By Jorge Barrera and Kenneth Jackson
APTN National News
One of Liberal leader Justin Trudeau’s top advisors sat on the board of an energy industry-funded think tank while Bruce Carson allegedly illegally lobbied for the same organization, according to a court document filed by the RCMP.
Daniel Gagnier, the Liberal party’s 2015 campaign co-chair, is currently president of the Energy Policy Institute of Canada (EPIC) which the RCMP alleges benefited from illegal lobbying by Carson, who was once acting chief of staff in Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s office.
Gagnier was a vice chair of the organization during a portion of time that became the focus of the RCMP’s investigation into Carson’s activities. Emails obtained by the RCMP show that Gagnier even pushed EPIC’s agenda with Jean Charest who was premier of Quebec at the time.
Gagnier helped Carson land a meeting between EPIC and provincial energy ministers, according to the RCMP’s document. The RCMP believes Carson’s work around the meeting constituted illegal lobbying. Gagnier was also in the loop on Carson’s attempts to get EPIC’s agenda on the desk of Harper’s former chief of staff Nigel Wright, the RCMP document shows.
The document, an Information to Obtain (ITO), was used by the RCMP to get a production order to seize Carson’s CIBC bank records. Carson was a friend of Prime Minister Stephen Harper and a senior advisor in the PMO.
Carson is facing trial on an influence peddling charge which begins May 26. The trial is the result of a separate, but linked, investigation which was sparked by an APTN National News investigation in March 2011.
The ITO was filed on Nov. 21, 2013, and sworn by Const. Marie-Josee Robert and is part of an ongoing investigation by the RCMP into Carson’s alleged illegal lobbying.
None of the allegations contained in the ITO have been proven in court.
The investigation, which is being handled by the RCMP’s Sensitive and International Investigations Unit, was triggered by Lobbying Commissioner Karen Shepherd who sent a letter of complaint, dated July 13, 2013, to the RCMP. Shepherd alleged in the letter that Carson lobbied during the five year cooling off period required by law for designated public office holders. Carson left the PMO in 2009.
Shepherd’s letter also alleged that Carson illegally lobbied for both EPIC and the Canada School of Energy and Environment (CSEE).
The ITO is focused on Carson’s activities for EPIC. The RCMP is also investigating Carson’s alleged lobbying for the CSEE, according to the ITO.
The RCMP believe Carson’s alleged illegal lobbying proved fruitful for EPIC. It allowed the organization to obtain $13,000 from Natural Resources Canada and to get its policy papers and ideas into the hands of decisions makers like Christian Paradis, who was natural resources minister at the time, Jean Charest, provincial energy ministers and senior federal officials.
According to emails obtained by the RCMP, EPIC knew Carson’s connections were of immense benefit to the organization.
“We could do nothing without out you,” wrote Bob Black on July 17, 2010, who was president of EPIC at the time and is now a Conservative Senator.
On Nov. 19, 2010, in an email responding to Carson’s request for money, Black again praised Carson.
“Bruce. No issue…We are making progress and you are the secret sauce,” wrote Black.
The RCMP, however, believed Carson’s ingredients for the secret sauce involved breaking the law.
“I believe Mr. Carson committed the offences listed above by communicating with federal PHOs (public office holders) with respect to the development of a policy of the government of Canada, namely the development of a Canadian energy strategy, on behalf of EPIC, and that Mr. Carson’s actions are considered lobbying activities,” wrote Robert. “Comments formulated by Mr. Black towards Carson are good examples of how Mr. Carson’s influence impacted the evolution of EPIC and its members.”
Carson was paid a $160,000 by EPIC from December 2009 to March 2011.
“Carson’s continuous association with POHs and others, allowed him to accept or offer or agree to accept, for himself, the honorarium as consideration for his cooperation, assistance or exercise of influence in connection with business matter with the government on behalf of EPIC. I believe without this inferred influence, Mr. Carson would have not have performed his services so effectively,” wrote Robert.
EPIC’s executive passed a motion on Feb. 3, 2010, that Carson not lobby for the organization. The RCMP investigator, however, said Carson’s activities actually ramped up.
“Interestingly enough, Mr. Carson’s lobbying activities increased after the motion,” wrote Robert.
While not a founding member of EPIC, which was formed in 2009, Gagnier sat on the board as a vice chair since at least August 2010. Gagnier is now president of the think tank which includes founding members like Enbridge, the Canadian Association of Petroleum producers, Canadian Energy Pipeline Association, Apache Corporation, Irving Oil and Suncor Energy, among others.
