Liberal MPs have denied former Vice-Admiral Mark Norman a chance to testify at parliament about his two-year ordeal fighting the federal government against charges that the Crown abandoned last week.
“It’s clear the government tried to interfere in a shipbuilding contract,” Conservative defence committee member James Bezan told colleagues deliberating his motion to invite Norman and 13 others, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, to provide their version of events.
Bezan, the Conservatives’ defence critic, said Norman’s plight has “had a deleterious effect on the morale of the Canadian Forces.”
After nearly two hours of back-and-forth, Liberal MPs used their committee majority to defeat the motion, but not before rejecting New Democrat MP Randall Garrison’s last-minute amendment to whittle the invitation list to just Norman.
While Liberal MPs accused opposition members of trying to play politics in Defence committee and denied any political interference in Norman’s case on the government’s side, Garrison disagreed.
“I believe we have heard sufficient evidence in public to show political interference,” he told the committee.
In March of 2018, RCMP charged Norman with one count of breach of trust related to a leak of confidential documents about a Conservative-era sole-sourced contract for a $610 million naval procurement awarded to Davie Shipbuilding in Québec.
The leak detailed a 2015 cabinet meeting shortly after Liberals won their majority government: to halt the Davie resupply project already underway because rival shipyard J.D. Irving had asked that the original sole-source contract be opened to competition.
The charges against Norman came more than a year after police raided his Ottawa home and General Jonathan Vance, chief of the defence staff, suspended Norman from his command in January 2017.
Adding to speculation that the case brought against Norman was politically motivated, during an Edmonton town hall in February 2018, two months before Norman was charged, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau described Norman’s case as “very much underway in terms of investigation and inevitably court processes.”
Little more than a week ago, Crown prosecutor Barbara Mercier told Ontario Superior Court that based on the new information provided to her by Norman’s lawyer Marie Henien, there was no chance for a conviction.
During Norman’s opening marks at a press conference following the Crown’s stay of prosecution, he spoke of revealing more about the matter at a time and place of his choosing.
“I have an important story to tell, that Canadians will want and need to hear. And it is my intention in the coming days to tell that story,” Norman told reporters. “Not to lay blame but to ensure that we all learn from this experience.”
“Ultimately, I look forward to immediate reinstatement and a return to serving Canada – something that I have done unfailingly for the last 38-years.”
Defence minister Harjit Sajjan has since said that Vance would be discussing possible roles for the former Vice-Admiral, but ruled out returning Norman to his command of the Royal Canadian Navy.
While the government has noted its regret over Norman’s ordeal, it has stopped short of apologizing to him. Earlier this week MPs in the House of Commons supported a motion to apologize to the Norman, but the prime minister skipped out just before the vote.