Opposition MPs call for emergency committee meeting on Liberal conduct in Norman case
Conservative and NDP members of the House of Commons national defence committee want an emergency meeting to examine the government’s conduct in the case of Vice-Admiral Mark Norman.
The Crown stayed a breach of trust charge last week against the former second-in-command of the Canadian Forces, but the government has faced heated questions about its role in the case since Norman was first removed from his position without explanation in January 2017.
In a letter sent on Sunday to Stephen Fuhr, the Liberal chair of the committee, Conservative and NDP members say they want to call a total of 14 witnesses to appear before the committee to answer questions on how the government handled the case.
“The prime minister, on numerous occasions, prejudiced the conduct of this matter by inappropriately anticipating that the RCMP’s investigation would result in a prosecution. This suggests that he and his cabinet had inappropriate access to information regarding an independent criminal proceeding,” the letter said.
WATCH: Federal government will not apologize to Vice-Admiral Mark Norman, Qualtrough says
“It is also clear that the government tried to politically interfere in a shipbuilding contract. When this came to light, he reacted by smearing the reputation of a highly respected naval officer. This has had a deleterious effect on the morale of the Canadian Armed Forces.”
The Conservative and NDP members are asking for a meeting on their request within five days and that the following requested witnesses appear no later than May 24:
- Vice-Admiral Mark Norman
- Prime Minister Justin Trudeau
- Minister of National Defence Harjit Sajjan
- Minister of Justice David Lametti
- Minister of Public Safety Ralph Goodale
- Minister of Public Services and Procurement Carla Qualtrough
- Former president of the Treasury Board Scott Brison
- Former minister of public services and procurement Judy Foote
- Chief of Defence Staff Gen. Jonathan Vance
- Former clerk of the Privy Council Michael Wernick
- Katie Telford, the prime minister’s chief of staff
- Gerald Butts, the prime minister’s former principal secretary
- Member of Parliament for Orleans Andrew Leslie
- James Cudmore, director of policy for the minister of democratic institutions
While Norman was not charged with the accusation of leaking government secrets until March 2018, Trudeau twice weighed in on the case before charges were laid.
In April 2017, Trudeau told reporters at a press conference that Norman’s case “will likely end up before the courts.”
Less than a year later, he weighed in for a second time, telling attendees at a February 2018 town hall that the case would “inevitably” lead to “court processes.”
Norman was not charged until March 2018.
At the heart of the issue was a leak to Cudmore — at the time a CBC News reporter then policy adviser to Sajjan and now policy director to Democratic Institutions Minister Karina Gould — about a plan by the then-newly elected Liberals to freeze a deal with Quebec’s Davie Shipyard to lease an interim supply ship for the Navy, which had none.
Both of its remaining vessels had been retired early, leaving the Navy without a way to refuel at sea.
WATCH: The political debate in the wake of Vice-Admiral Mark Norman’s vindication
While the deal was negotiated under the former Conservative government, it still needed to be formally signed by the incoming Liberals. Failing to do so by the end of November 2015 would have left taxpayers on the hook for a multimillion-dollar penalty to Davie Shipyard.
But court documents revealed through preliminary hearings into Norman’s case that the leak sent the Liberals into a frenzy to track down the source, despite the fact that sensitive information is routinely leaked in the capital.
The Privy Council Office, which is effectively the bureaucratic arm of the Prime Minister’s Office, referred the matter to the RCMP for investigation.
That referral, combined with the speculation by Trudeau about the case, has contributed to the perception among many with links to the defence industry and among the opposition benches that the government was improperly involved in the case.
Last week, the Crown admitted that new information shared with it by the defence had led prosecutors to believe they would not be able to prove their case.
The new information shared by Norman’s counsel has not been disclosed, given there is an ongoing court case involving a second public servant also charged with breach of trust in the matter. But several members of the former Conservative cabinet have come out saying they provided information to the defence that they believed would benefit Norman.
At issue was whether any alleged leak would have constituted a “marked departure” from the behaviour expected of someone in his role.
Sajjan has said the government will pay at least some of Norman’s legal fees.
But Qualtrough says the government will not be apologizing to the vice-admiral.
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