Man overboard: Inside the fall of Vice-Admiral Mark Norman
|National Post 12 Jan 2018 at 15:35|
It was a chilly -11 C in the nation’s capital last November as thousands gathered at the National War Memorial to remember the sacrifice of Canada’s veterans. Defence minister Harjit Sajjan and veterans affairs Minister Seamus O’Regan, the government’s main representatives at the ceremony, stood at the front of the crowd along with rows of aging veterans, some in wheelchairs. The new governor general, Julie Payette, accompanied Diana Abel, that year’s Silver Cross Mother, representing all those in Canada who’d lost children in the line of duty. With Prime Minster Justin Trudeau at a summit in Asia, Sophie Grégoire Trudeau represented him among the many dignitaries who laid wreaths just steps from Parliament Hill.
Twenty kilometres away, in the east-end Ottawa suburb of Orléans, Vice-Admiral Mark Norman stood quietly somewhere among a much smaller crowd.
For the past several years Norman had been part of the official federal government ceremony commemorating the fallen. But not on this day, and perhaps not ever again.
The second-in-command of the Canadian Armed Forces until a year ago, Norman is now persona non grata at the Ottawa headquarters of the Department of National Defence. He has spent the last twelve months under a cloud of suspicion created by as-yet unsubstantiated RCMP claims that he breached the public trust and provided allegedly secret information to a company the federal government had hired to provide a supply ship to the Royal Canadian Navy.
While Norman stood in the crowd at the Orléans cenotaph, 440 kilometres away at Quebec City the supply ship at the heart of the controversy, the MV Asterix, was being prepared for its sea trials in Gaspé Bay, having been delivered on time and on budget — an extreme rarity in the world of Canadian military procurement.
These days the 54-year-old Norman spends most of his time at his home in Orléans. While he is still receiving his military salary, his life is on hold. A year ago the RCMP removed from that home thousands of documents — including many with no conceivable connection to the Asterix, like family photos and medical information about Norman’s wife, Beverly. Due to have been returned to the Normans by Jan. 9 of this year, the RCMP recently sought and were granted an extension to keep hold of the material for another 60 days.
Norman has still never officially been provided the reasoning for his unprecedented removal as vice-chief of the defence staff. He has never received a military hearing on the matter, and there has been no independent examination of the facts of his case.
Though Prime Minister Justin Trudeau publicly and boldly predicted Norman would end up in court, the claims made against the sailor have not been tested by a judge or jury. At this point, it is unclear whether they ever will be.
According to sources close to the case, the RCMP presented the evidence it has gathered in the Norman matter to the federal prosecutor’s office last summer; however, the federal prosecutor has laid no charges against Norman or anybody else in relation to this evidence, and the case remains open.
Supply ships may be the least glamorous vessels in the fleet, but they’re critical to the functioning of a proper navy. They make sure warships have enough fuel, food and ammunition to continue operating, and without them, a maritime force is limited in how far from its country’s shores it can travel.
The Royal Canadian Navy had been trying to replace its two aging supply ships since 1999, but those efforts kept failing, victims of a lack of political will and of Canada’s infamously ineffective military equipment procurement system.
A replacement program under the Liberal government of Prime Minister Paul Martin had gone nowhere. Stephen Harper’s Conservatives tried again in 2006, an effort that flopped within two years. In 2011 the Conservatives launched a new attempt under what they called the National Shipbuilding Strategy, selecting Seaspan Shipyards in Vancouver to build two replacements.
But those vessels would be years away from service. Even as the Conservatives made their latest attempt to solve the navy’s supply problems, behind the scenes Mark Norman was warning politicians the government’s shipbuilding plan was sailing into stormy waters.
Norman comes from a military family. His father had been an army major-general, but the younger Norman had been drawn to the sea and joined the naval reserves in 1980, when he was 17. Trained as a diesel mechanic he transferred to the regular naval force five years later, building an unblemished military career over more than three decades that saw him decorated many times over. In 2003 he was given command of HMCS St. John’s, a Halifax-class frigate; six years later he was named commander of Canada’s Atlantic fleet. In June 2011 he was promoted to deputy commander of the Royal Canadian Navy, and two years later he had command of the service.
