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Legislation

Conservatives to launch Mark Norman offensive in the House

By Peter Mazereeuw      

Expect hours of grilling Tuesday and Wednesday nights in the House, and more to follow.

The Conservatives will likely have opportunities to ask tough questions of Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan, left, and Justice Minister David Lametti over the government's involvement in the investigation and prosecution of Vice-Admiral Mark Norman. The Hill Times photographs by Andrew Meade
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The Conservatives are planning to launch a multi-stage rhetorical attack on the Liberals in the House and its committees over their involvement in the investigation and abandoned prosecution of Vice-Admiral Mark Norman, likely beginning this week.

The Tories will use “every tool at our disposal” to take the government to task on the issue, Conservative MP Erin O’Toole (Durham, Ont.) told reporters last week, echoing language the Conservatives used during a similar offensive in the House over the SNC-Lavalin scandal.

The Conservatives will likely have several hours to grill Justice Minister David Lametti (LaSalle-Émard-Verdun, Que.) and Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan (Vancouver South, B.C.) on their involvement in the Norman case on Tuesday and Wednesday during Committees of the Whole in the House of Commons, four-hour Q&A sessions in the evenings ostensibly related to DND’s and Justice Canada’s main spending estimates.

The Hill Times confirmed Friday that Mr. Lametti would appear before the Committee of the Whole on Tuesday to field questions, but could not confirm by deadline that Mr. Sajjan would do so, though it is customary for the minister to appear to field questions on his file. 

The Conservatives will meet Monday to figure out a strategy for raising the issue in House standing committees as well. Conservative MPs on the House Defence Committee signed a letter to the clerk of the committee Sunday calling for an emergency meeting to investigate the Norman case, the CBC reported.

The Tories are also mulling launching similar requests in the House Justice and Public Accounts committees, which have jurisdiction over the legal system and defence procurement, Conservative MP James Bezan (Selkirk-Interlake-Eastman Man.), the vice-chair of the House Defence Committee, told The Hill Times last week.

“We have a lot of questions, and it’s going to be best that we do it with officials, including Minister Sajjan, at the table. And of course that’s where the committee format looks the most desirable,” he said.

“There’s a number of avenues that we can use, and we can use them all at once too. So we will be looking at strategy on Monday.”

Vice-Admiral Mark Norman and his lawyer Marie Henein, pictured May 9, 2019, leaving court in Ottawa after federal Crown prosecutors dropped their breach of trust case against the military’s former second in command for allegedly leaking cabinet secrets about a delayed navy ship contract. The Hill Times photograph by Andrew Meade

The Conservatives can also request an emergency debate in the House on the issue, though in those cases Mr. Sajjan or other ministers may not have to attend. The Liberals can also delay or block requests for an emergency debate by skipping past the routine proceedings stage in the House each day, as they have done numerous times in the past several weeks, at one point blocking a Conservative request for a debate on the canola embargo by China for several days.

The House held an emergency debate on the SNC-Lavalin scandal in February. They also forced a quasi-filibuster over four days in the House, when Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre (Carleton, Ont.) took advantage of a rule that allows the first speaker on the official opposition to a government motion to have unlimited speaking time in the Chamber to address it.

Government House Leader Bardish Chagger (Waterloo, Ont.) announced last week that the government would introduce a motion on climate change in the House at some point this week, potentially providing another opportunity for the Conservatives to launch a filibuster.

The Conservatives also triggered a 30-hour voting marathon in the House in March over SNC-Lavalin by taking advantage of a procedural opportunity presented by the tabling of a supply bill. The next supply bill will come before the House next month.

Mr. O’Toole said in an interview with The Hill Times that the Conservatives are looking for opportunities to raise the issue outside of Parliament, as well as within.

“We’d like to see [Vice-Admiral Norman] returned to his rank, his position as vice-chief of defence staff. Once we know this ordeal is over for him, we’re going to roll out our strategy, which will include a little bit of everything we discussed,” he said.

Mr. O’Toole did not immediately respond to emailed follow-up questions about how the Conservatives would raise the issue outside of Parliament.

