MAN OVER­BOARD

VICE-AD­MI­RAL MARK NOR­MAN WAS SEC­OND-IN- COM­MAND OF THE CANA­DIAN FORCES UN­TIL AN RCMP PROBE LED TO HIS SUS­PEN­SION. A YEAR LATER, HE’S STILL IN LE­GAL LIMBO IN A CASE MARKED BY PO­LIT­I­CAL IN­TRIGUE, BUSI­NESS IN­FIGHT­ING AND GOVERN­MENT SE­CRETS.

National Post (Latest Edition) - - FRONT PAGE - David Pugliese,

It was a chilly -11 C in the na­tion’s cap­i­tal last Novem­ber as t hou­sands gath­ered at the Na­tional War Me­mo­rial to re­mem­ber the sac­ri­fice of Canada’s veter­ans. De­fence Min­is­ter Har­jit Sa­j­jan and Veter­ans Af­fairs Min­is­ter Sea­mus O’Re­gan, the govern­ment’s main rep­re­sen­ta­tives at the cer­e­mony, stood at the front of the crowd along with rows of ag­ing veter­ans, some in wheel­chairs. The new gov­er­nor gen­eral, Julie Payette, ac­com­pa­nied Diana Abel, that year’s Sil­ver Cross Mother, rep­re­sent­ing all those in Canada who’d lost chil­dren in the line of duty. With Prime Min­ster Justin Trudeau at a sum­mit in Asia, So­phie Gré­goire Trudeau rep­re­sented him among the many dig­ni­taries who laid wreaths just steps from Par­lia­ment Hill. Twenty kilo­me­tres away, in the east- end Ot­tawa sub­urb of Or­léans, Vice- Ad­mi­ral Mark Nor­man stood qui­etly some­where among a much s maller crowd. An hour ear­lier, he had dressed in his naval uni­form, put on his medals and made his way to the Or­léans Ceno­taph near his home. He was rel­a­tively anony­mous among the Re­mem­brance Day crowd gath­ered out­side the lo­cal Le­gion branch, watch­ing a RCMP pipe band lead a pa­rade of veter­ans and other marchers to the ceno­taph, ob­serv­ing the minute of si­lence and lis­ten­ing as a bu­gler played The Last Post. When the cer­e­mony was over Nor­man left qui­etly, melt­ing away with the rest of the on­look­ers.

For the past sev­eral years, Nor­man had been part of the of­fi­cial fed­eral govern­ment cer­e­mony com­mem­o­rat­ing the fallen. But not on this day, and per­haps not ever again.

The sec­ond- in- com­mand of t he Cana­dian Armed Forces un­til a year ago, Nor­man is now per­sona non grata at the Ot­tawa head- quar­ters of the De­part­ment of Na­tional De­fence. He has spent the last twelve months un­der a cloud of sus­pi­cion cre­ated by as-yet un­sub­stan­ti­ated RCMP claims that he breached the pub­lic trust and pro­vided al­legedly se­cret in­for­ma­tion to a com­pany the fed­eral govern­ment had hired to pro­vide a sup­ply ship to the Royal Cana­dian Navy.

While Nor­man stood in the crowd at the Or­léans ceno­taph, 440 kilo­me­tres away at Que­bec City the sup­ply ship at the heart of the con­tro­versy, the MV As­terix, was be­ing pre­pared for its sea tri­als in Gaspé Bay, hav­ing been de­liv­ered on time and on bud­get — an ex­treme rar­ity in the world of Cana­dian mil­i­tary pro­cure­ment.

A fed­eral judge has pointed out that there has been no sug­ges­tion that Nor­man re­ceived mon­e­tary com­pen­sa­tion, or any other “per­sonal ad­van­tage,” for what he is al­leged to have done. Hun­dreds of pages of doc­u­ments of­fer­ing i nsight i nto the RCMP’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion of Nor­man, un­sealed last year af­ter a court chal­lenge by me­dia or­ga­ni­za­tions in­clud­ing Post­media, of­fer no chal­lenge to his ap­par­ent mo­ti­va­tion: to en­sure that, in the face of po­lit­i­cal con­sid­er­a­tions and pro­cure­ment un­cer­tain­ties, the navy ac­tu­ally re­ceived a ves­sel it sorely needed.

These days the 54-year-old Nor­man spends most of his time at his home in Or­léans. While he is still re­ceiv­ing his mil­i­tary salary, his life is on hold. A year ago the RCMP re­moved from that home thou­sands of doc­u­ments — in­clud­ing many with no con­ceiv­able con­nec­tion to the As­terix, like fam­ily pho­tos and med­i­cal in­for­ma­tion about Nor­man’s wife, Bev­erly. Due to have been re­turned to the Nor­mans by Jan. 9 of this year, the RCMP re­cently sought and were granted an ex­ten­sion to keep hold of the ma­te­rial for an­other 60 days.

Nor­man has still never of­fi­cially been pro­vided the rea­son­ing for his un­preced- ented re­moval as vice-chief of the de­fence staff. He has never re­ceived a mil­i­tary hear­ing on the mat­ter, and there has been no in­de­pen­dent ex­am­i­na­tion of the facts of his case.

Though Prime Min­is­ter Trudeau pub­licly and boldly pre­dicted Nor­man would end up in court, the claims made against the sailor have not been tested by a judge or jury. At this point, it is un­clear whether they ever will be. Ac­cord­ing to sources close to the case, the RCMP pre­sented the ev­i­dence it has gath­ered in the Nor­man mat­ter to the fed­eral pros­e­cu­tor’s of­fice last sum­mer; how­ever, the fed­eral pros­e­cu­tor has laid no charges against Nor­man or any­body else in re­la­tion to this ev­i­dence, and the case re­mains open.