One of those difficult decisions came in late 2014 when Norman ordered the removal from service of the navy’s only two supply vessels. HMCS Protecteur was a burned-out hulk after being crippled by a fire earlier that year. HMCS Preserver, more than 40 years old, had become unsafe to operate because it was literally rusting away.
Vice-Admiral (retired) Peter Cairns, another former head of the Canadian Navy, would point out in a 2015 essay that the loss of the ships “effectively reduced the navy to a well-armed coast guard; unable to form a task group without the assistance of foreign nations.”
Norman laid it on the line for MPs during a November 2014 meeting of the House of Commons committee on national defence. “The retirement of current refuellers and the delay in the construction of Joint Support Ships have led to capacity issues, which have a ripple effect,” he said. “Owing to the capacity issues, Canada is unable to support and maintain those ships at sea if it needs to deploy them elsewhere.”
Canada’s navy was put in the embarrassing position of having to strike a deal with Chile and Spain, two nations willing to lease some of their supply ships to Canada, but only for short periods.
In January 2015, the federal government approved a new plan that could provide at least a temporary solution — it would lease a supply ship from a private firm. Proposals for such a stop-gap measure were received from Irving Shipbuilding in Halifax, Seaspan in Vancouver and Davie Shipbuilding in Levis, Que.
Considerations both practical and political led the Conservatives to choose the Davie proposal.
The Irving family’s pitch was rejected for a variety of reasons, including concerns their shipyard wouldn’t be able to work quickly enough, according to RCN officers. There was also the view that Irving, which under the National Shipbuilding Strategy had already been selected to build the bulk of the RCN’s future fleet, had more than enough work to last their Halifax yard for decades.
Seaspan’s proposal was rejected because of concerns the yard was failing behind in the work it had already been given — commissions to build two new supply ships, a Polar-class icebreaker and four coast guard ships were already behind schedule.
The Davie proposal was attractive politically to the Conservatives as the shipyard was located in the riding of Conservative cabinet minister Steven Blaney. With the country about to go into a federal election, the Conservatives hoped to deal with the navy’s supply ship problem while potentially getting votes in Quebec by providing work to a shipyard that had been passed over for work on the federal shipbuilding program.
Dubbed Project Resolve, the deal was a gamble for Davie. The project was valued at $670 million and would see Davie and its affiliates buy a vessel — a commercial container ship launched in 2009 called the Asterix, owned at the time by a Greek shipping concern and sailing under a Liberian flag — converting it into a supply ship to the navy’s specifications, providing a civilian crew for five years and maintaining the ship over the same period. However, Davie would receive no money until it delivered the ship to the government. What’s more, the Asterix was considered only an “interim” supply vessel, so the deal offered the Quebec yard only a limited role in federal shipbuilding.
On the first day of August, 2015, Jason Kenney, the defence minister of the day, announced the government had signed a letter of intent with Davie for the interim supply ship project. Shortly thereafter, Norman began regular email communication with Spencer Fraser, a former RCN officer who headed Federal Fleet, the Davie affiliate that would oversee Project Resolve.
In Canada’s small and tightly knit defence community, it’s common for senior military leaders to be in touch with the industry officials whose firms provide the Canadian Forces with equipment. Norman and Fraser had served together and had known each other socially, meeting from time to time over the years. After Fraser left the navy for an industry job, Norman continued periodic communications with him, as he had done with other navy officers and former colleagues who went into the private sector. That communication had ceased during the selection process for the interim supply ship, according to industry sources, because of Fraser’s involvement with an active bid.
When in the summer of 2015 the two men resumed their correspondence — later collected by the RCMP and used to support a sworn information to obtain a search warrant for Norman’s home — many of Norman’s initial emails reassured Fraser that those in government understood the importance of the project. Though Davie had purchased the Asterix, which arrived at the company’s Quebec yard in early October 2015, and though several hundred workers were standing by to begin conversion of the vessel, the country was in the middle of a federal election and the crucial next phase of the project — the government approving the conversion — was for the time being in political limbo.
