Deputy Admiral Mark Norman's lawyers pointed to a senior cabinet minister with new allegations about Treason chairman Scott Brison's connections to the powerful Irving family and Brison's role in the government's plan to postpone a supply contract for one rival of Irving. .
In legal documents released on Friday, Norman's legal team claims that witnesses contradict Brison's claim that a leak of information about a plan to delay the contract with Davie Shipbuilding undermines the government's ability to review the deal. Norman's lawyers are also contesting Brison's claim that an ad hoc meeting of the government committee assembled at the time was examining the integrity of the hiring process.
In the documents, Norman's lawyer, Marie Henein, points to statements from federal bureaucrats made to the RCMP. "Other witness statements contradict Brison at these key points, namely that the leaks did not impact the government's decision to proceed with the Davie contract, and that the concerns in the Ad Hoc Committee were about the integrity of the hiring process" the court argued. "Instead, public officials who attended and took personal notes of the Ad Hoc Committee meeting told the RPMC that a key concern was not to have a satisfactory communication strategy for liberals to explain the process with a contract negotiated by the previous Conservative government.
"The request for delay seems to have nothing to do with the integrity of the contract for Canadians, but with political messages," Henein said.
The claims the defense made against Brison were not tested in court; nor the deeds against Norman, who faces a criminal charge of breach of trust over the shipbuilding spill.
In the fall of 2015, then-CBC journalist James Cudmore reported that the newly elected Liberal government planned to suspend a contract under which Davie would provide a Navy supply ship. In the resulting publicity wave, the government backed down in delay, but urged the RCMP to investigate the alleged leak, claiming that the information was protected as a cabinet trust, making its release illegal without authorization.
Defense Chief of Staff Jonathan Vance suspended Norman from his position as the second-in-command of the Canadian Forces in January 2017 after RCMP invaded Norman's home about 14 months after the investigation. In March 2018 he was indicted.
Documents released on Friday after arguments from lawyers representing various media organizations have been presented in recent weeks in support of Henein's efforts to access a huge amount of records that the government has so far refused to release, claiming they are classified. Henein says she needs this material, which includes memos and correspondence, to set up Norman's defense.
It is central to Henein's allegations that Brison, a Nova Scotia deputy, is close to the Irving family of Atlantic Canada, whose shipbuilding company has come forward with its own proposal to provide a supply vessel. The previous conservative government rejected Irving's offer in favor of Davie. On November 17, 2015, Irving Shipbuilding co-CEO James Irving sent a letter to four cabinet ministers, including Brison, urging them to reconsider Irving's proposal instead of Davie. Two days later, at a meeting of the cabinet's ad hoc purchasing committee, government ministers agreed to suspend the Davie project.
Norman's lawyers argued that both Defense Minister Harjit Sajjan and Procurement Minister Judy Foote were in favor of moving forward with the Davie project as well as the top bureaucrats. But Brison intervened shortly before the deadline, Norman's lawyers say, defending the suspension of the deal.
The Irvings consistently denied any attempt to undermine a rival naval builder through political interference.
Through a spokesman, Brison said earlier that his involvement in the matter was in his capacity as chairman of the Treasury Board, in which he oversees financial spending. Brison also stated in the House of Commons that he had only one interaction with Irving Shipbuilding during the period in question and that was when he was copied in Irving's letter.
But Norman's lawyers requested through court any communications between Brison and Irving in November 2015. Henein argues that such a claim is valid "given the inconsistent accounts of Minister Brison's handling of Irving's letter and his close relationship with the Irving family ".
"Lobbying records show that Minister Brison has been pressured by Jim Irving on a number of occasions since becoming a minister," Henein said.
Outside the Ottawa court on Friday, Norman said he was confident the court would make the correct decision to release the documents required by his legal team. "We look forward to accessing material that we believe is essential and essential to my defense," he said.
Asked if the documents would prove that Norman is innocent, Christine Mainville, one of the vice-admiral's attorneys, said that's not the point. "This is an application for third party records," she said. "It's not about the merits of the case, it's not about judging guilt or innocence. There will be a time and place for this. We look forward to this time and place.
Norman's trial is due in the summer of 2019, in the run-up to the next federal election.