How did the sec­ond- in­com­mand of the Cana­dian Forces end up in limbo for a year, with no end in sight? While Nor­man de­clined to com­ment for this ar­ti­cle, Post­media has compiled this ac­count of events from court records, from doc­u­ments ob­tained through the Ac­cess to In­for­ma­tion law and from a se­ries of in­ter­views with mul­ti­ple sources in the De­part­ment of Na­tional De­fence, in the de­fence in­dus­try and in­volved in or with knowl­edge of the Nor­man case.

Sup­ply ships may be the least glam­orous ves­sels in the fleet, but they’re crit­i­cal to the func­tion­ing of a proper navy. They make sure war­ships have enough fuel, food and am­mu­ni­tion to con­tinue op­er­at­ing, and with­out them, a mar­itime force is lim­ited in how far from its coun­try’s shores it can travel.

The Royal Cana­dian Navy had been try­ing to re­place its two ag­ing sup­ply ships since 1999, but those ef­forts kept fail­ing, vic­tims of a lack of po­lit­i­cal will and of Canada’s in­fa­mously in­ef­fec­tive mil­i­tary equip­ment pro­cure­ment sys­tem.

A re­place­ment pro­gram un­der the Lib­eral govern­ment of Prime Min­is­ter Paul Martin had gone nowhere. Stephen Harper’s Con­ser­va­tives tried again in 2006, an ef­fort that flopped within two years. In 2011 the Con­ser­va­tives launched a new at­tempt un­der what they called the Na­tional Ship­build­ing Strat­egy, se­lect­ing Sea­s­pan Ship­yards in Van­cou­ver to build two re­place­ments.

Even as the Con­ser­va­tives made their lat­est at­tempt to solve the navy’s sup­ply prob­lems, be­hind the scenes Mark Nor­man was warn­ing politi­cians the govern­ment’s ship­build­ing plan was sail­ing into stormy wa­ters. Nor­man comes from a mil­i­tary fam­ily. His father had been an army ma­jor-gen­eral, but the younger Nor­man had been drawn to the sea and joined the naval re­serves in 1980, when he was 17. Trained as a diesel me­chanic, he trans­ferred to the reg­u­lar naval force five years later, build­ing an un­blem­ished mil­i­tary ca­reer over more than three decades that saw him dec­o­rated many times over. In 2003 he was given com­mand of HMCS St. John’s, a Hal­i­fax-class frigate; six years later he was named com­man­der of Canada’s At­lantic fleet. In June 2011 he was pro­moted to deputy com­man­der of the Royal Cana­dian Navy, and two years later he had com­mand of the ser­vice.

When Nor­man was ap­pointed to lead the navy it was in dire straits, as the vicead­mi­ral would warn in a 2014 naval busi­ness plan which Post­media ob­tained via an Ac­cess to In­for­ma­tion re­quest. “Lim­ited re­sources, fi­nan­cial and hu­man, and com­pet­ing pri­or­i­ties con­tinue to test our abil­ity to most ef­fec­tively and ef­fi­ciently deliver our man­date,” he wrote, adding he would have to make “some very dif­fi­cult de­ci­sions.”

One of those dif­fi­cult de­ci­sions came in late 2014 when Nor­man or­dered the re­moval from ser­vice of the navy’s only two sup­ply ves­sels. HMCS Pro­tecteur was a burned-out hulk af­ter be­ing crip­pled by a fire ear­lier that year. HMCS Pre­server, more than 40 years old, had be­come un­safe to op­er­ate be­cause it was lit­er­ally rust­ing away.

Vice Ad­mi­ral (re­tired) Peter Cairns, an­other for­mer head of the Cana­dian Navy, would point out in a 2015 es­say that the loss of the ships “ef­fec­tively re­duced the navy to a wellarmed coast guard; un­able to form a task group with­out the as­sis­tance of for­eign na­tions.”

Canada’s navy was put in the em­bar­rass­ing po­si­tion of hav­ing to strike a deal with Chile and Spain, two na­tions will­ing to lease some of their sup­ply ships to Canada, but only for short pe­ri­ods.

In Jan­uary 2015, the fed­eral govern­ment ap­proved a new plan that could pro­vide at least a tem­po­rary so­lu­tion — it would lease a sup­ply ship from a pri­vate firm. Pro­pos­als for such a stop-gap mea­sure were re­ceived from Irv­ing Ship­build­ing in Hal­i­fax, Sea­s­pan in Van­cou­ver and Davie Ship­build­ing in Le­vis, Que.

Con­sid­er­a­tions both prac­ti­cal and po­lit­i­cal led the Con­ser­va­tives to choose the Davie pro­posal.

The Davie pro­posal was at­trac­tive po­lit­i­cally to the Con­ser­va­tives as the ship­yard was lo­cated in the rid­ing of Con­ser­va­tive cab­i­net min­is­ter Steven Blaney. With the coun­try about to go into a fed­eral elec­tion, the Con­ser­va­tives hoped to deal with the navy’s sup­ply ship prob­lem while po­ten­tially get­ting votes in Que­bec by pro­vid­ing work to a ship­yard that had been passed over for work on the fed­eral ship­build­ing pro­gram.

Dubbed Project Re­solve, the deal was a gam­ble for Davie. The project was val­ued at $670 mil­lion and would see Davie and its af­fil­i­ates buy a ves­sel — a com­mer­cial con­tainer ship launched in 2009 called the As­terix, owned at the time by a Greek ship­ping con­cern and sail­ing un­der a Liberian flag — con­vert­ing it into a sup­ply ship to the navy’s spec­i­fi­ca­tions, pro­vid­ing a civil­ian crew for five years and main­tain­ing the ship over the same pe­riod.

