Home Page News Opinion Foreign Policy Politics Policy Legislation Lobbying Hill Life & People Hill Climbers Heard On The Hill Calendar Archives Classifieds
Hill Times Events Inside Ottawa Directory Hill Times Store Hill Times Careers The Wire Report The Lobby Monitor Parliament Now
Subscribe Free Trial Reuse & Permissions Advertising
Log In
Global

Military vice-chief’s silence could signal he sees future with forces after suspension: analyst

By Marco Vigliotti      

Questions persist about why the popular, 'straight shooter' Vice-Admiral Mark Norman was temporarily removed from duty more than a month ago.

It's still unclear why Vice-Chief of Defence Staff Vice-Admiral Mark Norman has been temporarily removed from his duties, with the Department of National Defence remaining tight-lipped. The Hill Times photograph by Sam Garcia
Share a story
The story link will be added automatically.

Suspended vice-chief of defence staff Vice-Admiral Mark Norman’s persisting silence in the face of speculation as to why he’s been removed from duty suggests he’s holding out hope of being reinstated to the second-highest post in the Canadian Armed Forces, according to veteran military journalist Scott Taylor.

“He’s obviously respecting the decision, and respecting the chain of command, which would imply that he thinks he’s still coming back or that he can recover from this,” said Mr. Taylor, editor and publisher of Esprit de Corps magazine, which focuses on military issues.

“Otherwise, it’d be in his best interest to at least give his side of things, at least set the story straight.”

Vice-Admiral Norman was temporarily relieved of his senior military position in mid-January in an announcement that surprised many in the defence community.

The Department of National Defence did not at the time elaborate on the reason for Vice-Admiral Norman’s departure, nor has it done so since, citing “privacy considerations.” Navy Commander Vice-Admiral Ron Lloyd has assumed the responsibilities of vice-chief of defence staff in the interim.

When pressed for details, Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan (Vancouver South, B.C.) told reporters that the removal was not related to national security, though refused to elaborate further.

Vice-Admiral Norman has not commented publicly on his removal. He did not respond to an email from The Hill Times last week to his government account. He has not been charged with any wrongdoing.

With no word from official channels, there have been unconfirmed media reports citing unnamed sources saying that the reason for the admiral’s removal is related to an alleged leak of commercial data pertaining to the government’s shipbuilding strategy. Vice-Admiral Norman was previously commander of the Canadian Navy.

The multibillion-dollar shipbuilding program was announced in 2011 as part of an effort to develop a sustainable domestic shipbuilding industry and re-equip Canada’s navy and coast guard. The contracts for the next fleet of combat and non-combat ships were awarded to Irving Shipbuilding in Halifax and Vancouver’s Seaspan, respectively. The shipyards have been sprucing up their operations to be able to build the new vessels.

Mr. Taylor, who’s also a The Hill Times columnist, said Vice-Admiral Norman has a reputation of being a “total straight shooter,” and the rumours circulating about the reason for his suspension “don’t fit” with the person he and others had come to know.

“It has to be something serious, but at the same time, no one knows what it is, and yet none of those things that it could be would seem to match with the character that we all thought we knew,” he said.

Dave Perry, a senior analyst with the Canadian Global Affairs Institute, a think tank that specializes in defence and foreign affairs policy, described the admiral as someone who is “extremely highly regarded,” with the dozen or so people he knows who have worked for him all having “very complimentary things to say about him.”

“I have never heard anyone say anything negative about him,” he said.

When reached for comment, National Defence said it had no additional information to provide beyond what the chief of defence staff, General Jonathan Vance, had already said with regard to releasing no details due to privacy concerns. Gen. Vance last week at a military conference in Ottawa said the day he decided to remove his vice-chief from duties was “one of the hardest days of my career,” according to the CBC. He called it “the right thing to do,” and stressed that Vice-Admiral Norman “is owed the decency of silence until you know the facts.”

Rear-Admiral John Newton, commander of Maritime Forces Atlantic, told the Halifax Chronicle Herald on the weekend that Vice-Admiral Norman “deserves privacy while the allegations are investigated.”

Other members of the defence community have also been hesitant about commenting publicly or privately on his removal, citing the absence of credible information.

Mr. Taylor said that no one even broached the subject during a recent charity hockey game he organized featuring foreign defence attachés, Canadian military personnel, and reporters, which he found strange as Vice-Admiral Norman was extended an invitation to attend by one of the attachés.

“It was the elephant in the room,” he said.

When reached separately by The Hill Times for their reaction to the news, a handful of foreign defence attachés politely refused to comment because of their unfamiliarity with the situation, saying only that news of the suspension came as a total shock.

Several defence industry lobbyists and ex-military personnel also refused comment, explaining that they were not familiar with the reason the vice-chief was suspended.

Mr. Perry said he doesn’t believe many truly know the reason for the departure besides the chief of defence staff, defence minister, prime minister, and Vice-Admiral Norman himself.

“My sense is that there’s a very small list of people who know what’s going on, and they, at least publicly, have all said they can’t talk about it,” he said in an interview. “Pretty much everything else that has been said is speculative.”

If the matter related to any potential concerns on the part of Canadian allies, including nations in NATO, they would have most likely been notified by the government, he added.

mvigliotti@hilltimes.com

The Hill Times 

More in News

Pollsters expect ‘acrimonious, intensely fought’ federal election campaign, high-tech ‘black ops’ from domestic and foreign third parties

News|By Abbas Rana
'It’s game on. Buckle up, it’s going to be an extremely unpredictable election,’ says EKOS Research president Frank Graves.

Environmental Assessment Bill C-69 enters final stretch in Senate; Red Chamber divided on Tanker Ban Bill amendments

The Senate passed four priority government bills back to the House with amendments late last week.

Rookie GTA Liberal MP Tan quits unexpectedly as Liberal candidate for fall election

News|By Abbas Rana
In his Facebook post, Liberal MP Geng Tan thanked Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, his wife, staff and constituents for their support during his parliamentary career.

Liberals getting ‘homework’ done on new NAFTA before passage in U.S. and Mexico, but NDP say bill being rushed

News|By Neil Moss
The House of Commons International Trade Committee will have a pre-study on June 18 to hear from between 12 and 15 witnesses in preparation for the possibility that the committee will review Bill C-100 in the summer.

Environmentalists brace for resistance from industry over single-use plastics ban

News
Despite increasing awareness of the threat plastic poses to the environment, Sylvain Charlebois, senior director of the Agri-Food Analytics Lab at Dalhousie, said he expects there will be some resistance from consumers.

Feds pick three vendors to pilot Phoenix replacement projects

News
Treasury Board President Joyce Murray says it’s ‘too soon to say’ which or how many vendors will be tapped to provide new public servant payment services.

Liberal backers want to implement new NAFTA now, but Conservative supporters want to wait until after looming election, poll suggests

News|By Neil Moss
Forum Research's interactive voice response telephone poll is based on 1,633 randomly selected responses from May 31 to June 2. It has a margin of error of three per cent 19 times out of 20.

Conservatives vulnerable to intolerance attacks, and ‘clumsy’ Cooper episode feeds into perceptions, say strategists, pollster

Stripping Conservative MP Michael Cooper of his deputy critic role would have sent a stronger message, says Tim Powers.

ISG Senators to propose amending Bill C-48 to allow tanker access to Nisga’a Nation: Sen. Paula Simons

The amendments would respect the rights of the coastal First nation and give Alberta hope for exporting heavy oil from the coast, says the Independent Senators from Alberta.
Your group subscription includes premium access to Politics This Morning briefing.