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Canada’s top soldier spoke with Trudeau after learning of Norman case — but no records exist – National

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Hours after learning from RCMP that his second-in-command was under investigation for allegedly leaking cabinet secrets, Canada’s top soldier had a phone call with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau after briefing top-level political staff about the case.

But there appear to be no records of what exactly the two discussed in the early hours of a case that has rocked the Canadian Forces and prompted accusations of political interference and scapegoating.

READ MORE: Code Name ‘Kraken’ — How Mark Norman’s lawyers allege military used pseudonyms to hide records

In testimony before an Ottawa court on Wednesday, Chief of Defence Staff Gen. Jonathan Vance explained how he first learned the RCMP was investigating his vice chief of defence staff, Vice-Adm. Mark Norman, in a meeting on Jan. 9, 2017.

In that meeting were several deputy ministers, RCMP officials, Vance and the national security adviser to Trudeau.

WATCH BELOW: Conservatives question Liberals over emails in Norman case






Afterwards, both Vance and the national security adviser met for roughly five minutes with Gerry Butts and Katie Telford to brief them on the news that the RCMP was investigating Norman in relation to a report leaked to media in November 2015 that the newly-elected Liberals had considered freezing a $700-million deal to buy the navy a new supply ship.

Both of its remaining vessels had rusted out or caught fire in the years previous.

Vance said he asked for Butts or Telford, who are Trudeau’s principal secretary and chief of staff, respectively, to inform him of what was going on.

Later that day, he received a phone call from Trudeau about the matter.

READ MORE: Twin investigations launched into whether military blocked access to information in Mark Norman case

But Vance told the court he took no notes and is not aware of there being any records showing what was discussed during that call, nor in any of the other meetings with either Butts and Telford or with RCMP officials that day.

Norman was abruptly suspended from his duties as the country’s second most senior soldier on Jan. 16, 2017, with no public explanation given.

Vance had previously declined to tell reporters which officials he informed of the investigation into Norman.

Yet the question of how much Trudeau knew about the case has dogged him for close to two years now, as have accusations of political interference.

WATCH BELOW: Opposition asks how Trudeau knew about charges against Vice-Adm. Norman






Trudeau made public remarks in 2017 and in February 2018, prior to Norman being charged with one count of breach of trust for the alleged leak, that he expected the matter would “inevitably” lead to “court processes.”

He has since been asked repeatedly in question period and by media as to how he came to that determination, given Norman was not charged until March 2018.

Trudeau has refused to comment on the case since those initial remarks.

Vance told the court he was advised that Norman would be charged prior it actually being laid.

He did not tell the court who informed him of that, saying instead, “I can’t recall.”

When asked whether he shared that information with anyone, Vance said he told either Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan or told the deputy minister of the Department of National Defence with the instruction to tell the minister.

It is not clear when he advised those individuals of the pending charge or whether they told anyone else.

The revelation that Trudeau and Vance spoke directly about the case, and that Vance informed or intended to inform a senior member of Trudeau’s cabinet about pending charges, raises new questions about accusations made repeatedly by Norman’s defence team. Norman’s defence counsel says he is being scapegoated by the Liberals because the leaked report of the plans to freeze the supply ship deal effectively forced the government to honour it.

Ditching the deal with Davie Shipyards,, which was inked under the former Conservative government, would have hit taxpayers with a penalty fee of roughly $89 million.

Scott Brison, who until earlier this month served as President of the Treasury Board, told RCMP when they launched their investigation that the leak had damaged his ability to do his due diligence in re-evaluating the deal after the Liberals were elected.

However, Brison was among several cabinet ministers pressed by Irving and Seaspan, two rival shipyards to Davie, to reconsider proposals to do that same work at their own shipyards in the weeks leading up to the leak.

Brison has close ties to the Irving family. His emails and any potential communication with the firm related to the supply ship deal have been repeatedly sought by Norman’s defence team in the pre-trial hearings in his case so far.

On Tuesday, Brison’s lawyers filed an application seeking standing in the case.

In their filing, his legal team said it wanted to be able to protect his “privacy” and “interests” as the case unfolds.

Testimony is set to continue Wednesday afternoon.

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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‘Business as usual’ for Dorel Industries after terminating go-private deal

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MONTREAL — Dorel Industries Inc. says it will continue to pursue its business strategy going forward after terminating an agreement to go private after discussions with shareholders.

« Moving ahead. Business as usual, » a spokesman for the company said in an email on Monday.

A group led by Cerberus Capital Management had previously agreed to buy outstanding shares of Dorel for $16 apiece, except for shares owned by the family that controls the company’s multiple-voting shares.