Nor­man ar­rived, un­ac­com­pa­nied, to Vance’s of­fice. The gen­eral was there with Forster. Vance handed Nor­man a draft notice of his in­tent to re­lieve the naval of­fi­cer of his mil­i­tary du­ties. ‘I have com­pelling, sober­ing and fright­en­ing in­for­ma­tion,’ Vance told the naval of­fi­cer, although he pro­vided no de­tails. ‘Do you have any­thing to say for your­self?’ Vance asked.

‘It’s all part of the Ot­tawa po­lit­i­cal game,’ said re­tired naval Capt. Kevin Carle, who held se­nior po­si­tions in the me­dia re­la­tions branch at De­part­ment of Na­tional De­fence head­quar­ters. ‘In­for­ma­tion is leaked by the govern­ment of the day in a con­trolled method to jour­nal­ists. No in­ves­ti­ga­tions are launched be­cause it’s all sanc­tioned by the govern­ment.’

How­ever, Davie would re­ceive no money un­til it de­liv­ered the ship to the govern­ment.

Ac­cord­ing to in­dus­try and govern­ment sources, nei­ther Irv­ing nor Sea­s­pan was happy at the de­ci­sion to give work to a ri­val ship­yard, one they saw as a po­ten­tial threat to their hold on fu­ture govern­ment work.

On the first day of Au­gust, 2015, Ja­son Ken­ney, the de­fence min­is­ter of the day, an­nounced the govern­ment had signed a let­ter of in­tent with Davie. Shortly there­after, Nor­man be­gan reg­u­lar email com­mu­ni­ca­tion with Spencer Fraser, a for­mer RCN of­fi­cer who headed Fed­eral Fleet, the Davie af­fil­i­ate that would over­see Project Re­solve.

In Canada’s small and tightly knit de­fence com­mu­nity, it’s com­mon for se­nior mil­i­tary lead­ers to be in touch with the in­dus­try of­fi­cials whose firms pro­vide the Cana­dian Forces with equip­ment. Nor­man and Fraser had served to­gether and had known each other so­cially, meeting from time to time over the years. Af­ter Fraser left the navy for an in­dus­try job, Nor­man con­tin­ued pe­ri­odic com­mu­ni­ca­tions with him. That com­mu­ni­ca­tion had ceased dur­ing the se­lec­tion process for the in­terim sup­ply ship, ac­cord­ing to in­dus­try sources, be­cause of Fraser’s in­volve­ment with an ac­tive bid.

In the sum­mer of 2015, the two men re­sumed their cor­re­spon­dence and many of Nor­man’s ini­tial emails re­as­sured Fraser that those in govern­ment un­der­stood the im­por­tance of the project. Though Davie had pur­chased the As­terix, which ar­rived at the com­pany’s Que­bec yard in early Oc­to­ber 2015, and though sev­eral hun­dred work­ers were stand­ing by to be­gin con­ver­sion of the ves­sel, the coun­try was in the mid­dle of a fed­eral elec­tion and the cru­cial next phase of the project — the govern­ment ap­prov­ing the con­ver­sion — was in po­lit­i­cal limbo.

On Oct. 15, Cana­di­ans elected a Lib­eral ma­jor­ity, send­ing the Con­ser­va­tives, who had in­sti­gated Project Re­solve, to the op­po­si­tion benches. But nei­ther in the navy nor in the fed­eral bu­reau­cracy was the change in govern­ment seen as a stum­bling block for the project. Dur­ing the cam­paign, the Lib­er­als had promised to re­build the mil­i­tary and rein­vig­o­rate ship­build­ing. Project Re­solve would seem to help them deliver on both of those prom­ises. “My sense is that there is lit­tle risk of the con­tract not be­ing sup­ported,” Nor­man re­as­sured Fraser.

Davie was also pro­mot­ing the Re­solve- class as able to take on hu­man­i­tar­ian mis­sions, a spe­cific area of in­ter­est for the Lib­er­als. Nor­man pointed out to Fraser that strat­egy not only made sense but that it kept “the heat on,” pre­sum­ably a ref­er­ence to en­sur­ing that Re­solve con­tin­ued to move for­ward.

But sev­eral weeks later the sit­u­a­tion changed. On Nov. 15 Fraser was in­formed that a mem­ber of CFN Con­sul­tants, an Ot­tawa lob­by­ing firm af­fil­i­ated with one of the Irv­ings’ part­ner com­pa­nies, was pre­dict­ing that Project Re­solve was doomed.

Two days later, a let­ter from James D. Irv­ing landed on the desks of four mem­bers of the new Lib­eral cab­i­net: Sa­j­jan, Fi­nance Min­is­ter Bill Morneau, and two politi­cians from At­lantic Canada, Pro­cure­ment Min­is­ter Judy Foote and Trea­sury Board Pres­i­dent Scott Bri­son.

In his let­ter, Irv­ing ac­cused the pre­vi­ous fed­eral govern­ment of hav­ing pur­sued a sole-source deal with Davie, and claimed his com­pany’s com­pet­ing pro­posal was never prop­erly eval­u­ated — a sit­u­a­tion he now wanted the min­is­ters to rec­tify.

The govern­ment’s re­ac­tion to the mis­sive from the pow­er­ful Irv­ing fam­ily was swift.

The next day Privy Coun­cil Of­fice of­fi­cials had a tele­con­fer­ence with DND pro­cure­ment staff, ask­ing them who, other than Davie, might be able to pro­vide the navy with an in­terim sup­ply ship.

