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Grits gleefully add Bruce Carson scandal to list of Tory misdeeds

Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons on March 21, 2011.

CHRIS WATTIE/REUTERS

Hours after the minority Harper government was found in contempt by an opposition-dominated Commons committee, Michael Ignatieff and his Liberals were on their feet in Question Period going after the Tories on even more ethical controversies.

MPs have returned to the House after a week-long break but they may not be back for long. The Conservative government could be defeated by the weekend and the Liberals are wasting no time trying to build the case to Canadians that Stephen Harper is out of touch and out of control.

"The government faces two RCMP investigations at once, one of them about Bruce Carson's influence peddling right in the Prime Minister's Office, and four members of the Prime Minister's inner circle face accusations of election fraud that could result in jail time," Mr. Ignatieff charged.

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The Liberal Leader threw in, too, the contempt finding in which a Commons committee decided the government was at fault for not providing documents on the true costs of their tough-on-crime agenda. "How can Canadians remain trusting of a government guilty of such flagrant abuse of power?"

The Mounties are investigating two files, one involving Mr. Carson and the involving a ministerial aide accused of interfering with access-to-information requests. On top of that, four senior Tories, including two Senators, face Elections Canada charges over the so-called in-and-out campaign financing scheme.

On Monday, the opposition spent most of its time on the Carson file. The former senior aide to the Prime Minister has been under a cloud of suspicion since the Aboriginal People's Television Network revealed that he was seeking contracts - despite a five-year ban on lobbying activities - for a water-filtration company that hoped to do business with aboriginal communities.

Mr. Carson met with two senior officials in the office of Indian Affairs Minister John Duncan in relation to the company, H20 Pros. APTN has reported that his 22-year-old girlfriend, a former prostitute, would have received 20 per cent of the profits from any deals landed.

Government House Leader John Baird, who was filling in for the Prime Minister, answered Mr. Ignatieff's questions with the expected caution. He said the PMO referred the matter to the RCMP, the Ethics Commissioner and the Commissioner of Lobbying when it was brought to its attention.

"Let me be very clear, this is the government that brought in tough penalties for people who break the law," Mr. Baird said. "Anyone convicted of breaking the law will faced the full force of Canadian law."

But that didn't satisfy the Liberals. New Brunswick MP Dominic LeBlanc went back at the Carson story a second time.

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"According to the contract witnessed by Mr. Carson, his fiancé stood to gain $80-million from the scam. Carson had inside information that could only have come from the Prime Minister's Office, like, for example, who was going to be the next minister of Indian Affairs," the Liberal charged.

"Who in the Prime Minister's office was funnelling information to Mr. Carson? Have they, too, been referred to the RCMP?"

In response, Mr. Baird noted there "is no information whatsoever to suggest that any individual or company obtained any contract from the government in any of these matters." He added the matter had been referred to the police.

Other Liberals weighed in on the controversy too, as did the NDP and the Bloc Québécois. It's no wonder the opposition is ganging up, given news later Monday that Mr. Carson also held talks with another senior Tory - Environment Minister Peter Kent.

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About the Author
Ontario politics reporter

Jane Taber is a reporter at Queen’s Park. After spending three years reporting from the Atlantic, she has returned to Ontario and back to writing about her passion, politics. She spent 25 years covering Parliament Hill for the Ottawa Citizen, the National Post and the Globe and Mail. More

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