Bureaucrat alleged to have leaked cabinet documents in Norman case was suspended: government official

Bureaucrat alleged to have leaked cabinet documents in Norman case was suspended: government official
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OTTAWA — The government has suspended a public servant who is alleged by Vice Admiral Mark Norman’s defence lawyers to be the true source of leaked cabinet documents, a senior official said.

Les Linklater, associate deputy minister for Public Services and Procurement Canada, addressed the case on Thursday afternoon while appearing at the House of Commons government operations committee.

His comments are the first government confirmation of the employment status of Matthew Matchett. Previously, a department spokesperson said only that Matchett has been an employee since January 2017.

Conservative MP Kelly McCauley asked whether Matchett is still working in the department, given he appears to have been removed from the government’s employee directory.

“Mr. Matchett is an employee of PSPC, and he has been suspended,” Linklater said, using the initials for his department.

“When was he suspended?” McCauley asked.

“I don’t have the exact date, but we can provide that to the (committee) clerk,” Linklater said.

“I”m not at liberty to get into personnel management issues,” he said when pressed.

The allegation that Matchett leaked documents on the government’s shipbuilding program has not been tested in court, and he has not been charged. The RCMP has said its investigation into the leaks is still active, but has not confirmed whether Matchett is specifically a subject of that investigation.

The National Post and the Ottawa Citizen have made numerous attempts over several months to contact Matchett by email and phone, including on Thursday, but he has not responded.

Court filings by Norman’s defence team allege that it was Matchett who leaked cabinet documents around a $700-million project to acquire a supply ship for the navy from Davie Shipyards in Quebec. The defence has obtained government emails and RCMP witness statements that show Matchett, who then worked for the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, discussing dropping off documents to an Ottawa lobbyist who had Davie as a client.

The documents allegedly included a cabinet memo and a PowerPoint presentation on the Davie project that were set to be shown at a Nov. 19, 2015, cabinet committee meeting. The RCMP recovered the documents in a raid of the lobbyist’s office six months later.

Norman has been criminally charged with breach of trust over allegedly leaking information from that November cabinet meeting with the aim of preventing the government from backing away from the Davie project. Norman has insisted he is innocent, and his defence team argues the information was already widely circulating in Ottawa, at least in part due to Matchett.

A five-day hearing will start next week in the Ottawa courthouse on an application by Norman’s defence lawyers for further government disclosure — including information about Matchett.

“The defence requires production of information relating to Mr. Matchett’s leaks and how his case was treated internally and by the RCMP,” reads a notice of application for third-party records Norman’s lawyers filed in October.

“Mr. Matchett’s leaks of classified documents relate to the very same cabinet meetings and subject matter at the centre of this prosecution. The information sought is also relevant to both the standard of conduct in Ottawa, the differing treatment of leaks in Ottawa, and the motivation for charging V-Adm Norman.”

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