At Davie, com­pany of­fi­cials and their lob­by­ists tried to fig­ure out what was hap­pen­ing. They had compiled their own doc­u­ment out­lin­ing the value of Project Re­solve and planned to send it to var­i­ous min­is­ters. In par­tic­u­lar, they wanted to con­cen­trate on Bri­son, who they saw as a po­ten­tial threat to the project since he ap­peared to be the one rais­ing the most ques­tions about the deal.

Brian Mersereau, a big player at Davie’s lob­by­ing firm, Hill + Knowl­ton, sug­gested go­ing to the news me­dia to put pres­sure on Jean-Yves Du­c­los, the Lib­eral MP whose rid­ing was clos­est to the Davie yard. In ad­di­tion, Mersereau rec­om­mended that Davie warn of­fi­cials in the Que­bec govern­ment about the po­ten­tial threat to Project Re­solve — and the threat to jobs in the province — so they too could raise their con­cerns with Trudeau’s of­fice.

A fed­eral cab­i­net com­mit­tee met the next day. The out­come: a cab­i­net de­ci­sion to put Project Re­solve on hold for at least two months.

In the navy, some wor­ried that a tem­po­rary de­lay could turn into an in­def­i­nite de­lay and even­tu­ally al­low the pro­gram to be scut­tled.

On Nov. 19, 2015 Fraser emailed Alex Vice­field, head of Ino­cea, an in­ter­na­tional ship­ping con­glom­er­ate that owns Davie. The sub­ject line read, “From Mark.” The email con­tained lines re­gard­ing Project Re­solve, con­tained in quo­ta­tion marks. “Most pos­i­tive in­ter­pre­ta­tion could be govt just un­sure and ask­ing ques­tions; cyn­i­cal view could be folks ma­nip­u­lat­ing new govt to try to kill it. Not sure what the truth is.” ( All emails in this story are quoted as they were writ­ten.)

Fraser also told the Davie ex­ec­u­tives that then- CBC jour­nal­ist James Cud­more had heard ru­mours about the Irv­ing let­ter from some­where in­side the govern­ment. “So this could get in­ter­est­ing,” Fraser added.

The same day Fraser sent an­other email to Vice­field with the sub­ject, “From our friend.”

It con­tained a state­ment in quo­ta­tions: “I can tell you that Irv­ing did stick their nose into this and sent a let­ter to mul­ti­ple minis- ters ( incl Bri­son) a cou­ple of days ago that no doubt con­trib­uted to the prob­lem.”

Of­fi­cials at Davie saw the de­lay as a scheme hatched by Bri­son on be­half of the Irv­ings. ( In state­ments to Post­media, Irv­ing has ve­he­mently de­nied any in­volve­ment in the Nor­man mat­ter or any at­tempt at po­lit­i­cal med­dling.) Oth­ers also ap­par­ently saw Bri­son as the main in­sti­ga­tor. Fraser would later tell Vice­field that for­mer Con­ser­va­tive de­fence min­is­ter Peter MacKay “re­ally let Bri­son have it” over the de­lay when he saw the Trea­sury Board pres­i­dent dur­ing a se­cu­rity con­fer­ence in Hal­i­fax.

“Peter McKay ( sic) told Bri­son to get his head out ( of ) his ass…. not sure it helped but at least he did it,” Fraser wrote.

On the night of Nov. 19, Vice­field sent an email to com­pany ex­ec­u­tives and lob­by­ists. The Ino­cea CEO was ready to play hard­ball.

“If it does tran­spire to be that, I will do a full page plea in the Globe and Mail to Scott Bri­son ask­ing that this Nova Sco­tia min­is­ter put his re­gional bias aside for mat­ters of na­tional se­cu­rity. … then I will lay off 400 guys next week.”

Early in the morn­ing of Nov. 20, Nor­man sent an email to Fraser telling him that CBC re­porter Cud­more had some­how ob­tained a copy of the Irv­ing let­ter, “which shows they have been in­ter­fer­ing.”

Nor­man was un­happy with the de­vel­op­ment. “Irv­ing could trace let­ter to me… ass­holes… they couldn’t just leave it alone,” Nor­man added. “Greedy and self-serv­ing.”

At 5:34 a.m. that morn­ing the CBC pub­lished an ar­ti­cle by Cud­more, re­veal­ing a cab­i­net com­mit­tee had de­cided to de­lay Project Re­solve for two months. Cud­more also re­ported that Irv­ing had med­dled in the de­ci­sion by send­ing let­ters to cab­i­net min­is­ters.

That evening Nor­man emailed Fraser to tell him that Trudeau’s of­fice and the Privy Coun­cil Of­fice were “hav­ing kit­tens over ref­er­ences to ex­plicit cab­i­net dis­cus­sions in Cud­more ar­ti­cle. Launch­ing an in­ves­ti­ga­tion…UFB.”

“They’ll all be dis­tracted from the ac­tual ca­pa­bil­ity gap as they ex­e­cute a which ( sic) hunt for who quoted who…..sigh.”

Fraser in­formed Nor­man that Davie was pre­par­ing to turn up the pres­sure. The com­pany was go­ing to in­form Que­bec premier Philippe Couil­lard that the ship­yard would be closed and 1,200 peo­ple would be laid off, and that the com­pany planned to sue the fed­eral govern­ment.

The plan made sense, Nor­man replied. He also noted that Irv­ing of­fi­cials had apol­o­gized to him, pre­sum­ably for send­ing the let­ter to the cab­i­net min­is­ters. “I played nice but knew there were BS’ing me… its per­sonal and vin­dic­tive,” Nor­man wrote.

