A second Vancouver Island cabinet minister has been dragged into a scandal dogging the federal Conservatives concerning a disgraced former adviser to Stephen Harper.
On Tuesday, a report in the Globe and Mail loosely linked the Ottawa office of Saanich-Gulf Islands MP Gary Lunn to Bruce Carson, who has been accused of unregistered lobbying. Last month, Vancouver Island North MP John Duncan's office was linked to Carson.
Both MPs say they have had no dealings with Carson. However, word of the links come as unwelcome news at election time.
Lunn's office hired Sarifa Khan as a ministerial staffer from March to September of 2008. Khan, in her early 20s, is the niece of Carson's former girlfriend, Barbara Lynn Khan, who was convicted in the United States of money laundering in connection with a North Carolina prostitution ring she helped to run.
Lunn told the Times Colonist that he had nothing to do with Khan's hiring but added that Sarifa Khan should not be dragged through the mud because of her aunt's history or her relationship to Carson.
"I had absolutely nothing to do with it, zero, and that's quite normal," Lunn said. "I have no idea of the history of her aunt."
Lunn dismissed the story as unfair and sensational "about a young girl who applied for a job, on her own, and went through a competitive interview process."
A young girl, said Lunn, "who is a niece of a former girlfriend of somebody who worked in another office who never spoke to me, never spoke to my chief of staff . . . got hired and worked in the office until the next election and I'm not involved in it at all."
Khan was not particularly experienced for the sought-after $50,000 job of special assistant, parliamentary affairs, nor was she involved in the Conservative Party. But Lunn said young and inexperienced people are regularly hired for such junior level positions, whether in the offices of ministers and members of parliament, or in campaign offices.
"We give them a chance," he said.
Esquimalt-Juan de Fuca Liberal MP Keith Martin, who is not seeking re-election, agreed that it is unfair to blame Sarifa Khan and link her to her aunt.
"I don't believe she should be tarred with the same brush," Martin said.
"Her relationship with someone else, I believe, cannot mar her ability to have a fair run at doing what she wants to do. And it's entirely plausible that the minister's office could very well delegate someone else to do the junior hires."
Louise Girouard, then chief of staff for Lunn, who was natural resources minister at the time, has taken responsibility for hiring Khan.
Girouard told the Globe and Mail that Khan was one of four applicants who answered an internal posting for the student intern-type job. Girouard said Carson, 66, was not involved.
Carson and Barbara Lynn Khan began dating in 2006, after she pleaded guilty to money laundering and was deported to Canada. He was an adviser to Harper at the time. The couple bought a condominium in 2009 after Carson left the Prime Minister's Office.
But it is Carson's more recent relationship with 22-year-old Michelle McPherson that landed him in hot water.
Carson met officials in Indian Affairs Minister John Duncan's office on Jan. 11 to discuss a bid for a federally funded pilot project by Ottawa-based water-filtration company H2O Global Group to sell water-treatment units to aboriginal reserves.
Duncan told the Times Colonist in an earlier interview that nothing untoward happened in the meeting between his staff and Carson.
"We meet with all kinds of people," he said. "It was a normal activity." Nothing was talked about that was not publicly available, he added.
Harper has asked the RCMP to investigate allegations that Carson gained access to government officials on behalf of his fiancÃ©e McPherson, also a former escort.
Harper has said he would not have hired Carson had he been fully briefed about a security clearance which showed Carson had two fraud convictions in the 1980s and three in the 1990s.
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