Jason Kenney among donors as GoFundMe legal defence fund for Vice-Adm. Mark Norman tops $100K

Vice-Adm. Mark Norman, the second-in-command of the Canadian military, speaks with reporters beside his lawyer, Marie Henein, outside the Ottawa court house on April 10, 2017. Global News

A GoFundMe campaign set up to help cover the legal costs of Vice-Adm. Mark Norman has more than doubled its original fundraising goal and raised more than $100,000 for the second-in-command of the Canadian military, who is charged with breach of trust for allegedly leaking details of a Liberal plan to scrap a deal to provide the navy with an interim supply ship.

One of those donors is Jason Kenney, the former defence minister who inked the deal at the heart of the case.

“Yes, Mr. Kenney contributed to Admiral Norman’s legal defence fund,” said Annie Dormuth, press secretary for the caucus of Alberta’s United Conservative Party, which Kenney now leads, in an email to Global News.

“He believes Admiral Norman to be a good and honourable man, and wanted to make at least a modest contribution to his legal defence.”

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READ MORE: Vice-Admiral Mark Norman charged with breach of trust over alleged shipbuilding leak

Earlier this week, Norman made his first appearance in court on what many in the defence community say are politically-motivated charges, and told media gathered at the Ottawa court house that he wanted to get the process wrapped up as soon as possible so he could get back to work.

Marie Henein, the criminal defence lawyer representing Norman, said the case was an attempt to scapegoat her client.

WATCH BELOW: Lawyer for Vice-Adm. Mark Norman says “it is self-evident” that her client is being made a scapegoat

Click to play video: 'Lawyer for Vice-Adm. Mark Norman says “it is self-evident” that her client is being made a scapegoat'
Lawyer for Vice-Adm. Mark Norman says “it is self-evident” that her client is being made a scapegoat

It all started back in 2014, when the navy had to retire both of its remaining supply ships unexpectedly and was left with no way to refuel while at sea.

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In the summer of 2015, Kenney amended federal procurement rules to allow cabinet to authorize a sole-sourced deal in cases in which a procurement would fulfill both an urgent and interim requirement.

He then arranged a $664-million deal with Davie shipyards, located in the riding of Conservative MP Steven Blaney, to lease a refurbished commercial supply ship for seven years.

READ MORE: Vice-Adm. Mark Norman is being scapegoated, lawyer says at first court appearance

Both of the other major shipyards in Canada, Irving and Seaspan, already had billions of dollars worth of federal contracts under the National Shipbuilding Strategy and were facing criticism for whether they would be able to deliver the ships under contract on time.

The deal with Davie was all but officially inked when the Liberals won a majority in October 2015.

The next month, the heads of both Irving and Seaspan sent letters to members of the federal cabinet on Nov. 17, 2015, and Nov. 20, 2015, asking officials to instead consider their own bids to supply an interim supply ship.

READ MORE: Seaspan joins push to halt supply ship deal

On Nov. 20, 2015, CBC News reporter James Cudmore published a report that the deal was being delayed and in early 2016 after took a job as a policy director to Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan.

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Cancelling the deal would have left the federal government on the hook to pay an $89-million penalty to Davie, which had already acquired the ship.

WATCH BELOW: RCMP allege Vice Admiral Mark Norman leaked government secrets

Click to play video: 'RCMP allege Vice Admiral Mark Norman leaked government secrets'
RCMP allege Vice Admiral Mark Norman leaked government secrets

As well, one of those firms — Seaspan — already held the federal contract to built and provide the permanent replacement supply ships.

While Ottawa is a town that leaks like a sieve, for unknown reasons, the leak that cabinet was considering scrapping the deal sparked an RCMP investigation that spanned more than a year and resulted in the January 2017 suspension of Norman from his position as vice chief of defence staff.

RCMP allege he leaked the fact cabinet was considering stalling the deal to Davie.

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READ MORE: Why did the Liberals in leaky old Ottawa get so angry about shipbuilding stories?

The suspension came with no explanation and both Sajjan and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau later publicly supported the move, even though Norman had yet to be charged with any offence at the time and was not charged until last month.

Also, for unclear reasons, the military has refused to provide financial assistance, despite the fact Norman remains employed by the Canadian Forces.

The legal defence fund set up for Norman was started by a retired army colonel, Lee Hammond, who told Global News the fund has been set up so it can only be accessed by Norman’s legal team and that his decision to start it came after the military turned down Norman’s request for legal aid.

“I had somebody say to me, again, a donor, that when this process started for Admiral Norman the first thing that would happen is all his friends would stop talking to him because they’re all still in uniform, that they would distance themselves from him and he would be facing this situation alone,” said Hammond.

“What the GoFundMe account is about and what the call to support him is about is to demonstrate to him that he’s not alone.”

While the initial goal was to raise $50,000, the fund has so far raised a total of just over $104,000, with a new goal set to try and reach $200,000.

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Many of the 873 donors over the last two months have close ties to the military and foreign service.

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