RCMP allege Mark Norman leaked cabinet secrets to pressure government
Published Wednesday, April 26, 2017 9:00AM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, April 26, 2017 11:53AM EDT
OTTAWA -- The man who was Canada's top naval officer leaked cabinet secrets to a Quebec shipyard in order to pressure the government to move forward on a military procurement project, the RCMP allege in newly unsealed court documents.
The documents lay out the Mounties’ case against Vice-Admiral Mark Norman, who was suspended from his role as the country's second-highest ranking military officer in January. The RCMP are investigating Norman for breach of trust and two breaches of the Security of Information Act. Norman's lawyer says he has served Canada honorably and is the victim of a bureaucratic crossfire.
The court records had been previously released, but were heavily redacted. CTV News joined several other media companies in arguing to have the records unredacted. Some sections remain blacked out to maintain privacy or to keep secret the cabinet discussions and investigative techniques covered.
The judge who ordered the redactions be removed pointed out in his ruling that the RCMP nowhere allege Norman leaked information to enrich himself.
“It appears that the potential allegation against Vice-Admiral Norman is that he was trying to keep a contractual relationship together so that the country might get itself a badly needed supply ship,” the judge wrote.
“Nowhere is there any suggestion that the man was even thinking of trying to line his own pockets, or get any personal advantage whatsoever.”
The controversy dates back to a decision by the then-new Liberal cabinet to delay a contract awarded by the previous government to Chantier Davie, a Quebec shipbuilding company. In November of 2016, the Liberals decided to seek more information about the sole-source contract. Two other shipyards, Irving Shipbuilding Inc. and Seaspan, were lobbying cabinet to consider their companies for the contract to retrofit a resupply ship for the Royal Canadian Navy.
"Norman was opposed to the delay in the AOR [Auxiliary Oiler Replenishment] process approved by cabinet and leaked information subject to cabinet confidence in order to achieve the result that he wanted personally," Cpl. Matthieu Boulanger wrote in the documents, known as an information to obtain a search warrant.
"Norman's actions resulted in a circumvention of the established processes and procedures in place to ensure confidence in the cabinet, which goes against the public good and constitutes a breach of trust."
Norman was in frequent contact with Spencer Fraser, CEO of Federal Fleet Services, a Davie affiliate previously known as Project Resolve Inc., that was created to handle the federal contract. The two were in touch by email and phone regarding the project, which Norman appeared to want to move forward, according to emails included in the court documents.
"Steady as she goes. Arrival of ship is a great, visible step forward," Norman wrote to Fraser about a month before cabinet delayed the contract, according to the court records.
"No doubt painful and unnecessarily difficult, but tracking in the right direction."
A few days ahead of the cabinet meeting, Fraser emailed Norman about rumours he heard that the new government wouldn't approve the contract.
Norman replied that, without having a cabinet planning and priorities committee, it was taking longer than it used to because the decision had to go to the full cabinet.
"Don't want to sound too confident, but I think we are ok," he wrote to Fraser.
'Attempt to publicly pressure'
The RCMP allege Fraser passed on Norman's information to the company's lobbyists in Ottawa, and to journalists who would report on the delay.
"Fraser did in fact use this information to attempt to publicly pressure the government," Boulanger wrote.
The decision to delay the contract was reported by James Cudmore, a CBC News reporter who now works for Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan.
On Nov. 20, the day after the cabinet meeting, Norman wrote to Fraser to say that the Prime Minister's Office and the Privy Council Office, the wing of the civil service that works for the prime minister, were "having kittens over references to explicit cabinet discussions" in the article about the decision.
"Launching an investigation...UFB [un-expletive-believable]. They'll all be distracted from the actual capability gap as they execute a which [sic] hunt for who quoted who," Norman wrote.
The night of the cabinet meeting, the top two civil servants at the Department of National Defence called Alex Vicefield, CEO of Davie's parent company Inocea, to "sound out" the company on the delay and see whether it would accommodate a "couple of months" delay, the documents say.
"This call had to be pre-approved by officials at PCO, and had for intent to inform Vicefield that 'ministers were new and therefore had legitimate concerns, wanted more info to make a decision," Boulanger wrote.
Boulanger says, at that point, Vicefield was already aware of the decision. Boulanger says he believes Norman had told Vicefield three hours earlier about cabinet wanting to delay the project. While the call by civil servants had been designed "to ensure no information subject to cabinet confidence would be given to Vicefield and Chantier Davie," Boulanger wrote, Norman "completely undermined and rendered useless" that process.
'Wants us to discredit Hansen'
The RCMP also allege Norman asked Davie to discredit a Halifax-based military expert who publicly discussed a cheaper, faster alternative.
Ken Hansen, described in the court documents as a former Navy officer and maritime security analyst at Dalhousie University, called Davie's project "needlessly complex, expensive and time-consuming."
The evening that Hansen was featured in a news article, Fraser emailed colleagues to say "our friend has made an ask."
"He wants us to discredit Hansen and he will go after the Knight of No re TKMS," Fraser wrote. (The RCMP were uncertain at the time the documents were filed to whom the Knight of No referred, or what TKMS stood for).
Two days later, Fraser sent Norman a document in an email with the subject line "Here is the slam against Ken H." The RCMP weren't able to access the document, but had Norman's brief response: "LMFAO," an abbreviation for a phase referring to laughing hard.
The RCMP interviewed Fraser last May, as they executed search warrants on his office and the office of one of Davie's lobbyists in Ottawa.
"Fraser never mentioned he received information from Norman, but rather that it came from the Integrated Project Team," made up of top-ranking civil servants, Boulanger wrote in the court documents.
About two hours later, the RCMP say, Fraser emailed Norman.
"It is important we chat, witch hunt underway," Fraser said.
RCMP affidavit in full