Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer is calling for a public inquiry into how and why the RCMP launched an investigation into a cabinet leak that led to a criminal charge – eventually stayed – against Vice-Admiral Mark Norman.
The Globe and Mail reported Friday that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was frustrated and angry that a cabinet decision to delay a navy supply ship contract had been leaked to the CBC in late 2015. Sources said that triggered the Privy Council Office to call in the Mounties.
Mr. Scheer told a news conference Friday that for weeks the Prime Minister has denied any political involvement in the senior naval officer’s case even though his “fingerprints have been on this."
“Since Day 1 he was reportedly furious that someone would dare stand in the way of his government’s effort to deny the navy a much-needed ship and reward their friends in the process,” Mr. Scheer said. “He desperately wanted to make an example out of somebody – and that somebody turned out to be Vice-Admiral Mark Norman."
Mr. Scheer said he wants the Prime Minister to launch a formal public inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the two-year RCMP probe of Vice-Adm. Norman over allegations he leaked the decision to postpone the project at Quebec’s Davie shipyard at the request of Irving Shipbuilding.
Vice-Adm. Norman, a former commander of the navy, was charged last year with a single count of breach of trust, but the charge was stayed last week after his defence team presented the prosecution with new evidence.
The Prime Minister’s Office said Thursday that Mr. Trudeau and cabinet ministers were upset about the leak, but the PMO said the decision to call in the RCMP was made by then-privy council clerk Janice Charette.
The Privy Council Office (PCO), which manages the public service and reports to the Prime Minister, said in an e-mail that Ms. Charette referred the leak to the RCMP after an internal security review was conducted by officials reporting to the Prime Minister’s then-national security and intelligence adviser, Richard Fadden.
Mr. Scheer, borrowing a phrase from the SNC-Lavalin affair, said the Prime Minister “may have been in one of his moods where he sent the signal that he was going to find a way to get this done.” In a recorded phone call between then-attorney-general Jody Wilson-Raybould and then-privy council clerk Michael Wernick, Mr. Wernick told her that Mr. Trudeau was in “that kind of mood” and wanted her to shelve the prosecution of SNC-Lavalin – or there would be consequences. A few weeks later, she was demoted to Veterans Affairs.
NDP defence critic Randall Garrison expressed a view similar to Mr. Scheer’s.
“It looks to me like the government is intent on playing out the same script they used with SNC-Lavalin, where we learned more and more about the involvement of the Prime Minister and members of his staff, and the response of the government is to throw people under the bus,” Mr. Garrison told reporters.
Conservative MP James Bezan said the fact that Mr. Trudeau’s anger set the investigation in motion shows that “this thing right from the get-go was politically motivated, politically directed and interfered with right from the Prime Minister himself.”
Mr. Scheer also reiterated his call for the Prime Minister to personally apologize to Vice-Adm. Norman for what he and his family have been through.
The House of Commons unanimously passed a Conservative Party motion Tuesday to apologize, but Mr. Trudeau left the House before the vote was cast. His office said he had to fly to an event in Hamilton.
On Thursday, Liberal MPs on the Commons national defence committee voted down attempts by the Conservatives and New Democrats to study the government’s conduct in the investigation and prosecution of Vice-Adm. Norman, including a request to have him testify.
Mr. Bezan, vice-chair of the committee, said the governing Liberals will “continue to try to cover this up” and that it is up to the Prime Minister to “let the truth out.”
He said there are other parliamentary committees that may be willing to hear from Vice-Adm. Norman.
“We’re going to have to do some strategizing now that they’ve shut down defence … . Probably over the break week we’ll have some conversations offline and decide what the next step is, but we’re not done with the story.”
But Mr. Bezan’s committee co-chair, Mr. Garrison, was less optimistic and said the Liberal members on the committee indicated quite clearly that they did not believe any parliamentary committee would be an appropriate venue to hear from Vice-Adm. Norman.