On Oct. 8, Fraser emailed Norman to give him an update on the project. He outlined the type of communications gear to be used on the Asterix, the up-front engineering costs and the price tag for the crew and the vessel lease as well as the annual maintenance costs. Fraser told Norman he had met with the NDP, who had voiced support for Project Resolve. With the Liberals edging towards forming a new government, Fraser also said he planned to meet party officials to “confirm their support.” Norman sent him an encouraging email, pointing out that there was consistent support within the federal government for the ship.
On Oct. 15 Canadians elected a Liberal majority, sending the Conservatives, who had instigated Project Resolve, to the opposition benches. But neither in the navy nor in the federal bureaucracy was the change in government seen as a stumbling block for the project. During the campaign the Liberals had promised to rebuild the military and reinvigorate shipbuilding. Project Resolve would seem to help them deliver on both of those promises. “My sense is that there is little risk of the contract not being supported,” Norman reassured Fraser.
Davie was also promoting the Resolve-class as able to take on humanitarian missions, a specific area of interest for the Liberals. Norman pointed out to Fraser that strategy not only made sense but that it kept “the heat on,” presumably a reference to ensuring that Resolve continued to move forward.
But several weeks later the situation changed. On Nov. 15 Fraser was informed that a member of CFN Consultants, an Ottawa lobbying firm affiliated with one of the Irvings’ partner companies, was predicting that Project Resolve was doomed.
Two days later, a letter from James D. Irving landed on the desks of four members of the new Liberal cabinet: Sajjan, finance minister Bill Morneau, and two politicians from Atlantic Canada, procurement minister Judy Foote and Treasury Board president Scott Brison.
In his letter, Irving accused the previous federal government of having pursued a sole-source deal with Davie, and claimed his company’s competing proposal was never properly evaluated — a situation he now wanted the ministers to rectify.
The government’s reaction to the missive from the powerful Irving family was swift.
The next day Privy Council Office officials had a teleconference with DND procurement staff, asking them who, other than Davie, might be able to provide the navy with an interim supply ship.
That same day — Nov. 18, 2015 — Norman emailed the country’s top soldier, Chief of the Defence Staff Gen. Jon Vance, to tell him about the questions being posed by the Privy Council Office. Such queries were not totally unexpected given that a new government was now in place, Norman acknowledged. “Equally, however, this could be concerning — it took us almost 18 months to get to this point,” Norman wrote to Vance. “Perhaps you can mention to MND.”
At Davie, company officials and their lobbyists tried to figure out what was happening. They had compiled their own document outlining the value of Project Resolve and planned to send it to various ministers. In particular, they wanted to concentrate on Brison, who they saw as a potential threat to the project since he appeared to be the one raising the most questions about the deal.
Brian Mersereau, a big player at Davie’s lobbying firm, Hill + Knowlton, suggested going to the news media to put pressure on Jean-Yves Duclos, the Liberal MP whose riding was closest to the Davie yard. In addition, Mersereau recommended that Davie warn officials in the Quebec government about the potential threat to Project Resolve — and the implied threat to jobs in the province — so they too could raise their concerns with Trudeau’s office.
The MV Asterix. (Royal Canadian Navy Handout)
Cabinet’s decision to delay Project Resolve sparked a flurry of emails. In the navy, some worried that a temporary delay turn into an indefinite delay and eventually allow the program to be scuttled. The Liberals didn’t have a good track record on military procurement; Prime Minister Jean Chretien had cancelled a naval helicopter program in 1993, and 24 years later the Canadian Forces was still waiting for replacement aircraft. Those concerns were even more pronounced on the industry side, where huge sums of money were at stake.
On Nov. 19, 2015 Fraser emailed Alex Vicefield, head of Inocea, an international shipping conglomerate that owns Davie, as well as John Schmidt, a Davie official. The subject line read, “From Mark.” The email contained lines regarding Project Resolve, contained in quotation marks. “Most positive interpretation could be govt just unsure and asking questions; cynical view could be folks manipulating new govt to try to kill it. Not sure what the truth is.” (All emails in this story are quoted as they were written.)
The same day Fraser sent another email to Vicefield with the subject, “From our friend.”
It contained a statement in quotations: “I can tell you that Irving did stick their nose into this and sent a letter to multiple ministers (incl Brison) a couple of days ago that no doubt contributed to the problem.”
That evening Vicefield received a phone call from public works deputy minister George Da Pont and Gavin Liddy, the associate deputy minister at the department.