According to the ITO, Carson was working to get EPIC some face time with provincial energy ministers during an upcoming meeting in Montreal on Sept. 17, 2010, when he sent an email on Sept. 2, 2010, to Charest’s political advisor Mario Lavoie. The email was carbon copied to Marc Vallieres, who was Paradis’ chief of staff, and Gagnier. The subject line read, “possible EPIC meeting with Energy Ministers (sic).”
Lavoie responded the same day saying he would get back to Carson the next morning.
Gagnier then sent an email to Carson on Sept. 3 saying he had discussed EPIC with Charest.
“Good move. I met with the premier yesterday. He told me he was the only one who had read our papers and that apart from transmission issues on which Quebec has a long standing policy, that he supports our initiative,” wrote Gagnier, according to the ITO.
“Can you help push this…bc.(sic)”
On Sept. 10, 2010, Carson emailed Richard Brosseau, who was chief of staff to Nathalie Normandeau, Quebec’s natural resources minister at the time, about the upcoming Montreal meeting. The email was carbon copied to Gagnier. In the email, Carson said that EPCI’s work had been discussed at a recent premiers’ meeting of the Council of the Federation, and that the organization wanted to meet with the energy ministers.
“We want to meet with ministers for about half an hour on Thursday or Friday next week to brief them on our work to date and our future plans (sic),” wrote Carson.
Carson said Gagnier would be present at the meeting, along with David Emerson, who was EPIC’s chair and once served as a cabinet minister in the Martin Liberal and Harper governments, Black and Gerry Protti, who is currently chair of Alberta’s energy regulator.
On Sept. 13, Stephen Lucas, an assistant deputy minister with NRCAN, replied that both Paradis and Normandeau backed the meeting
“Bruce, Ministers Paradis and Normandeau are supportive of the meeting,” wrote Lucas.
The meeting was eventually held on Sept. 16 at 7:30 a.m. in Montreal’s Omni Hotel.
Protti, who was interviewed by RCMP investigators on Sept. 12, 2013, said the meeting lasted about 15 minutes and that Carson did most of the talking.
The RCMP said Carson’s work leading up to the meeting constituted lobbying.
“By communicating the work of EPIC with the energy ministers, Mr. Carson engaged in lobbying activities…with respect to the development of a policy of the government of Canada, namely the Canadian Energy Strategy on behalf of EPIC,” said the ITO.
In a September 2010 monthly EPIC report, Black praised the work of Carson, Protti and Gagnier.
“I would like to acknowledge our three vice chairs that presented our work to the energy ministers: Bruce Carson, Gerry Protti and Daniel Gagnier,” wrote Black.
Gagnier was also kept in the loop on Carson’s dealings with Harper’s former chief of staff Nigel Wright. Wright resigned last year in the midst of the controversy surrounding the Senate expense scandal and his $90,000 payment to suspended Conservative Senator Mike Duffy.
On Jan. 20, 2011, Carson wrote Wright about EPIC’s energy policy work.
“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,” wrote Carson.
Wright responded the next day.
“I’ve heard a lot of good things about you. Feel free to give me a call at any time. I’ll read the report over the weekend,” wrote Wright.
On Feb. 6, 2011, Carson sent an email to EPIC’s executive committee, including Gagnier, Emerson and Protti. The subject line said, “Nigel Wright-EPIC, informing them of the following.”
In the email, Carson said he had briefed Wright on EPIC and that he would keep him up to date on email.
“He seemed generally supportive,” wrote Carson.
On March 16, 2011, Harper’s then principal secretary Ray Novak, who is now PMO chief of staff, wrote RCMP Commissioner Bob Elliot asking for an investigation in Carson’s activities following an APTN National News report.
APTN National News reported that Carson was allegedly lobbying on behalf of an Ottawa-based water filtration company that had a financial contract with his then fiancée, Michele McPherson, a former escort. Carson was targeting First Nations struggling with water problems.
On Nov. 1, 2011, Gagnier registered with the Alberta lobbying registry to lobby on behalf of EPIC.
Gagnier also registered with the federal lobbyist registry to lobby on behalf of EPIC on March 4, 2013.
Trudeau’s office did not respond to request for comment.
Carson’s lawyer, Patrick McCann, did not respond to request for comment.