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Mark Norman, Big Business and military excess

Stephen Harper, Mark Norman, Justin Trudeau
Kim McAuley

June 13, 2019

While Grassy Narrows endures endless suffering waiting for a treatment centre, funding and clean-up of their community, the Conservatives and Liberals instead focus their energy on finger pointing and playing politics over Big Capital (SNC Lavalin and shipbuilding companies Irving, Davie and Seaspan.) These scandals reek of vote swaying in the lead up to the fall election. It’s a disgusting ploy and a long-ago exhausted scene.

The last weeks of May provided a strong example of the injurious and insulting nonsense our two main competing parties serve up as leadership. Lets look back to the Fall of 2015:

In 2015, Vice Admiral Mark Norman, under the Harper Government, was authorized to negotiate and award a contract to Davie Shipbuilding in Quebec to build an interim supply ship for the Canadian Navy. That contract was worth $668 million. It had a cancellation clause worth $89 million, in the event it wasn’t signed by November 30, 2015. (Almost exactly the same amount – $88.7 million – promised to Grassy Narrows) .

Court filings reveal that RCMP investigators believed two government officials, not acting together, leaked government “secrets” regarding shipbuilding negotiations, starting in September of 2014, to Davie Shipbuilding, its lobbyists and the media. Vice Admiral Mark Norman was charged with Breach of Trust in relation to these allegations.

On October 19, 2015 – the day Harper lost his throne to Trudeau – Harper’s government awarded a contract to North Vancouver shipyard Seaspan. Seaspan had promised it would prepare its shipyard for the work, at no cost to Canada, as had Davie.

Later in October 2015, Scott Brison as the newly appointed President of the Treasury Board under the Trudeau Liberals asked Cabinet to consider an unsolicited proposal from New Brunswick’s Irving Shipyard to build the interim supply ship instead.

In December, 2015, a confidential report for the Liberal government – obtained by the CBC – noted the program by Seaspan was ill-managed, chaotic, inefficient and suffering from delay.

Trudeau’s new government ultimately finalized the contract with Davie in 2015. And the fact that Irving even got a pause on Davie in the first place speaks volumes about the power of vote swaying Capital that Irving and their ilk has. The Irving operations are a virtual monolith in New Brunswick, are the largest private sector employer in the province, and have a monopoly on the media there. They own and operate Irving oil and gas, as well as lumber, pulp & paper and construction companies, and have business interests in real estate.

The Trial of Vice-Admiral Norman was scheduled for August, 2019. But on March 28 Mark Norman’s defence team presented new evidence and on May 8 the Breach of Trust charge against Norman was stayed – with the Crown alleging it didn’t have enough evidence to convict him.

On May 14, Scheer asked Trudeau to apologize to Mark Norman. Jason Kenney pledged his undying love of Norman as a Canadian hero. The Toronto Sun ran a front page comparing the “hardship” endured by Norman to the allegedly soft treatment of Omar Khadr.

Trudeau instead raised the fact that Harper was the one who initially awarded the contract to Davie.

Soon after he announced $15.7 billion to re-build the Canadian Navy (contracts awarded to Seaspan and Irving) and another $351.3 million to “enhance the capacity of the coast guard, strengthen management and oversight and promote a greener way of doing business”.

While the Tories proclaim themselves the defender of the people, in this case it seems they were in bed with big business just as much as Trudeau. Both parties reek from this.

So while tens of millions in government funds are thrown around and sometimes just thrown out to try to curry favour with the bosses and buy a few votes, the people of the country – most notably Indigenous groups like those of Grassy Narrows – have to wait for basic life saving services while trying to stay alive on their poisoned lands.

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