The Senate committee that was supposed to investigate the failed prosecution of Vice-Admiral Mark Norman has become bogged down in recriminations and uncertainty around whether any hearings will ever be held.
On Thursday, Conservative Senator Jean-Guy Dagenais, who originally proposed the motion that led to the Senate national security and defence committee’s decision to study the matter, accused Peter Harder, the Government Representative in the Senate, of killing the study by preventing the committee from meeting in the summer.
The committee planned on inviting Vice-Adm. Norman, Chief of Defence Staff Jonathan Vance and Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan to testify. It had also agreed that additional names could be added to the list, with some senators hoping to hear from former Treasury Board president Scott Brison and other senior officials.
It was supposed to hold hearings and produce a report by June 20. However, facing that deadline earlier this week, it had decided to postpone its work and its final report date to Aug. 1 to allow time to invite witnesses to testify.
But in order for the committee to meet after the Senate adjourns Friday for the summer, the committee’s chair and co-chairs are required to send an official request to the Opposition Leader in the Senate, Larry Smith, and to Mr. Harder. Both leaders have to agree to grant the extension.
Mr. Dagenais, one of the committee’s co-chairs, issued a press release Thursday morning accusing Mr. Harder of denying the committee’s request for an extension. “The Liberals’ strategy is clear: When the truth doesn’t work for them, the Trudeau government is ready to do anything to protect themselves," Mr. Dagenais said.
But by the end of day Thursday, Mr. Harder still had not received the letter requesting the extension, his spokesman said. “Senator Harder is unable to comment because he hasn’t seen the contents of the letter and would wish to consult with other senators,” Brian Laghi said.
The committee’s chair, independent Senator Gwen Boniface, said in an e-mail that she signed the letter Wednesday and once all signatures were collected, it would be forwarded to Mr. Harder. The letter must be signed by her co-chairs, Mr. Dagenais and Liberal Senator Terry Mercer.
It is not known if Mr. Mercer or Mr. Dagenais have signed the letter. Mr. Dagenais did not respond to an interview request from The Globe and Mail.
Mr. Smith has said he has already granted his approval for the committee to meet after the Senate adjourns. But his office told The Globe that it had not received the letter either.
While Gen. Vance and Mr. Sajjan’s offices have indicated that they would participate in the Senate’s study, as of Monday, the committee still had not heard from Vice-Adm. Norman, and his lawyer did not respond to a Globe request for comment on Thursday.
Vice-Adm. Norman was suspended as the military’s second-in-command on Jan. 16, 2017, and charged last year with a single count of breach of trust. The charge was stayed in early May after Crown prosecutor Barbara Mercier told the court that the defence team had provided new information and that there was no longer a reasonable prospect of conviction.
The Globe has reported that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau 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 last month said that this triggered the Privy Council Office to call in the RCMP.
Vice-Adm. Norman has not gone back to his former post, but The Globe reported in late May that he and Gen. Vance met to discuss his return. Although Mr. Sajjan has said that Vice-Adm. Norman would not be getting his old job back, a source said the discussions between Gen. Vance and Vice-Adm. Norman focused on when he could return to the No. 2 post.
The sources were granted anonymity by The Globe at the time so they could speak openly about the issue.