But Dorel chief executive Martin Schwartz said the Montreal-based maker of car seats, strollers, bicycles and home furniture pulled the plug on a deal on the eve of Tuesday’s special meeting after reviewing votes from shareholders.

“Independent shareholders have clearly expressed their confidence in Dorel’s future and the greater potential for Dorel as a public entity, » he said in a news release.

Dorel’s board of directors, with Martin Schwartz, Alan Schwartz, Jeffrey Schwartz and Jeff Segel recused, unanimously approved the deal’s termination upon the recommendation of a special committee.

The transaction required approval by two-thirds of the votes cast, and more than 50 per cent of the votes cast by non-family shareholders.

Schwartz said enhancing shareholder value remains a top priority while it stays focused on growing its brands, which include Schwinn and Mongoose bikes, Safety 1st-brand car seats and DHP Furniture.

Dorel said the move to end the go-private deal was mutual, despite the funds’ increased purchase price offer earlier this year.

It said there is no break fee applicable in this case.

Montreal-based investment firm Letko, Brosseau & Associates Inc. and San Diego’s Brandes Investment Partners LP, which together control more than 19 per cent of Dorel’s outstanding class B subordinate shares voiced their opposition to the amended offer, which was increased from the initial Nov. 2 offer of $14.50 per share.

« We believe that several minority shareholders shared our opinion, » said Letko vice-president Stephane Lebrun, during a phone interview.

« We are confident of the long-term potential of the company and we have confidence in the managers in place.”

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Pandemic funds helping Montreal businesses build for a better tomorrow

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Many entrepreneurs have had to tap into government loans during the pandemic, at first just to survive, but now some are using the money to better prepare their businesses for the post-COVID future.

One of those businesses is Del Friscos, a popular family restaurant in Dollard-des-Ormeaux that, like many Montreal-area restaurants, has had to adapt from a sit-down establishment to one that takes orders online for takeout or delivery.

“It was hard going from totally in-house seating,” said Del Friscos co-owner Terry Konstas. “We didn’t have an in-house delivery system, which we quickly added. There were so many of our employees that were laid off that wanted to work so we adapted to a delivery system and added platforms like Uber and DoorDash.”

Helping them through the transition were emergency grants and low-interest loans from the federal and provincial governments, some of which are directly administered by PME MTL, a non-profit business-development organization established to assist the island’s small and medium-sized businesses.

Konstas said he had never even heard of PME MTL until a customer told him about them and when he got in touch, he discovered there were many government programs available to help his business get through the downturn and build for the future. “They’ve been very helpful right from day one,” said Konstas.

“We used some of the funds to catch up on our suppliers and our rents, the part that wasn’t covered from the federal side, and we used some of it for our new virtual concepts,” he said, referring to a virtual kitchen model which the restaurant has since adopted.

The virtual kitchen lets them create completely different menu items from the casual American Italian dishes that Del Friscos is known for and market them under different restaurant brand names. Under the Prasinó Soup & Salad banner, they sell healthy Greek options and their Stallone’s Sub Shop brand offers hearty sandwiches, yet the food from both is created in the same Del Friscos kitchen.

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Downtown Montreal office, retail vacancies continue to rise

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Some of downtown Montreal’s key economic indicators are heading in the wrong direction.

Office and retail vacancies in the city’s central core continued to climb in the fourth quarter of 2020, according to a quarterly report released Thursday by the Urban Development Institute of Quebec and the Montréal Centre-Ville merchants association. The report, whose first edition was published in October, aims to paint a socio-economic picture of the downtown area.

The survey also found office space available for sublet had increased during the fourth quarter, which may foreshadow even more vacancies when leases expire. On the residential front, condo sales fell as new listings soared — a sign that the downtown area may be losing some of its appeal to homeowners.

“It’s impossible not to be preoccupied by the rapid increase in office vacancies,” Jean-Marc Fournier, the former Quebec politician who now heads the UDI, said Thursday in an interview.

Still, with COVID-19 vaccinations set to accelerate in the coming months, “the economic picture is bound to improve,” he said. “People will start returning downtown. It’s much too early to say the office market is going to disappear.”

Public health measures implemented since the start of the pandemic almost a year ago — such as caps on office capacity — have deprived downtown Montreal of more than 500,000 workers and students. A mere 4,163 university and CEGEP students attended in-person classes in the second quarter, the most recent period for which figures are available. Border closures and travel restrictions have also brought tourism to a standstill, hurting hotels and thousands of local businesses.

Seventy per cent of downtown workers carried out their professional activities at home more than three days a week during the fourth quarter, the report said, citing an online survey of 1,000 Montreal-area residents conducted last month.

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