On the call, pre-approved by the Privy Council Office, the bureaucrats informed Vicefield that cabinet had concerns over Project Resolve and wanted more information before they made a decision. Could Vicefield’s company extend the deal a “couple of months” to accommodate the ministers?
“Peter McKay (sic) told Brison to get his head out (of) his ass….not sure it helped but at least he did it,” Fraser wrote.
On the night of Nov. 19, Vicefield sent an email to company executives and lobbyists. Brison’s desire for a review of Project Resolve was strange, he said, as the deal had already been reviewed numerous times by independent agencies brought in by the federal government. And the Inocea CEO was ready to play hardball.
“If it does transpire to be that, I will do a full page plea in the Globe and Mail to Scott Brison asking that this Nova Scotia minister put his regional bias aside for matters of national security. …then I will lay off 400 guys next week.”
Norman was unhappy with the development. “Irving could trace letter to me…assholes…they couldn’t just leave it alone,” Norman added. “Greedy and self-serving.”
That evening Norman emailed Fraser to tell him that Trudeau’s office and the Privy Council Office were “having kittens over references to explicit cabinet discussions in Cudmore article. Launching an investigation…UFB.”
“They’ll all be distracted from the actual capability gap as they execute a which (sic) hunt for who quoted who…..sigh.”
Fraser informed Norman that Davie was preparing to turn up the pressure. The company was going to inform Quebec premier Philippe Couillard that the shipyard would be closed and 1,200 people would be laid off, and that the company planned to sue the federal government.
The plan made sense, Norman replied. He also noted that Irving officials had apologized to him, presumably for sending the letter to the cabinet ministers. “I played nice but knew there were BS’ing me…its personal and vindictive,” Norman wrote.
Later that day, Norman emailed a retired naval officer lamenting what he called Irving’s “intervention” in the supply ship project. The situation, the vice-admiral said, was demoralizing. “They actually could care less about the work, they just (want) to block Davie from getting it!”
In Norman’s view, the delay would put the defence capabilities of the country and the welfare of his sailors at risk. Norman would later tell the same retired officer he was ready to resign over the delay on Project Resolve. “The blatant politics of this (and too many other similar files) is just beyond what should be reasonable,” he explained. “People just don’t give a shit and it actually hurts.”
On Nov. 23, Fraser emailed Vicefield and Schmidt to inform them that Seaspan — the west coast shipyard that was to build two new supply ships for the navy — had sent a letter of their own to the Liberal government, pointing out that they too had proposed an interim ship but were rejected.
Fraser would later send another email with the subject line, “From our friend.”
It read: “Fucking Seaspan just sent a letter to the same folks as Irving (they cc’ed me so I can’t do anything with it.).”
The next day Fraser received a copy of the Seaspan letter, which another naval officer had forwarded to the Project Resolve team.
On Nov. 25, both Cudmore and Den Tandt published articles about the Seaspan letter, in which the shipyard claimed its interim supply ship proposal was not properly considered.
Fraser was very pleased with the new article. “Shock and awe baby!,” he wrote to Norman.
But the vice-admiral wasn’t impressed. “He’s (Cudmore) going to draw some really aggressive attention,” Norman wrote. “The source of that document will be investigated by the RCMP and anyone associated with him will be part of their search. This is serious shit.” (Cudmore, now a senior advisor to defence minister Sajjan, declined to comment for this story.)
The leak did its job.
Couillard phoned Trudeau to tell the prime minster the delay was unacceptable and was putting Quebec jobs at risk. The Shipbuilding Association of Canada released a statement questioning the Liberal decision, pointing out Davie won the project after an “exhaustive industry solicitation process” and questioning whether Irving and Seaspan, who were working on other federal vessels, had the capacity to take on a new project.
Trudeau found himself taking questions from journalists about what he would do about the potential layoffs at Davie because of his government’s decision.
Environment minister Catherine McKenna told investigators she believed that as a result of the leak, “trust and confidence in officials was clearly put into disrepute.”
In his interview with the RCMP, Brison went even further. The minister, who had been in federal politics for 20 years, claimed he had never before seen such a leak of sensitive information. “The rendering of this (classified information) into the public domain did an awful lot to limit our ability to really do what we’d intended to do, and that is more due diligence on this,” he said.