In Nor­man’s view, the de­lay would put the de­fence ca­pa­bil­i­ties of the coun­try and the wel­fare of his sailors at risk. Nor­man would later tell a re­tired of­fi­cer he was ready to re­sign over the de­lay. “The bla­tant pol­i­tics of this ( and too many other sim­i­lar files) is just be­yond what should be rea­son­able,” he ex­plained. “Peo­ple just don’t give a shit and it ac­tu­ally hurts.”

On Nov .23, Fraser emailed Vice­field say­ing Sea­s­pan — the west coast ship­yard — had sent a let­ter of their own to the Lib­eral govern­ment, point­ing out that they too had pro­posed an in­terim ship but were re­jected.

Fraser sug­gested talk­ing to Cud­more and then- Post­media colum­nist Michael Den Tandt about the lat­est de­vel­op­ment.

On Nov. 25 both Cud­more and Den Tandt pub­lished ar­ti­cles about the Sea­s­pan let­ter, in which the ship­yard claimed its in­terim sup­ply ship pro­posal was not prop­erly con­sid­ered.

That evening, CBC also pub­lished an­other ar­ti­cle by Cud­more about the bal­loon­ing costs of the fed­eral govern­ment’s ship­build­ing strat­egy, cit­ing brief­ing ma­te­ri­als, which had been clas­si­fied as se­cret, pre­sented to Sa­j­jan and Foote ear­lier that month.

Fraser was very pleased with the new ar­ti­cle. “Shock and awe baby!,” he wrote to Nor­man.

But the vice-ad­mi­ral wasn’t impressed .“He’s ( Cud­more) go­ing to draw some re­ally ag­gres­sive at­ten­tion,” Nor­man wrote. “The source of that doc­u­ment will be in­ves­ti­gated by the RCMP and any­one as­so­ci­ated with him will be part of their search. This is se­ri­ous shit.” ( Cud­more, now a se­nior ad­vi­sor to De­fence Min­is­ter Sa­j­jan, de­clined to com­ment for this story.) The leak did its job. Couil­lard phoned Trudeau to tell the prime min­ster the de­lay was un­ac­cept­able and was putting Que­bec jobs at risk. Trudeau found him­self tak­ing ques­tions from jour­nal­ists about what he would do about the po­ten­tial lay­offs at Davie be­cause of his govern­ment’s de­ci­sion.

The Lib­eral govern­ment was fu­ri­ous and the RCMP were called in to in­ves­ti­gate the leak.

In an in­ter­view with the RCMP, Bri­son, a min­is­ter who had been in fed­eral pol­i­tics for 20 years, claimed he had never be­fore seen such a leak of sen­si­tive in­for­ma­tion. “The ren­der­ing of this ( clas­si­fied in­for­ma­tion) into the pub­lic do­main did an aw­ful lot to limit our abil­ity to re­ally do what we’d in­tended to do, and that is more due dili­gence on this," he said.

On Nov. 30 Sa­j­jan and Foote an­nounced that the govern­ment had de­cided against the two-month de­lay. The min­is­ters pointed out that the As­terix had al­ready been de­liv­ered to Davie and that work­ers were stand­ing by. To restart the project and launch a com­pe­ti­tion would mean los­ing “pre­cious time in pro­vid­ing the navy with a crit­i­cal re­fu­elling and sup­port ca­pa­bil­ity.”

The Ot­tawa of­fices of the global com­mu­ni­ca­tions and lob­by­ing firm Hill + Knowl­ton are on Met­calfe Street, just two blocks from Par­lia­ment Hill and the same dis­tance from the War Me­mo­rial in the cap­i­tal’s com­pact down­town. In May 2016, they were raided by the RCMP.

The Moun­ties had been in­ter­view­ing govern­ment of­fi­cials through the first part of the year, and that month raided H+K as well as Fleish­man Hil­lard, an­other lob­by­ing firm that had pre­vi­ously worked for Davie, and the of­fices of Davie it­self, with search war­rants that al­lowed them to col­lect emails and other in­for­ma­tion.

The po­lice force soon de­vel­oped its work­ing the­ory.

RCMP Corp. Matthieu Boulanger, in charge of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion, be­lieved that Nor­man pro­vided in­for­ma­tion, al­leged to in­clude cab­i­net con­fi­dences, to Fraser. Nor­man did that, ac­cord­ing to the RCMP, “to in­flu­ence de­ci­sion-mak­ers within govern­ment to adopt his pre­ferred out­come” of pro­vid­ing the As­terix sup­ply ship for the Royal Cana­dian Navy.

The RCMP also be­lieved that Nor­man was the “friend” Vice­field had men­tioned in a num­ber of emails.

Cud­more’s r e por t i ng made clear that some­one had dis­closed con­fi­den­tial in­for­ma­tion from the cabi net com­mit­tee meeting, the po­lice force al­leged. Although the RCMP ac­knowl­edged it didn’t know how Cud­more ob­tained the Irv­ing let­ter.

On Nov. 16, 2016, the RCMP launched a sur­veil­lance op­er­a­tion against Nor­man, with a po­lice of­fi­cer sta­tioned out­side Nor­man’s house in the Ot­tawa sub­urb of Or­léans. The ob­ser­va­tions were typ­i­cally mun­dane: An of­fi­cer would re­port the garage door open­ing and “an uniden­ti­fied male wear­ing white pants” en­ter­ing a car and drove away. (It was Nor­man, in uni­form, go­ing to work.)

Just be­fore Cana­dian Forces per­son­nel were to strip his of­fice of his me­men­tos and awards and send them to his home, Nor­man phoned de­fence head­quar­ters and in­formed of­fi­cials there to care­fully record the process. ‘I want you to pho­to­graph ex­actly where each of those items are in the of­fice,’ Nor­man told of­fi­cers. ‘Be­cause I’m com­ing back — and they are go­ing back up on the wall where they be­long.’

