Senate committee extends deadline for inquiry into Mark Norman case
Vice Admiral Mark Norman reacts during a press conference in Ottawa on May 8, 2019. Conservative senators are expected to drop their bid to conduct an inquiry into the failed prosecution of Vice-Admiral Mark Norman. Members of the Senate defence committee will meet later this afternoon where Conservative Sen. Jean-Guy Dagenais has indicated he plans to withdraw his motion to hear from Norman and other witnesses about the case. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick)
By Lee Berthiaume, THE CANADIAN PRESS
Published Monday, June 17, 2019 7:11PM ADT
OTTAWA -- A Senate committee has breathed new life into an inquiry into the failed prosecution of Vice-Admiral Mark Norman, after the Conservative senator behind the probe reversed course and decided not to kill it.
Conservative Sen. Jean-Guy Dagenais had indicated that he planned to abandon the study , saying the clock had effectively run out because of the Liberals.
But in a surprise turn of events during today's meeting of the Senate defence committee, Dagenais instead successfully lobbied fellow committee members to extend its original June 20 deadline for reporting the results of its study back to the Senate.
The committee voted 8-4 in favour of extending the deadline to Aug. 1, but that doesn't make it a done deal -- it requires formal approval to sit into the summer.
Conservative senators appeared to try to pin that decision on Sen. Peter Harder, the Liberal government's top representative in the upper chamber, after Dagenais said the plan would require the approval of both Harder and his Tory counterpart.
But the committee was told that the Senate as a whole could also vote to allow the committee to continue the probe, setting the stage for a sharp debate in the coming days.
Committee members also heard that neither Norman nor his lawyer Marie Henein had yet responded to their invitations to testify about his two-year ordeal, which ended last month.
Norman was suspended as the military's second-in-command and charged with breach of trust last year for allegedly leaking government secrets to a Quebec shipyard to help it nail down a $700-million contract for a navy supply ship.
The deal had been approved by the previous Conservative government, but the new Liberal government decided to review it in November 2015 before eventually finalizing it.
But Crown prosecutors stayed the charge last month, telling the judge that new evidence they'd received from Norman's defence team had led them to conclude there was no reasonable chance of a conviction.