What turned out be more of a limit on the Liberals’ desire for more due diligence was a penalty clause the Conservatives had inserted into the deal. Since Davie had purchased the ship using its own funds and had hired hundreds of workers, the federal government would be required to pay a penalty of $89 million if the project did not proceed.
On Nov. 30 Sajjan and Foote announced that the government had decided against the two-month delay. The ministers pointed out that the Asterix had already been delivered to Davie and that workers were standing by. To restart the project and launch a competition would mean losing “precious time in providing the navy with a critical refuelling and support capability.”
The ministers also acknowledged the $89 million penalty.
Davie had approval to proceed with Project Resolve. The RCMP, meanwhile, were ramping up their investigation into who was originally behind the leak.
The Ottawa offices of the global communications and lobbying firm Hill + Knowlton are on Metcalfe Street, just two blocks from Parliament Hill and the same distance from the War Memorial in the capital’s compact downtown. In May 2016, they were raided by the RCMP.
The Mounties had been interviewing government officials through the first part of the year, and that month raided H+K as well as Fleishman Hillard, another lobbying firm that had previously worked for Davie, and the offices of Davie itself, with search warrants that allowed them to collect emails and other information.
The police force soon developed its working theory.
RCMP Corp. Matthieu Boulanger, in charge of the investigation, believed that Norman provided information, alleged to include cabinet confidences, to Fraser. Norman did that, according to the RCMP, “to influence decision-makers within government to adopt his preferred outcome” of providing the Asterix supply ship for the Royal Canadian Navy.
The RCMP also believed that Norman was the “friend” Vicefield had mentioned in a number of emails.
Cudmore’s reporting made clear that someone had disclosed confidential information from the cabinet committee meeting, the police force alleged. Although the RCMP acknowledged it didn’t know how Cudmore obtained the Irving letter, they alleged that Norman knew the journalist had a copy or had been informed about the contents of Cudmore’s article before it was published.
On Nov. 16, 2016 the RCMP launched a surveillance operation against Norman, with a police officer stationed outside Norman’s house in the Ottawa suburb of Orléans. The observations were typically mundane: An officer would report the garage door opening and “an unidentified male wearing white pants” entering a car and drove away. (It was Norman, in uniform, going to work.)
On Monday, January 9, 2017 at 7:22 a.m., seven police officers arrived in three vehicles at Norman’s house. The vice-admiral was off that day and was about to take Beverly, assistant to a veterinarian, to her office. After a brief questioning that left her shaken, police allowed her to leave.
The officers stayed in the house for six hours. They seized a desktop computer, a laptop, two cell phones and three iPads, one owned by Beverly.
Norman had defence department files on some of the devices — he often worked at home at night — but none classified as secret.
After the RCMP left the house, Norman phoned his office, asking his assistant to set up a meeting with Vance, his boss. He was unaware that even as police were in his home, a senior RCMP officer was already briefing Vance. Sajjan, the department’s deputy minister John Forster and various bureaucrats were also informed of the police investigation.
Several hours later, Vance’s chief of staff called Norman and informed him that the CDS wanted to see him at 6 p.m. that day.
Norman arrived, unaccompanied, to Vance’s office. The general was there with Forster.
Vance handed Norman a draft notice of his intent to relieve the naval officer of his military duties. “I have compelling, sobering and frightening information,“ Vance told the naval officer, although he provided no details.
“Do you have anything to say for yourself?” Vance asked.
Given the severity of Vance’s statement, Norman said he wanted time to consult a lawyer, and, concerned that his response might be turned over to police and potentially used against him, asked Vance about the legal status of any response he would provide. Neither the general nor Forster could answer his question.
Instead, Vance said he needed a response in 24 hours. Norman asked for more time. Within 45 minutes, the meeting was over.
On Thursday, Jan. 12, Vance once again requested a formal response from Norman, again providing no explanation for his removal.
On Friday, Jan. 13th, Vance informed Norman that he had run out of time. Admiral Ron Lloyd would be appointed as acting vice-chief of the defence staff. Norman was given a formal letter, suspending him from command. In the letter, Vance wrote without explanation that he had lost confidence in Norman’s ability to command.
