Saturday, January 13, 2018

Trudeau's Hardball Interference

"[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 witch hunt for who quoted who ... sigh"
"He's [Cudmore, CBC reporter] going to draw some really aggressive attention. The source of that document will be investigated by the RCMP and anyone associated with him will e part of their search. This is serious shit."
"I want you to photograph exactly where each of those items are in the office. Because I'm coming back -- and they are going back up on the wall where they belong."
(removed) Vice-Admiral Mark Norman, Second in command, Canadian Armed Forces

"I have compelling, sobering and frightening information."
"Do you have anything to say for  yourself?"
Chief of Defence Staff Jon Vance

"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."
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

"The emails in question are by no means smoking guns."
"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."
Ontario Superior Court Justice Kevin Phillips

"To claim that Mark Norman is the only one with such [protected Cabinet meeting] information is ridiculous."
"He appears to me to be the designated fall guy."
Liberal Senator Colin Kenny

"It's all part of the Ottawa political game. 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."
(retired) Naval Captain Kevin Carle
Asterix on Maiden Voyage from Quebec City to Halifax 25/12/2017 (CNW Group/Davie Shipbuilding)

Canada has been in dire operational functioning need of naval supply ships. The two that had been in use were scheduled to be decommissioned; neither was in any condition to be in continued use, both were aged, rusting wrecks. The government of former Prime Minister Stephen Harper had agreed on an interim measure other than embarrassingly leasing supply ships from Chile and Spain. Canada would sign an agreement to provide a temporary solution to lease a supply ship from a private firm and proposals were received from a number of Canadian shipbuilding enterprises.

In 2015 it was announced that the winning proposal was from the Davie Shipbuilding enterprise in Levis, Quebec, a proposal that appealed to the Conservative-led government since the shipyard was located in the riding of Conservative cabinet minister Steven Blaney. The project, valued at $670-million was set to proceed, as a commercial container ship called the Asterix owned by a Greek shipping concern, sailing under a Liberian flag was to be bought by Davie and converted into a supply ship using the navy's specifications.

In August of 2015 the-then defence minister, Jason Kenny, signed a letter of intent with Davie, and Vice-Admiral Mark Norman whose bailiwick this was, began a correspondence with Spencer Fraser, a former Royal Canadian Navy officer who was at that time head of Federal Fleet, the affiliate of Davie overseeing Project Resolve. In early October of 2015 Davie received the Asterix, just as the country was in the throes of a federal election, and the ship conversion had not yet been approved.

In mid-October a Liberal majority was elected, with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau determined to overturn everything that his predecessor Stephen Harper, had done.

James Irving of Irving Shipbuilding in Halifax wrote to the new Liberal Cabinet ministers; Harjit Sajjan at Defence, Bill Morneau as Finance Minister, along with two Members of Parliament from Atlantic Canada, Procurement Minister Judy Foote and Treasury Board President Scott Brison. Irving protested that the previous government had undertaken a sole-source agreement with Davie, leaving his company's competing proposal unevaluated.

James Cudmore, a CBC journalist at the time, heard rumours of the Irving letter form a government insider, and wrote about the issue, including that Irving had denied any involvement. The publicity, however, embarrassed the government in its crass decision to withdraw the former government's arrangement to decide for Irving to fill in the gap. The CBC published a Cudmore article revealing that a cabinet committee had decided Project Resolve would be delayed and reported that Irving had meddled in the decision.

Davie responded by warning Quebec premier Philippe Couillard that the shipbuilder would be forced, with the cancellation, to lay off shipyard workers, at which point Premier Couillard became involved, approaching Justin Trudeau with his concerns. Trudeau, reeling under the interference by Couillard soon found he was being questioned by journalists about the potential Davie layoffs resulting from his government's decision. Furious, the Liberal government called in the RCMP to investigate a leak.

Whatever leak took place informing Cudmore and enabling him to gain a scoop for the CBC revealing information that should have been known only to cabinet ministers plotting to overturn the previous government's arrangement would no longer come from that journalist. He was taken out of the picture by an offer of employment as a senior adviser to  Defence Minister Sajjan. And the RCMP went on its search for a leaker of confidential data.

A working theory reached by RCMP Corp. Matthieu Boulanger involved the premise that Vice-Admiral Norman had set out to manipulate events to ensure that the navy would get its supply vessel, interfering in the political decision to set aside the agreement. Norman engaged in a nefarious plot "to influence decision-makers within government to adopt his preferred outcome" to provide the Asterix supply ship for the Royal Canadian Navy.  He was soon unceremoniously removed from his position as second in command to the Chief of the Defense Staff.

He was dismissed from duty, his office cleared of all his papers. His home was raided by RCMP who removed all official documentation, along with personal items, a year ago. Seven police officers spent six hours at the home of Vice-Admiral Norman removing DND files along with Norman family personal effects; family and vacation photographs, medical records and other items. A short while later Vice-Admiral Norman met with his superior, Jon Vance, Chief of Defence Staff, and was summarily dismissed.

There was no hearing, no opportunity for Norman to defend himself from a decision based on unproven claims. Vance ordered a blackout on all information about Norman. Trudeau declined to provide any details to the news media, but did declare that he and his government were in full support of the defence chief in a decision that saw the country's second-highest-ranking military officer removed from office with no word of explanation.

Police subsequently interviewed over 30 individuals including Davie staff, people at the Department of National Defence, at Public Services and Procurement Canada, along with a number of federal cabinet ministers. Nine search warrants were obtained to examine Norman's home, cellphones and computers, and Davie's offices and lobbyists. Some among Ottawa's military circles believe the government is making an example of Vice-Admiral Norman.

They anticipate that his legal bills will mount as his state of limbo where he has not been charged with anything, but is removed from office still receiving his salary, stretches indefinitely. The feeling is that his family will experience enough financial stress forcing the Vice-Admiral to resign. Despite which, Norman seems to have no intention of resigning. He is determined to see matters through. No charges, no trial, no public hearing.

He waits to be exonerated of implied charges, at which time he plans to resume his naval command. He may have to wait until Justin Trudeau is removed from office.

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