The most senior defence officials in the country were at the federal cabinet on Tuesday, almost one week after the collapse of the Crown’s breach of trust case against Vice-Admiral Mark Norman, who had been accused of leaking secrets.
But an official working for Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan says the reason the others were there was not to talk Norman.
Both Chief of Defence Staff General Jonathan Vance and Jody Thomas, the deputy minister of national defence, could be seen walking into the meeting on Tuesday morning on Parliament Hill, where questions from the opposition about alleged political interference in the case have dogged the government.
Neither Vance nor Thomas stopped to take reporter questions when asked about the Norman matter.
Topics discussed in cabinet meetings are confidential and several officials contacted by Global News said they were not able to indicate whether the Norman matter was on the agenda for discussion or if it came up at all, even if it wasn’t on the agenda.
However, one official from Sajjan’s office said “the reason they were there had nothing to do with the Norman issue.”
That individual declined to specify a reason, citing cabinet confidentiality.
The question of how the government is responding to the stay of the charge — and how it has handled the case since the start — comes after Global News confirmed last week that Norman had been granted full latitude by the former Conservative government to deal directly with the shipyard handling the interim supply ship deal at the heart of his case and was told to “find a way to get it through.”
Norman had been the second-in-command of the Canadian military until January 2017 when he was removed from his post without explanation amidst an investigation into the November 2015 leak to media of a Liberal plan to freeze a shipbuilding contract inked by the former Conservative government.
News of that plan, which would have cost taxpayers millions of dollars in penalty fees payable to the shipyard, effectively forced the newly-elected Liberals to stay the course.
Norman was not charged until April 2018, but Prime Minister Justin Trudeau twice weighed in on the case against him before a criminal charge was laid.
That had led to accusations by Norman’s defence team as well as the opposition parties of political interference in the case, and prompted questions about whether Norman could sue.
Justice Minister David Lametti wouldn’t say whether the government is setting aside money in case of a lawsuit.
But he said the government is always prepared for lawsuits.
“I have no comment on that,” he said when asked by reporters if the government is setting funds aside for a potential lawsuit.
“We have funds to defend Canada whenever we have to.”
The matter also dominated question period on Tuesday, which was the first time Trudeau appeared there to answer questions on the issue.
He did not attend question period last Wednesday, which is the day on which Trudeau takes all of the questions lobbed by the other parties and was also the day when the Crown stayed the charge against Norman.