There would be no internal hearing, and no formal opportunity for Norman to present his side of the story. The decision was based on the unproven claims that underpinned the RCMP’s search warrant.
On the morning of Monday, Jan. 16, Vance’s letter was distributed to various offices at National Defence Headquarters in Ottawa. It took only 20 minutes to be leaked to media outlets. DND’s public affairs branch would officially distribute it to news organizations later that day.
Beyond that, though, Vance ordered a blackout on all information about Norman. The Canadian Forces refused to say why the vice-admiral had been removed, when Norman was given Vance’s letter, whether Norman was still serving and, if so, in what job or capacity. It also refused to explain why it couldn’t answer such basic questions.
Vance, meanwhile, had left the country — but the military wouldn’t say where he had gone or why, or even when he’d departed. (It would later emerge he was in Europe for meetings.)
Chief of the Defence Staff Gen. Jon Vance in a file photo.
Asked about Norman’s removal, Trudeau declined to provide any details. Vance had made the decision, Trudeau said, and his government fully backed its defence chief. Sajjan released a statement that echoed Trudeau’s almost word for word.
Only in Canada could the second-highest-ranking military officer in the nation be removed from office without a word of explanation.
After 10 days of allowing speculation to percolate about the reasons for Norman’s dismissal, Sajjan announced what the government had known all along. “This is not an issue of national security,” the minister told journalists. No other explanation was provided.
So why did it take Sajjan so long to make clear that the investigation wasn’t a matter of national security? Sajjan declined to answer that question but Norman’s supporters say the government and military silence significantly damaged the vice-admiral’s reputation. Some claim it was a deliberate effort to damage Norman in the public eye.
“It would be a profound disservice to us all if a national hero and widely respected Canadian who has served under numerous governments was caught in the bureaucratic cross-fire.”
Henein said her hope was that an objective investigation be concluded quickly and that Norman would be returned to his military post.
Weeks later, Trudeau made a bold prediction: Norman was going to trial. “This is an important matter that is obviously under investigation, and will likely end up before the courts, so I won’t make any further comments at this time,” the prime minister told journalists on April 6.
The comments alarmed Norman’s supporters. Was the PMO coordinating on strategy with the RCMP and Justice Department? How could Norman get a fair trial — if it came to that — if the Prime Minister’s Office were involved in the prosecution?
At National Defence Headquarters, officials began to remove traces of Norman’s existence. An officer phoned the vice-admiral at home and informed him that his personal possessions were being hauled out of his office so a new acting VCDS, Lt.-Gen. Alain Parent, could move in. Plaques and photos were taken off the wall. Some were put in storage, others boxed and sent to Norman’s home by taxi.
The investigation into Norman has been extensive. Police have interviewed more than 30 individuals — staff at Davie and affiliated firms, at the Department of National Defence, at Public Services and Procurement Canada, and a number of federal cabinet ministers. The RCMP obtained nine search warrants, examining Norman’s home, cell phones and computers, Davie’s offices and those of its lobbyists, and internet- and phone-service providers to Spencer Fraser.
While Norman’s correspondence with Fraser contained raw language and candid observations, there appears to have been no actual transfer of classified information or cabinet confidences in those messages.
The federal police force has already been warned that its case against Norman may be on shaky ground.
“The emails in question are by no means smoking guns,” Phillips said in his ruling.
Phillips also pointed out another possible explanation for Norman’s emails: for decades, Canadian military procurement has been a mess. Norman found himself in the midst of situation where the acquisition of a supply ship the navy badly needed appeared to be headed off the rails due solely to political considerations. The judge specifically noted that none of what Norman did was for financial gain, but was instead to advance ensure well-being of the navy and his sailors.
“At its highest, it appears that the potential allegation against Vice-Admiral Norman is that he was trying to keep a contractual relationship together so that the country might get itself a badly needed supply ship,” Phillips wrote. “A reasonable member of the informed public might understand the frustration of being Vice-Admiral of a Navy that cannot on its own go more than a tank of gas away from port. An officer of his rank would be expected to develop and maintain relationships with those in the business of supply the Navy and his communications with such people are not, therefore, in and of themselves untoward.”