On Mon­day, Jan. 9, 2017, at 7:22 a.m ., seven po­lice of­fi­cers ar­rived in three ve­hi­cles at Nor­man’s house. The vice-ad­mi­ral was off that day and was about to take Bev­erly, as­sis­tant to a vet­eri­nar­ian, to her of­fice. Af­ter a brief ques­tion­ing that left her shaken, po­lice al­lowed her to leave.

The of­fi­cers stayed in the house for six hours. They seized a desk­top com­puter, a lap­top, two cell phones and three iPads, one owned by Bev­erly.

Nor­man had de­fence de­part­ment files on some of the de­vices — he of­ten worked at home at night — but none clas­si­fied as se­cret. Though the RCMP’s war­rant al­lowed them to seize DND files and re­lated ma­te­rial, the po­lice force, Nor­man’s camp be­lieves, sig­nif­i­cantly over­stepped its le­gal pa­ram­e­ters by also seiz­ing thou­sands of pieces of per­sonal ef­fects from the Nor­man fam­ily. Those in­cluded fam­ily and va­ca­tion pho­tos, Bev­erly’s med­i­cal records, her per­sonal texts and her pay stubs. They re­main in t he RCMP’s pos­ses­sion. Close friends of the Nor­mans say the cou­ple feel the po­lice seizure and re­ten­tion of so much ma­te­rial un­re­lated to the case was over the top, an un­called-for in­va­sion of their fam­ily’s life.

Af­ter the RCMP left the house, Nor­man phoned his of­fice, ask­ing his as­sis­tant to set up a meeting with Vance, his boss. He was un­aware that even as po­lice were in his home, a se­nior RCMP of­fi­cer was al­ready brief­ing Vance. Sa­j­jan, the de­part­ment’s deputy min­is­ter John Forster and var­i­ous bu­reau­crats were also in­formed of the po­lice in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

Sev­eral hours later, Vance’s chief of staff called Nor­man and in­formed him that the CDS wanted to see him at 6 p.m. that day.

Nor­man ar­rived, un­ac­com­pa­nied, to Vance’s of­fice. The gen­eral was there with Forster.

Vance handed Nor­man a draft notice of his in­tent to re­lieve the naval of­fi­cer of his mil­i­tary du­ties. “I have com­pelling, sober­ing and fright­en­ing in­for­ma­tion,“Vance told the naval of­fi­cer, although he pro­vided no de­tails.

“Do you have any­thing to say for your­self ?” Vance asked.

Given t he sever­ity of Vance’s state­ment, Nor­man said he wanted time to con­sult a lawyer, and, con­cerned that his re­sponse might be turned over to po­lice and po­ten­tially used against him, asked Vance about the le­gal sta­tus of any re­sponse he would pro­vide.

On Jan .13, Vance in­formed Nor­man that Ad­mi­ral Ron Lloyd would be ap­pointed as act­ing vice-chief of the de­fence staff. Nor­man was given a for­mal let­ter, sus­pend­ing him from com­mand. In the let­ter, Vance wrote with­out ex­pla­na­tion that he had lost con­fi­dence in Nor­man’s abil­ity to com­mand.

There would be no in­ter­nal hear­ing, and no for­mal op­por­tu­nity for Nor­man to present his side of the story. The de­ci­sion was based on the un­proven claims that un­der­pinned the RCMP’s search war­rant.

The fol­low­ing Mon­day, Vance’s let­ter was dis­trib­uted to var­i­ous of­fices at Na­tional De­fence Head­quar­ters in Ot­tawa. It took only 20 min­utes to be leaked to me­dia out­lets.

Be­yond t hat, t hough, Vance or­dered a black­out on all in­for­ma­tion about Nor­man. The Cana­dian Forces re­fused to say why the vicead­mi­ral had been re­moved, when Nor­man was given Vance’s let­ter, whether Nor­man was still serv­ing and, if so, in what job or ca­pac­ity.

Vance, mean­while, had left the coun­try — but the mil­i­tary wouldn’t say where he had gone or why, or even when he’d de­parted. ( It would later emerge he was in Europe for meet­ings.)

Asked about Nor­man’s re­moval, Trudeau de­clined to pro­vide any de­tails. Vance had made the de­ci­sion, Trudeau said, and his govern­ment fully backed its de­fence chief. Sa­j­jan re­leased a state­ment that echoed Trudeau’s al­most word for word.

Canada’s sec­ond- high­es­trank­ing mil­i­tary of­fi­cer was re­moved from of­fice with­out a word of ex­pla­na­tion.

The lack of in­for­ma­tion fu­elled gos­sipy the­o­ries in po­lit­i­cal, de­fence and me­dia cir­cles. Mil­i­tary per­son­nel won­dered whether it was re­lated to sex­ual mis­con­duct. Per­haps Nor­man was a Rus­sian spy, oth­ers mused.

Af­ter 10 days of al­low­ing spec­u­la­tion to per­co­late about the rea­sons for Nor­man’s dis­missal, Sa­j­jan an­nounced what the govern­ment had known all along. “This is not an is­sue of na­tional se­cu­rity,” the min­is­ter told jour­nal­ists. No other ex­pla­na­tion was pro­vided.

On Feb. 23, the high- pro­file Toronto crim­i­nal lawyer Marie Henein, newly fa­mous for her suc­cess­ful de­fence of for­mer CBC host Jian Ghome­shi, en­tered the fray on Nor­man’s be­half. Her new client, she said in a state­ment, “has at all times served his coun­try hon­ourably and with the sole ob­jec­tive of ad­vanc­ing the na­tional in­ter­est and the pro­tec­tion of Canada."

