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.”
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.
HOUSE OF COMMONS
Consideration of Senate amendments:
House of Commons bills awaiting first reading:
Enter your email address to
register a free account.