OTTAWA (Reuters) - A former top aide to Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper was charged with influence-peddling on Friday, a move that could embarrass a government that came to power stressing accountability.
Police said Bruce Carson was “alleged to have accepted a commission for a third party in connection with a business matter relating to the government.” Carson’s lawyer declined to comment when contacted by Reuters.
Harper’s office said in March 2011 it had asked police to investigate Carson, a senior adviser to the prime minister until 2009, on the grounds that he had apparently broken conflict of interest laws.
Canadian media linked this to a range of lobbying work done by Carson, who has previous criminal convictions for fraud.
“Any individual who doesn’t respect our laws must face their full force as well as the consequences that come with them,” said Andrew MacDougall, Harper’s chief spokesman.
It was the first time in living memory than an adviser to a prime minister has been charged with influence-peddling.
“This reaches right onto the prime minister’s office ... and has to call into question the judgment of the prime minister for hiring him in the first place,” said Scott Andrews, a legislator with the opposition Liberal Party.
The charge is the latest ethics problem to hit the ruling Conservatives, who came to power in early 2006 after a kickback scandal helped bring down the former Liberal government.
In March the federal ethics commissioner ruled that Industry Minister Christian Paradis had violated the Conflict of Interest Act by telling bureaucrats to set up a meeting with a former Conservative legislator who wanted to do business with Ottawa.
The commissioner is now looking into allegations that Paradis -- also the cabinet minister responsible for Quebec affairs -- tried to move a government office into a building owned by an associate of his family in Quebec.
This week the former campaign manager for Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Peter Penashue apologized for exceeding spending limits during last year’s federal election campaign.
The next federal election is scheduled for October 2015.
Reporting by David Ljunggren; Editing by Frank McGurty