Weeks l ater, Trudeau made a bold pre­dic­tion: Nor­man was go­ing to trial. “This is an im­por­tant mat­ter that is ob­vi­ously un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion, and will likely end up be­fore the courts, so I won’t make any fur­ther com­ments at this time,” the prime min­is­ter told jour­nal­ists.

The com­ments alarmed Nor­man’s sup­port­ers. Was the PMO co­or­di­nat­ing on strat­egy with the RCMP and Jus­tice De­part­ment? How could Nor­man get a fair trial — if it came to that — if the Prime Min­is­ter’s Of­fice were in­volved in the pros­e­cu­tion?

At Na­tional De­fence Head­quar­ters, offi c i al s be­gan to re­move traces of Nor­man’s ex­is­tence. An of­fi­cer phoned the vice-ad­mi­ral at home and in­formed him that his per­sonal pos­ses­sions were be­ing hauled out of his of­fice so a new act­ing VCDS, Lt.- Gen. Alain Par­ent, could move in. Plaques and pho­tos were taken off the wall. Some were put in stor­age, oth­ers boxed and sent to Nor­man’s home by taxi.

The in­ves­ti­ga­tion into Nor­man has been ex­ten­sive. Po­lice have in­ter­viewed more than 30 in­di­vid­u­als — staff at Davie and af­fil­i­ated firms, at the De­part­ment of Na­tional De­fence, at Pub­lic Ser­vices and Pro­cure­ment Canada, and a num­ber of fed­eral cab­i­net min­is­ters. The RCMP ob­tained nine search war­rants, ex­am­in­ing Nor­man’s home, cell phones and com­put­ers, Davie’s of­fices and those of its lob­by­ists, and in­ter­net- and phone- ser­vice providers to Spencer Fraser.

While Nor­man’s cor­re­spon­dence with Fraser con­tained raw lan­guage and can­did ob­ser­va­tions, there ap­pears to have been no ac­tual trans­fer of clas­si­fied in­for­ma­tion or cab­i­net con­fi­dences in those mes­sages.

The RCMP did f i nd a Me­moran­dum to Cab­i­net, marked se­cret, in the of­fice of top Hill + Knowl­ton of­fi­cial Mersereau, but there is no in­di­ca­tion it is connected to Nor­man. No charges have been laid in re­la­tion to the mat­ter against any­one at Hill + Knowl­ton, and in a state­ment to Post­media the firm said none of its of­fi­cials are un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion of any kind.

The fed­eral po­lice force has al­ready been warned that its case against Nor­man may be on shaky ground. In an April 21 rul­ing on an ap­pli­ca­tion by a group of news or­ga­ni­za­tions in­clud­ing Post­media to make pub­lic the de­tails of the search war­rant ex­e­cuted on Nor­man’s home, On­tario Su­pe­rior Court Jus­tice Kevin Phillips pointed out the prob­lem the RCMP faced: the fact Nor­man was com­mu­ni­cat­ing with in­dus­try of­fi­cials, Phillips said, didn’t mean he was guilty of any­thing.

“The emails in ques­tion are by no means smok­ing guns,” Phillips said in his rul­ing.

Phillips also pointed out an­other pos­si­ble ex­pla­na­tion for Nor­man’s emails: for decades, Cana­dian mil­i­tary pro­cure­ment has been a mess. Nor­man found him­self in the midst of sit­u­a­tion where the ac­qui­si­tion of a sup­ply ship the navy badly needed ap­peared to be head- ed off the rails due solely to po­lit­i­cal con­sid­er­a­tions. The judge specif­i­cally noted that none of what Nor­man did was for fi­nan­cial gain, but was in­stead to ad­vance en­sure well- be­ing of the navy and his sailors.

“At its high­est, 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,” Phillips wrote. “A rea­son­able mem­ber of the in­formed pub­lic might un­der­stand the frus­tra­tion of be­ing ViceAd­mi­ral of a Navy that can­not on its own go more than a tank of gas away from port. An of­fi­cer of his rank would be ex­pected to de­velop and main­tain re­la­tion­ships with those in the busi­ness of sup­ply the Navy and his com­mu­ni­ca­tions with such peo­ple are not, there­fore, in and of them­selves un­to­ward.”

Phillips high­lighted an­other po­ten­tial prob­lem with the RCMP in­ves­ti­ga­tion: For a case to stand against Nor­man, pros­e­cu­tors will have to prove that the naval of­fi­cer was the first in leaky Ot­tawa to have shared any Cab­i­net con­fi­dences in ques­tion. “To be found to have been the leak which breached cab­i­net con­fi­den­tial­ity the re­main­der of the in­for­ma­tion loop must be found to have been air­tight,” the judge said.

But Post­media has con­firmed the i den­tity of a sec­ond source whom the RCMP al­lege leaked Cab­i­net con­fi­dences. While the RCMP was aware of the sec­ond sus­pect from the be­gin­ning of their in­ves­ti­ga­tion, their fo­cus has re­mained on Nor­man. The sec­ond source, an em­ployee of Pub­lic Ser­vices and Pro­cure­ment Canada with no link to Nor­man, has not been charged and is still in his job in Ot­tawa. He has not re­sponded to Post­media’s re­quests for com­ment.

There is also the pos­si­bil­ity a third in­di­vid­ual may have been in­volved in sup­ply­ing Davie with in­sider in­for­ma­tion. In a Nov. 24, 2015 email, Fraser told Nor­man that an in­di­vid­ual he called “the Wolf ” had been pro­vid­ing the com­pany with be­hind-the-scenes in­for­ma­tion.

