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KNIGHT: Many questions remain in political fall out of Norman prosecution

As a political matter it is certainly not over. The question of political interference looms large in this case.

BY: LEO KNIGHT

Earlier this week the Director of Public Prosecutions stayed the sole charge of Breach of Trust laid against Vice Admiral Mark Norman. That doesn’t mean he was exonerated as some have suggested. It means the Crown can reinstate the charge within one year.

That won’t, in my opinion, happen in this case. With all the water under the bridge relating to possible political interference, it is likely too dangerous for the government to attempt. So, as a matter of practicality, the issue is over.

As a political matter it is certainly not over.

The question of political interference looms large in this.  This is evidenced by the fact that Norman’s senior counsel had to fight tooth and nail to try and get documents relating to the procurement file for the naval supply ship that is at the heart of this. When counsel, Marie Henein did get documents, they were typically so redacted they were useless.

That, in and of itself screams political interference by the PMO and likely the PCO as well. Especially when you consider one lengthy memo written by the Clerk of the Privy Council Office, Michael Wernick, was redacted in its entirety.

Then there’s the government’s apparent refusal to fully reinstate Norman to his former position as the second – in – command of Canada’s military. Chief of Defence Staff Gen. Jonathan Vance said in a statement the military has missed Norman and he looks forward to meeting with him to discuss his return to active duty.

Norman said he wants to return to his former position as Vice Chief of Defence Staff, the second highest position in Canada’s military.

But, in a statement to reporters, Minister of Defence, Harjit Sajjan seemed to throw cold water on that notion. Sajjan said, “We currently have a vice-chief of defence staff and he will remain in place. I understand that Gen. Vance, as his immediate superior, will be meeting with him and discussing the next steps. Once those discussions have taken place I’ll have further advice given to me.”

The other piece of this is the quality of the investigation conducted by the RCMP who investigated this matter for over a year. The charge was laid in March of 2018. Yet the stay was entered by Crown in May of 2019. Apparently, it was entered after Norman’s counsel provided evidence gathered from former Cabinet members Jason Kenney, Erin O’Toole and Peter McKay, all of whom had some part in the procurement process which was well underway when the Liberals assumed power in late 2015.

I don’t understand how any credible investigation conducted by the RCMP could have not interviewed Ministers of the Crown who instituted and guided the public procurement process up to and including the awarding of the contract to Davie Shipbuilding.

Nothing happens in a vacuum and surely the RCMP should have been more thorough than it appears they were. Especially in light of the fact that it was information from these three that tipped the scales on the prosecution.

The Mounties for their part defended their investigation releasing a statement that said: “Throughout the course of this criminal investigation, investigators from the RCMP National Division Sensitive and International Investigations section have conducted a thorough, independent and highly professional investigation.”

Well, that just doesn’t seem possible in light of what we now know.  

Lastly, there’s Gen. Vance himself. Are his hands clean? On the very evening he relieved Norman of his command, Vance dined with Gerald Butts, then Principal Secretary in the PMO and Katie Telford, Trudeau’s Chief of Staff.

Vance testified that the subject of Norman’s relief of command did not come up at that dinner.

Really? The single major event of that day that would affect the military and the PMO, who tried to cancel the Davie procurement award and give the contract to huge Liberal supporters the Irving family, and the subject didn’t come up? I’m not buying it.

The decision to relieve someone of that rank and stature of command would inevitably result in a media storm involving the military and the PMO and to have Canadians believe the subject didn’t come up beggars belief.

It would seem there’s much left to come out in all of this and I doubt the stay of proceedings is going to end the story.

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