This Magazine

Progressive politics, ideas & culture


Three real reasons the "Carson Affair" is scandalous (none of which involve escorting)

victoria salvas

Screenshot of the APTN report on the Carson Affair.

So there’s this scandal: Bruce Carson, a former adviser to Stephen Harper’s prime minister’s office, allegedly claimed ties to the PMO in order to move forward a deal with an Ottawa company that would provide water filtration systems to First Nations communities. This deal would mean a handsome payout to an employee of that company—who also happens to be Carson’s fiancée. The press could not resist mentioning the fact that Carson’s spouse-to-be, Michele McPherson, formerly worked as an escort. It added a titillating edge to the story, a little dash of sex to go along with the otherwise fairly standard-issue story of a powerful political insider allegedly leveraging his influence for material gain. (The entire matter, it should be noted, is under investigation by the RCMP and the allegations have not been proven.)

Let’s be clear: Michele McPherson’s former line of work is not scandalous. There is plenty of actual scandal to go around here:

1. The shockingly bad state of water quality in First Nations and on reserves:

Compared to the general Canadian population, the Aboriginal population has 1.5 times higher risk of heart disease, a 3 to 5 times higher risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, and at a 8 to 10 times higher risk for Tuberculosis infection. In terms of water quality, according to Health Canada, for First Nations communities south of 60 degrees parallel, the management of safe drinking water is shared between the community and the Government of Canada and will provide funding and training for water quality testing. Still, communities like The Little Salmon Carmacks First Nation have been under a boil water advisory since 2006.

2. The abolition of the racist “Indian Act” was reduced to a political football:

Enacted in 1868, as part of the Constitution, the Indian Act gives the federal government exclusive authority to “Indians and lands reserved for Indians.” It also defines who qualifies as an “Indian.” Reports of the Carson scandal note that Assembly of First Nations National Chief Shawn Atleo was about to go into talks to negotiate the termination of the Act when Carson contacted him about the water deal. The day after this, Atleo announced that he would work to abolish the act within five years time. In exchange for help in getting rid of the Indian Act, Carson wanted Atleo’s support in promoting H20 Global Group. The abolishment of the Act was used by Carson as a pawn in getting his deal to go through with the Assembly of First Nations.

3. Bruce Carson and Michele McPherson allegedly abused political connections to get rich:

Frankly, who cares what Michele McPherson used to do to pay the bills? Let’s concentrate instead on the fact that she was poised to take a 20 percent commission on a government infrastructure project worth, potentially, eight figures; and that she and Carson appear to have improperly exploited his extraordinary access to the Indian and Northern Affairs ministry to do so. No one needs to tack on a juvenile preoccupation with McPherson’s sex life; the allegations are serious enough in their own right.

Show Comments