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RCMP should drop investigation into Vice-Admiral Norman, lawyer says

Vice Admiral Mark Norman, left, greets officers at a change of command ceremony in Halifax on July 12, 2013.

The Canadian Press

Vice-Admiral Mark Norman's lawyer is calling for the RCMP to drop a long-running investigation into her client – a probe that prompted the suspension of the veteran naval officer more than half a year ago.

"Seven months later, the RCMP should close this investigation so that Vice-Admiral Norman can resume his duties," Marie Henein said in a statement to The Globe and Mail.

Vice-Adm. Norman was temporarily relieved of duty in January as vice-chief of the defence staff after his boss, General Jonathan Vance, learned of the RCMP investigation.

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In the ensuing seven months, no charges against the naval officer have been announced.

RCMP alleged in court documents made public this year that Vice-Adm. Norman leaked cabinet secrets to an executive with a Quebec-based shipyard and advised the businessman how to use the media to press the Trudeau government to approve a $667-million naval supply-ship contract.

The investigation began in late 2015, about 20 months ago.

"It has always been my view that there should never have been an investigation into Vice-Admiral Norman," Ms. Heinen said. "That view has not changed.

"Vice-Admiral Norman has always had one priority alone – serving this country. The sooner that he can resume his duties, the better we will all be."

The allegations against the naval officer in RCMP affidavits have not been tested in court.

The court documents filed by the Mounties have included e-mails from Vice-Adm. Norman to Spencer Fraser, chief executive of Federal Fleet Services, the company in charge of refitting a cargo ship to serve as a naval supply vessel at the Chantier Davie Canada Inc. shipyard in Lévis, Que.

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Vice-Adm. Norman was the commander of the navy when the Harper government awarded the leasing contract, without competition, to Davie in 2015 in a move that was criticized as vote-pandering in Quebec.

Soon after taking power in November of 2015, the Trudeau Liberals put the supply-ship project on hold after receiving a letter of complaint from Irving Shipbuilding, which already had a multibillion-dollar contract to build a fleet of warships for the navy.

Vice-Adm. Norman sought to press the Liberals to stick with the Davie contract.

The heavily redacted affidavits provide little idea of what the RCMP allege are Vice-Adm. Norman's motives.

The senior naval officer, however, said publicly in 2016 that delays in shipbuilding programs had hurt the navy. "It's important to keep in mind that [the delays were] completely avoidable," he said.

In 2015, Irving Shipbuilding chief executive James Irving had tried to persuade the Liberals to kill the sole-source contract with Davie, saying his firm had offered a lower-cost option. Another shipbuilder, Vancouver-based Seaspan, also called for an open competition and said it could convert a civilian cargo ship into a military supply ship at a significantly lower cost.

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E-mail correspondence with Mr. Fraser, obtained by the RCMP, suggests Vice-Adm. Norman was critical of the four top executives at Irving Shipbuilding, a major player in Canada. In one e-mail, the admiral referred to them as the "four horsemen of the apocalypse," a derogatory reference to malignant forces in the Bible: war, pestilence, famine and death. After the e-mail was made public, Irving said the characterization of its executives offended the company.

Ms. Heinen has previously said her client is a victim of internecine warfare within the Department of National Defence and was "caught in the bureaucratic crossfire."

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