Steve Maher (a man I think is a topnotch investigative journalist) ran a story a day or two ago to the effect that William Elliott, the current Commissioner for the RCMP, was involved in screening Bruce Carson’s security clearance for the Prime Minister’s Office.
Yesterday, an ‘unnamed’ source says not only was it not Elliott, it was the Privy Council Office that did the screening. That source implies that no-one really worries too much about past offences unless they pose a security threat.
Now I would find this believable if I was (a) stupid (b) inexperienced and/or (c) hadn’t been through the security clearance process more times than I care to remember.
The security level we are talking about Bruce Carson holding was not the low level ‘enhanced reliability’ of some positions but ‘secret’, and we’re talking about someone working in the Prime Minister’s Office, not in a low level clerical position.
The Privy Council Office or the Prime Minister’s Office would have requested the clearance, sure, because the security clearance has to be requested by the department that’s going to do the hiring, but it’s the RCMP that would have conducted it.
Would Elliott, as the PM’s advisor on security matters made the request? Maybe, maybe not. Would he have seen the results of the security check? I can’t imagine he wouldn’t have when all those fraud convictions turned up but whether he did or didn’t, I’m damn sure that someone did.
As for the ‘he didn’t tell us’ back and forth, it’s a silly dodge. It isn’t hard to find a criminal record on the national police database. All you need is a name and birthdate. Even an approximate age is enough is enough to kick up a detailed criminal record history And it certainly doesn’t require disclosure by the criminal/applicant any more that it would require disclosure from a suspect the police are questioning.
So it doesn’t matter whether Carson listed every offence on his application for clearance or not. Any security clearance — any roadside stop, for that matter — would have brought up his criminal record dating back to his very first conviction.
Would a criminal record have mattered to the bureaucrats who made the request? One assumes so, or why even bother with a clearance. I remember getting a call from Johanne Senecal at the Prime Minister’s Office some years ago (Jean Chretien was the Prime Minister and she was his Director of Appointments at the time). She told me to get my ass over to Quebec to deal with a parking warrant. She was much more polite than that of course, but the message was clear.
I was being considered for an appointment to the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal and even an unpaid parking ticket would have been enough to disqualify me. Five fraud convictions? Jail time? Sorry, spin doctors. Not buying this ‘we didn’t know/he didn’t tell us.’ Not for a minute.
My concern about Carson, though, isn’t his record so much as the fact that ignoring it and letting him in the door allowed him to build the credibility needed to lobby (sorry, ‘allegedly’ lobby) his cronies for a whole lot of money. The PMO gave him a platform, access, and power. The Harper government even funded the new institute he got to head up to the tune of $ 15 million. And now they all say, including Harper, that they didn’t know? Didn’t give a damn is a more like it. Carson held all the right political values, and so the rest of his personal history didn’t matter.
Peggy’s regular blog posts on writing and getting published will resume on May 3rd, after the Canadian election.