Facts instead of Furor
After a cabinet meeting in November 2015 concerning a sole source contract that had been awarded by the previous Harper Government, someone leaked the fact that the Cabinet was going to postpone this project for further consideration. We are told that the Prime Minister was furious with the leak, as if such a reaction was strange or improper. I am not aware of any head of a public or private organization who has ever exclaimed “a leak, what fun, I hope we have some more in the coming months.”
The Prime Minister’s next step was to refer the matter to the RCMP to investigate and find the source of the leak. This is not the usual response, mostly because leaks are almost inevitable in government. It has often been said that the ship of state is “the only vessel that leaks from the top.” Nonetheless, deciding to get to the bottom of this leak by calling in Canada’s national police force seems to me an entirely acceptable course of action.
After the RCMP identified Vice-Admiral Mark Norman as the probable source of the leak, the Prime Minister indicated the matter would likely end up before the courts. I would ask those who have been apoplectic about the Prime Minister’s comment where else they would expect such a matter to be resolved. Would it be more appropriate to say that the matter will likely be resolved (a) in a back alley, (b) over drinks, or (c) with duelling pistols at dawn? These are obviously nonsensical options, but so is the reaction to the Prime Minister’s comment. The courts exist to deal with criminal matters and after the RCMP identified the probable source of the leak, it would be reasonable to expect a trial to follow, as it did.
Even the fact that the prosecution has stayed the charge has prompted a fresh outburst of criticism of the Prime Minister, even though he had nothing to do with this development. It was prompted by the provision of new evidence by Norman’s defence lawyer – evidence that she apparently had in March but withheld for two months for whatever reason.
What About Fair Treatment for the Prime Minister?
Not to be forgotten in this whole saga is the fact that Norman was not found innocent – or guilty. The charges against him were stayed, after the prosecution considered the new evidence provided by the defence. While I have no doubt that the whole matter has been a great strain on Vice-Admiral Norman and his family, especially if he is innocent of the charges, he was afforded due process within an objective and neutral criminal justice system. Nothing like due process or fairness is evident in the near-hysterical attacks on the Prime Minister for his behaviour – behaviour that consisted of being upset about a leak, asking the police to investigate, and observing that the resolution of the issue (a charge of breach of trust against Norman) would likely end up before the courts. One shudders to think how the Official Opposition and the Globe and Mail would react if there were actually questionable behaviour by the Prime Minister.