Conservative Senator Jean-Guy Dagenais says he plans to ask his colleagues on the Senate National Security and Defence committee if they would consider inviting Vice-Admiral Mark Norman and other witnesses to appear before committee.
Mr. Dagenais, the co-chair of the committee, said he is preparing a motion to present at the end of their meeting next week, calling on Vice-Adm. Norman and Chief of Defence Staff General Jonathan Vance to appear. He said he would also like to hear from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan and possibly others.
“I will present next week a motion to invite Vice-Adm. Norman to committee,” Mr. Dagenais told The Globe and Mail Wednesday morning, adding that he has discussed his motion with the committee’s chair, Senator Gwen Boniface of the Independent Senators Group, and that the defence committee meets on Monday.
Mr. Dagenais’ initiative to hear from Vice-Adm. Norman, among others, comes one week after Liberal members on the House of Commons National Defence Committee rejected the same request from opposition members. In that case, Liberal members of the committee argued that it wasn’t the right venue to hear from Vice-Adm. Norman, accusing the opposition of engaging in partisan tactics.
Vice-Adm. Norman was suspended as the military’s second-in-command on Jan. 16, 2017, and charged last year with breach of trust. The Crown prosecutor said that new information provided by Vice-Adm. Norman’s defence team prompted the decision in early May to stay the charge.
Mr. Dagenais said because the Senate committee is busy studying Bill C-59, the national security bill, it would not have enough time to hear from Vice-Adm. Norman and other witnesses before the House rises for the summer break. But, he said, if his colleagues vote in favour of his motion, the committee has the option to continue sitting in July in order to conduct its review.
“It’s important we have an explanation from Vice-Adm. Norman and General Vance,” he said, adding that he would like to hear from Mr. Trudeau and Mr. Sajjan about why they left the House of Commons last week moments before the House unanimously adopted a motion apologizing to Vice-Adm. Norman and his family for what he’s been through.
“First I will present the motion – if they accept we will work on questions,” he said.
If his motion is rejected, Mr. Dagenais said he will present it on the floor of the Senate. Mr. Dagenais also pointed out that members of the Independent Senators Group dominate the committee and that if they don’t support his motion, “It’s another occasion to tell [them] you’re not Independent – you’re a Liberal.”
Independent Senator André Pratte said it is a “very complicated affair” and if the committee decides to study the issue, it would need time to hear from a number of witnesses. He questioned whether there was enough time before the House rises for the summer, but said he’s “open to suggestions” about how the committee could proceed.
On Friday, Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer called for a public inquiry into how and why the RCMP launched an investigation into a cabinet leak that led to the criminal charge that was eventually stayed against Vice-Adm. Norman.
Mr. Scheer’s call came after The Globe and Mail reported that the Prime Minister was frustrated and angry that a cabinet decision to delay a navy supply ship contract had been leaked to a CBC reporter in late 2015. Sources said that triggered the Privy Council Office to call in the Mounties.