Phillips highlighted another potential problem with the RCMP investigation: For a case to stand against Norman, prosecutors will have to be prove that the naval officer was the first in leaky Ottawa to have shared any Cabinet confidences in question. “To be found to have been the leak which breached cabinet confidentiality the remainder of the information loop must be found to have been airtight,” the judge said. “Even if Vice-Admiral Norman was putting information into the public domain, that might not mean he was the first or only one to do so. If he was not the first, was he certainly breaching confidentiality? If the information was already revealed, would he necessarily have been engaged in a serious and marked departure from the standards expected of an individual in a similar position of public trust?”
There is also the possibility a third individual may have been involved in supplying Davie with insider information. In a Nov. 24, 2015 email, Fraser told Norman that an individual he called “the Wolf” had been providing the company with behind-the-scenes information.
Liberal Senator Colin Kenny points out that the details of the Nov. 19 cabinet meeting would have been known initially by dozens of government officials.
Such details are quickly disseminated to various senior bureaucrats for planning purposes, explained the senator, whose job in the office of Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau was at times to coordinate and prepare cabinet-confidential information. Those bureaucrats, in turn, pass the information on to their subordinates. In addition, political staff are also aware of the information their cabinet minister bosses have discussed. In the Norman case, information collected by the RCMP indicates at least four senior bureaucrats had initial knowledge of cabinet’s decision on Project Resolve.
“To claim that Mark Norman is the only one with such information is ridiculous,” said Kenny. “He appears to me to be the designated fall guy.”
Norman’s supporters remain astonished by the RCMP’s pursuit of the naval officer given that leaks of secret information and cabinet confidences to trusted journalists have been part of the media strategy of every government in memory — including the current one.
Portions of the 2017 federal budget were provided to CTV days in advance of the document being made public. A “senior Liberal official” confirmed to the Globe and Mail the decision to name Julie Payette as Governor General before it was made public, telling Globe reporter Daniel Leblanc, “She is perfectly aligned with the image that we want to project. It’s such a nice nomination.” The Globe also revealed details of a Canadian special forces sniper’s killing of an Islamic terrorist, an incident officially classified as secret. And CTV was provided advance details about the government’s decision to legalize recreational marijuana.
“It’s all part of the Ottawa political game,” said retired naval Capt. Kevin Carle, who held senior positions in the media relations branch at Department of National Defence headquarters. “Information is leaked by the government of the day in a controlled method to journalists. No investigations are launched because it’s all sanctioned by the government.”
(Mike Faille / National Post)
In the weeks before the raid on Norman’s home, reports indicated construction on the two Joint Support Ships being built at Seaspan in Vancouver had fallen behind schedule, and not for the first time. The cost of the project had grown, and though a DND performance report suggested the ships would be built by early 2021, some doubt that will be the case.
The Asterix, the vessel for which Norman fought, was launched in October and will be the Royal Canadian Navy’s main lifeline for warships at sea for the foreseeable future. There is widespread acknowledgement in the navy — privately, at least — that without Norman’s advocacy for Project Resolve the navy would for years have continued to have no supply capability of its own.
Canada’s community of retired naval officers has voiced little public support for Norman. As is the nature of this country’s close-knit military-industrial community, many have their own lucrative contracts with defence companies courting the government, and they are loath to do anything that might compromise their business.
How long would Norman continue to be suspended from duty? “As a matter of policy, removals from command should be temporary, except in the most exceptional of circumstances, with a decision to continue or cease that removal provided at a later date when all of the information is known and full procedural fairness can be accommodated,” said Vance’s spokesman, Lt.-Col. Jason Proulx.
Did Norman receive a hearing before being removed from command? The spokesman declined to comment, out of deference to what he called an ongoing investigation.
In some Ottawa military circles there is a belief that the government intends to make an example of Norman — that, his legal bills mounting as his state of limbo stretches on indefinitely, his family will at some point be under enough financial stress that the vice-admiral will be forced to resign.
Norman, however, has told friends he isn’t going anywhere.
In May, just before Canadian Forces personnel were to strip his office of his mementos and awards and send them to his home, Norman phoned defence headquarters and informed officials there to carefully record the process. “I want you to photograph exactly where each of those items are in the office,” Norman told officers. “Because I’m coming back — and they are going back up on the wall where they belong.”