Last week the RCMP announced a single charge of Breach of Trust by a public official against Vice Admiral Mark Norman, the former second in command of the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF). The investigation was conducted by the RCMP’s National Division, the section responsible,ostensibly, for “sensitive and international” investigations. This is the same section that conducted the investigation of Senator Mike Duffy in the Senate expense scandal. The problem is that it reeks of politics and seems to have little to do with justice.
Norman had in his portfolio oversight of the National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy which was intended to be the replacement of the Protecteur class of naval supply ships. While the project had been underway for several years, a series of incidents led to the premature decommissioning of the HMCS Preserver and the HMCS Protecteur in 2014.
The government of Stephen Harper understood the problem of not having our own naval supply ships. There aren’t any gas stations in the middle of any ocean. That meant our navy was limited in how far our ships could travel. The navy scrambled and rented a supply ship from the Chilean navy for the Pacific, but that was a limited arrangement. They were in the process of negotiating with Spain for a supply ship for the Atlantic coast but that never came to fruition.
The Harper government changed contracting regulations that allowed them to do a sole-sourced contract when operational necessity merited. They then entered into an agreement with Davie Shipyards to convert a cargo ship, the MS Asterix, purchased by the shipyard, into a supply ship that would bridge the gap while Seaspan Shipyards in North Vancouver was building the replacement “Joint Support Ships.”
So far, so good. But the Harper government lost the election that year and the country was, yet again, blessed with a Liberal government. Those of us with memory of the last Liberal government recall the absolute cock-up they made of the Sea King helicopter replacement program. Their mismanagement, or should I say political corruption, cost the taxpayers $500 million in penalties for the cancellation of contracts put in place by the previous Conservative government of Brian Mulroney.
The Sea King replacement project began in 1983 and was well on the way until the Tories lost the 1993 election and the Liberal government of Jean Chrétien won. One of their first actions was to cancel the Sea King replacement contracts. To say that decision was simply political and blatantly stupid would be an understatement. There are still Sea Kings in operational use by the Canadian navy. They were old when Mulroney launched the New Shipboard Aircraft Project in 1985 for God’s sake. Navy pilots describe the Sea Kings as “10,000 nuts and bolts flying in loose formation.”
Not to be outdone, the government of Justin Trudeau, as one of their first acts decided to cancel the contract with Davie Shipbuilding after receiving communications from Irving Shipbuilding on the east coast requesting the cancellation of the contract and opening it up to bids from other shipyards. Naturally, the Irvings through their group of companies are huge donors to the Liberals historically. So Trudeau and the Liberals, as is their wont, decided in Cabinet to do exactly that. In their world the good of the country falls behind what is good for the Liberals.
Needless to say, Norman, was frustrated by that. He is alleged to have engaged in a series of communications with Davie Shipyards about the problem. The information was somehow leaked to the media and the ensuing uproar caused Trudeau to retreat on the decision.
The project went ahead and as we speak, the HMCS Asterix is undergoing sea trials. All’s well that ends well one might think. But no, Trudeau called in the RCMP and Norman was suspended by the Chief of Defence Staff Jonathan Vance pending investigation.
The RCMP raided Norman’s home as well as Davie Shipyards and a myriad of other places and organizations in Canada as well as the US resulting last week with the announcement of a breach of trust charge against Norman. Stunning.
Norman has an unimpeachable record of service to the nation. And let’s be realistic, to penalize a man like that suggesting he leaked something, given that leaks are the capital of government, journalists and lobbyists, simply smacks of revenge.
Clearly Norman, by all accounts, frustrated by political interference, did whatever he did in the best interests of the country. It is also useful to note that Section 122 of the Criminal Code was designed to rout out corruption by public officials, typically for those who make decisions meant to benefit themselves or associates. There is no apparent evidence, at least in the public domain, of any such benefit sought by Norman in any of this. Now, maybe the RCMP unearthed something like that in their investigation, but of that, I am very sceptical.
Adding to all of this, Trudeau, not once but twice, in the past year, before the investigation was concluded and the charge laid, stated this matter would inevitably end up in court. How in the world would he know that? Well, there is certainly historical precedent of the PMO interfering in an RCMP investigation. Project Sidewinder during the Chrétien administration quickly leaps to mind.
No, this smacks of political revenge and crushing someone who defied the Liberals.
Norman is not a wealthy man after a career in the military. Some folks who served with him have set up a GoFundMe account to help with his legal bills trying to fight the might and deep pockets of the Crown.
This is outrageous.
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