Bruce Carson, former PMO staffer, has banking records seized by RCMP

CBC News has learned the RCMP have seized banking records for Bruce Carson, a former senior adviser to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, amid their investigation into allegations he illegally lobbied his former government colleagues.

Former senior adviser to Stephen Harper faces influence peddling charge, 2 lobbying investigations

Bruce Carson, a former senior adviser to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, is under investigation over allegations he illegally lobbied his former government colleagues. (CBC)

CBC News has learned the RCMP have seized banking records for Bruce Carson, a former senior adviser to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, amid their investigation into allegations he illegally lobbied his former government colleagues.

Emails obtained by the Mounties suggest Carson tried to lobby the most senior members of government and the bureaucracy, including the clerk of the Privy Council and Harper's former chief of staff Nigel Wright.

The emails, Const. Marie-Josée Robert alleges in court records, "are compelling examples establishing that Mr. Carson committed the offence of frauds on the government by having or pretending to have influence with the government or with a minister … or an official."

In an affidavit that CBC News retrieved Wednesday, the RCMP allege Carson used his connections to lobby on behalf of an organization called the Energy Policy Institute of Canada, or EPIC, for a national energy strategy. 

Robert alleges Carson's "continuous association" with public office holders allowed him to accept money for "consideration for his co-operation, assistance or exercise of influence in connection with business matters with the government on behalf of EPIC."

"I believe without this inferred influence, Mr. Carson would have not performed his services so effectively," she wrote in an affidavit known as an "information to obtain a production order."

The allegations aren't proven and haven't been tested in court. No charges have been laid.

Carson's lawyer said in a statement that he was "not in any way lobbying government or anyone else" and that if any charges are brought, "they will be vigorously defended.”

"The initial search for a Canadian energy strategy involved a number of think-tanks and the Energy Policy Institute of Canada all trying to determine what a Canadian energy strategy — in an embryonic way — would look like and what it would do. In pursuing this, Mr. Carson consulted with federal and provincial governments. This did not constitute lobbying," Patrick McCann said in an email to CBC News.

Also charged with influence peddling

Carson is a former designated public office holder and was banned from lobbying for five years after Feb. 4, 2009, the date he left Prime Minister Stephen Harper's office.

After he left the Prime Minister's Office, Carson headed up the Canada school of energy and environment at the University of Calgary. He was also one of two founding co-chairs of EPIC, though his title changed to vice-chair after two weeks.

The organization was created in August 2009 to gain support from private sector leaders and academics, as well as build support with the public, before going to government with ideas for an energy strategy.

It drew big names, including former New Brunswick premier Frank McKenna, who is now deputy chair of TD Bank Group, and Thomas d'Aquino, former president of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives. Former cabinet minister David Emerson, who served as trade minister under both Liberal and Conservative governments, also became a co-chair of EPIC.

Doug Black, whom Harper appointed a senator in January 2013, became president of EPIC, at a salary of $10,000 a month, the affidavit says.

Robert notes Carson is also being investigated for lobbying on behalf of the school of energy and environment.

The commissioner of lobbying referred the case to the RCMP.

Carson also faces a separate charge of influence peddling.

Carson's work started the same year he left PMO.

'Good luck with this great adventure'

Robert notes in her affidavit that Carson set about meeting with top civil servants and political officials dealing with the energy portfolio.

In January 2011, just after Wright started his job as Harper's chief of staff, Carson emailed him the report.

"Nigel — I don't think we have ever met — but we have a few mutual friends — so firstly good luck with this great adventure you have taken on — and secondly thought I would share with you a report I just finished on energy … would love to meet with you at your convenience," Carson wrote to Wright, according to Robert's affidavit. 

Wright replied that he'd "heard a lot of good things" about Carson and told him to call at any time, the affidavit says. Wright also said he would read the report.

Wright stepped down as Harper's chief of staff in May 2013, after it was revealed he'd given Senator Mike Duffy about $90,000 to repay money Duffy owed the Senate.

The next month, Carson sent an email saying he'd briefed Wright about the organization.

"He seemed generally supportive," Carson wrote, according to the affidavit, "and now at least he has been briefed."

Black responded, "Excellent. Need Nigel on side," according to the affidavit.

Robert writes in the affidavit that this email from Carson, as well as others, led her to believe the members of the EPIC executive committee "were aware of Mr. Carson's communication with [public office holders] in order to promote EPIC with respect to the development of any policy or program of the Government of Canada."

'Secret sauce'

In November 2009, Carson emailed Wayne Wouters, the clerk of the Privy Council and Canada's most senior civil servant, about meeting with him.

Carson also had email exchanges with Cassie Doyle, the top civil servant at the Department of Natural Resources, including about arranging to attend a meeting of the top natural resources bureaucrats from every province regarding his organization's plans. The emails suggest he met separately over a year or so with her and Wouters, as well as with the deputy minister of Environment Canada. He also sent an email about meeting with Christian Paradis, the MP who in 2010 took over the natural resources portfolio in cabinet.

Although the organization's executive committee decided early in 2010 that Carson wasn't to lobby, Robert notes his activity seems to have picked up.

"Interestingly enough, Mr. Carson's lobbying activities increased after the motion 'not to lobby the federal government on behalf of EPIC,' was passed," she wrote in the affidavit.

Carson started with a $60,000 honorarium, but ended up earning $160,000 between February 2010 and February 2011.

In one email, Carson refers to his gross income as $10,000 per month, or $120,000 a year, according to Robert's affidavit.

Black responded to one of Carson's requests for money with praise.

"No issue.... We are making progress and you are the secret sauce," Black wrote, according to the affidavit. 

With files from Dave Seglins