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Mark Norman affair needs public inquiry, Scheer says

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OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau must launch a public inquiry into the case of Vice-Admiral Mark Norman, Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer said Friday. 

Speaking on Parliament Hill, Scheer said a full investigation is justified to examine how the military’s former second-in-command came to be charged over alleged leaks of cabinet secrets about a shipbuilding contract.

The Opposition leader also said he has questions about Trudeau’s role in launching the original leak investigation and whether the government behaved improperly in resisting the release of documents to Norman’s lawyers.

“I call on Justin Trudeau to conduct a formal public inquiry into exactly how and why the RCMP were called in to investigate Vice-Admiral Mark Norman and to any other relevant issues surrounding this affair,” Scheer said.

Norman faced one count of breach of trust, over an alleged attempt to undermine the federal cabinet’s decision on buying a refitted supply ship for the navy from Quebec’s Davie shipyard by slipping Davie confidential information.

The case collapsed last week after Crown prosecutors got new information from the defence that convinced them they stood no reasonable chance of landing a conviction — evidence apparently related to direction Norman received from the previous Conservative government about dealings with Davie.

On Thursday, the Liberal majority on the House of Commons defence committee rejected an opposition effort to start a committee investigation into the Norman affair, accusing the Conservatives of ignoring the facts in a bid to tar the governing party five months before an election.

Despite statements from prosecutors that the prime minister didn’t put political pressure on them — Kathleen Roussel, the head of the federal prosecution service, sent an unusual statement to that effect after the case ended — Scheer alleged Friday that Trudeau interfered.

“His fingerprints have been on this from Day 1,” Scheer said, adding that Norman deserves a personal apology from the prime minister.

At an event for Royal Military College graduates in Kingston, Ont., Gen. Jonathan Vance told CTV News that Trudeau played no role in suspending Norman before he was charged.

“The prime minister did not pressure me to suspend him, OK?” said the chief of the defence staff, Norman’s only superior in the Canadian Armed Forces. “My decision, my decision alone because of the Code of Service Discipline and the Queen’s Regulations and Orders. Not the prime minister, not the minister, me. I own it.” 

The Tories will try to keep the issue alive when the House of Commons returns after a break week. On Friday, the party gave formal notice of a motion demanding the Prime Minister’s Office release a 60-page memo on the case that Michael Wernick, the then-clerk of the Privy Council, sent Trudeau in October.

The Canadian Press


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Chief military judge’s court martial in limbo after deputy recuses himself

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OTTAWA — The court martial for Canada’s chief military judge is in limbo after the judge overseeing the trial, who happens to be deputy to the accused, agreed not to hear the case over conflict-of-interest concerns.

Lt.-Col. Louis-Vincent d’Auteuil also outlined the reasons why he felt the military’s other three sitting judges would not be able to preside over Col. Mario Dutil’s trial in an impartial manner.

That has left the fate of Dutil’s court martial, seen by some as a critical test for the military-justice system, up in the air.

Dutil was charged with eight counts in relation to allegations he had an inappropriate relationship with a subordinate and knowingly signed a travel claim for $927.60 that contained false information.

Four of the charges were dropped at the start of the court martial last week, where Dutil’s lawyer challenged d’Auteuil’s impartiality and asked the presiding judge to recuse himself. A publication ban on details of that portion of the hearing has since been lifted.

In agreeing to the request, d’Auteuil said it was reasonable to believe he would be biased because of his relationship to several witnesses — which he believed also applied to other military judges.

The Canadian Press

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Lighthizer agrees to do whatever it takes to get new NAFTA passed

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OTTAWA — U.S. trade czar Robert Lighthizer says he will work with Democrats to do whatever it takes to ratify the new North American free trade deal.

Lighthizer made the pledge in testimony today before the U.S. Senate finance committee as part of the Trump administration’s push to get the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement ratified by a divided Congress.

Lighthizer’s appearance on Capitol Hill comes two days before Prime Minister Justin Trudeau meets President Donald Trump at the White House to give impetus towards ratifying the deal.

Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden, the ranking Democrat on the committee, says the new deal has “weak enforcement” provisions on raising labour standards in Mexico that he and his party want to fix.

Lighthizer says USMCA has stronger enforcement provisions than the old North American Free Trade Agreement, including improved labour rights in Mexico, but he’s open to making it stronger.

Lighthizer says he has had good discussions with Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and suggests that getting a ratification bill introduced in the lower house of Congress — a necessary first step towards U.S. ratification of the pact — might be weeks away.

The Canadian Press

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