Public prosecutors on the Norman case announced last week that they were dropping their prosecution of Vice-Admiral Norman, who had been charged with breach of trust over allegations that he leaked information related to the government’s high-profile shipbuilding procurement to a lobbyist and a journalist. He had pleaded not guilty to the charge.

Vice-Admiral Norman’s legal team complained about political interference in the case by the government, and the government’s failure to release internal communications related to Vice-Admiral Norman and his prosecution. The Public Prosecution Service of Canada and Mr. Lametti denied any political interference had taken place.

The PCO, the prime minister’s department, investigated the alleged leaks before the RCMP took over the case.

Editor’s note: this story includes information about the request for an emergency meeting of the defence committee that does not appear in the print edition.

peter@hilltimes.com  

Status of Government Bills

HOUSE OF COMMONS

Second reading:

  • C-5, An Act to Repeal Division 20 of Part 3 of the Economic Action Plan 2015 Act, No. 1
  • C-12, An Act to amend the Canadian Forces Members and Veterans Re-establishment and Compensation Act
  • C-27, An Act to amend the Pension Benefits Standards Act, 1985
  • C-28, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (victim surcharge)
  • C-32, An Act related to the repeal of Section 159 of the Criminal Code
  • C-33, An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act
  • C-34, An Act to amend the Public Service Labour Relations Act
  • C-38, An Act to amend an Act to amend the Criminal Code (exploitation and trafficking in persons)
  • C-39, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (unconstitutional provisions)
  • C-42, Veterans Well-being Act
  • C-43, An Act respecting a payment to be made out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund to support a pan-Canadian artificial intelligence strategy
  • C-52, Supporting Vested Rights Under Access to Information Act
  • C-56, An Act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and the Abolition of Early Parole Act
  • C-87, Poverty Reduction Act
  • C-94, An Act respecting certain payments to be made out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund
  • C-98, An Act to amend the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Act and the Canada Border Services Agency Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts

Committee:

  • C-88, An Act to amend the Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act and the Canada Petroleum Resources Act
  • C-92, An Act respecting First Nations, Inuit, and Métis children, youth, and families
  • C-93, An Act to provide no-cost, expedited record suspensions for simple possession of cannabis
  • C-97, Budget Implementation Act, 2019, No. 1

Report stage:

  • S-6, Canada-Madagascar Tax Convention Implementation Act, 2018

Consideration of Senate amendments: 

  • C-55, An Act to amend the Oceans Act and the Canada Petroleum Resources Act
  • C-58, An Act to amend the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts

SENATE

Senate pre-study:

  • C-91, Indigenous Languages Act
  • C-92, An Act respecting First Nations, Inuit, and Métis children, youth, and families
  • C-97, Budget Implementation Act, 2019, No. 1

House of Commons bills awaiting first reading:

  • C-84, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (bestiality and animal fighting)
  • C-91, Indigenous Languages Act

Second reading:

  • C-82, Multilateral Instrument in Respect of Tax Conventions Act (now at third)

Committee:

  • C-48, Oil Tanker Moratorium Act
  • C-59, An Act respecting national security matters
  • C-68, An Act to amend the Fisheries Act
  • C-69, An Act to amend the Impact Assessment Act and the Canadian Energy Regulator Act, to amend the Navigation Protection Act
  • C-75, An Act to amend the Criminal Code, the Youth Criminal Justice Act, and other Acts, and to make consequential amendments to another Act
  • C-77, An Act to amend the National Defence Act to make related and consequential amendments to other Acts
  • C-78, An Act to amend the Divorce Act, the Family Orders and Agreements Enforcement Assistance Act, and the Garnishment, Attachment, and Pension Diversion Act
  • C-83, An Act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and another Act

Third Reading:

  • C-71, An Act to amend certain Acts and Regulations in relation to firearms
  • C-81, Accessible Canada Act

Peter Mazereeuw

Peter Mazereeuw is a deputy editor for The Hill Times covering politics, legislation, and the Senate.
- peter@hilltimes.com


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