
Until Carson left the Prime Minister's Office in 2008, he was considered one of Harper's top political advisors -- a "grey-haired sage," according to one insider.
Carson left to become executive director for the Canada School of Energy and Environment, a think-tank started with $15 million in federal government money the year before.
Though ostensibly a research-oriented group with links to three Alberta universities, Carson's role was much more "political" than "academic," Stewart said.