In their sworn in­for­ma­tion to ob­tain the search war­rant against Nor­man, the RCMP said they don’t know the iden­tity of “the Wolf.” Sources close to Nor­man say the of­fi­cer also has no idea who “the Wolf ” is, nor has Post­media yet been able to con­firm the per­son’s iden­tity.

Lib­eral Sen­a­tor Colin Kenny points out that the de­tails of the Nov. 19 cab­i­net meeting would have been known ini­tially by dozens of govern­ment of­fi­cials.

“To claim that Mark Nor­man is the only one with such in­for­ma­tion is ridicu­lous,” said Kenny. “He ap­pears to me to be the des­ig­nated fall guy.”

Nor­man’s s up­port­ers re­main as­ton­ished by the RCMP’s pur­suit of the naval of­fi­cer given that leaks of se­cret in­for­ma­tion and cab­i­net con­fi­dences to trusted jour­nal­ists have been part of the me­dia strat­egy of ev­ery govern­ment in mem­ory — in­clud­ing the cur­rent one.

Por­tions of the 2017 fed­eral bud­get were pro­vided to CTV days in ad­vance of the doc­u­ment be­ing made pub­lic. A “se­nior Lib­eral of­fi­cial” con­firmed to the Globe and Mail the de­ci­sion to name Julie Payette as Gov­er­nor Gen­eral be­fore it was made pub­lic. The Globe also re­vealed de­tails of a Cana­dian spe­cial forces sniper’s killing of an Is­lamic ter­ror­ist, an in­ci­dent of­fi­cially clas­si­fied as se­cret. And CTV was pro­vided ad­vance de­tails about the govern­ment’s de­ci­sion to le­gal­ize recre­ational mar­i­juana. “It’s all part of the Ot­tawa po­lit­i­cal game,” said re­tired naval Capt. Kevin Carle, who held se­nior po­si­tions in the me­dia re­la­tions branch at De­part­ment of Na­tional De­fence head­quar­ters. "In­for­ma­tion is leaked by the govern­ment of the day in a con­trolled method to jour­nal­ists. No in­ves­ti­ga­tions are launched be­cause it’s all sanc­tioned by the govern­ment.”

In the weeks be­fore the raid on Nor­man’s home, re­ports in­di­cated con­struc­tion on the two Joint Sup­port Ships be­ing built at Sea­s­pan in Van­cou­ver had fallen be­hind sched­ule, and not for the first time. The cost of the project had grown, and though a DND per­for­mance re­port sug­gested the ships would be built by early 2021, some doubt that will be the case.

The As­terix, the ves­sel for which Nor­man fought, was launched in Oc­to­ber and will be the Royal Cana­dian Navy’s main life­line for war­ships at sea for the fore­see­able fu­ture. There is wide­spread ac­knowl­edg­ment in the navy — pri­vately, at least — that with­out Nor­man’s ad­vo­cacy for Project Re­solve the navy would for years have con­tin­ued to have no sup­ply ca­pa­bil­ity of its own.

In De­cem­ber, ap­proach­ing the one-year an­niver­sary of the re­moval of his num­ber two, Post­media re­turned to Vance with ques­tions about the state of the Nor­man mat­ter.

How long would Nor­man con­tinue to be sus­pended from duty? “As a mat­ter of pol­icy, re­movals from com­mand should be tem­po­rary, ex­cept in the most ex­cep­tional of cir­cum­stances, with a de­ci­sion to con­tinue or cease that re­moval pro­vided at a later date when all of the in­for­ma­tion is known and full pro­ce­dural fair­ness can be ac­com­mo­dated,” said Vance’s spokesman, Lt.- Col. Ja­son Proulx.

Did Nor­man re­ceive a hear­ing be­fore be­ing re­moved from com­mand? The spokesman de­clined to com­ment, out of def­er­ence to what he called an on­go­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

In some Ot­tawa mil­i­tary cir­cles there is a be­lief that the govern­ment in­tends to make an ex­am­ple of Nor­man — that with his le­gal bills mount­ing as his state of limbo stretches on in­def­i­nitely, his fam­ily will at some point be un­der enough fi­nan­cial stress that the vice- ad­mi­ral will be forced to re­sign.

Nor­man, how­ever, has told friends he isn’t go­ing any­where.

In May, just be­fore Cana­dian Forces per­son­nel were to strip his of­fice of his me­men­tos and awards and send them to his home, Nor­man phoned de­fence head­quar­ters and in­formed of­fi­cials there to care­fully record the process. “I want you to pho­to­graph ex­actly where each of those items are in the of­fice,” Nor­man told of­fi­cers. “Be­cause I’m com­ing back — and they are go­ing back up on the wall where they be­long.”

THIS IS NOT AN IS­SUE OF NA­TIONAL SE­CU­RITY

MIKE FAILLE / NA­TIONAL POST

THE MV AS­TERIX / ROYAL CANA­DIAN NAVY / THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

JOHN MA­JOR / POST­MEDIA NEWS FILES

For­mer Gov. Gen. David John­ston shakes hands af­ter be­stow­ing the hon­our of Com­man­der of the Or­der of Mil­i­tary Merit to Nor­man in 2013.

From top: Chief of De­fence Staff Gen­eral Jonathan Vance, Trea­sury Board pres­i­dent Scott Bri­son and Project Re­solve CEO Spencer Fraser.

ADRIAN WYLD / THE CANA­DIAN PRESS FILES

Vice-Ad­mi­ral Mark Nor­man waves good­bye as he is tra­di­tion­ally rowed away af­ter step­ping down as the head of the Royal Cana­dian Navy in June 2016.

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