July 20, 2024
'It's part of how this town works': Mark Norman was charged over a leak, but in Ottawa leaks happen every day.
When the Crown stayed a charge of breach of trust against Norman, it ended a remarkable — and to many in Ottawa, puzzling — chapter in Canadian political history.
When the Crown stayed a charge of breach of trust against Norman, it ended a remarkable — and to many in Ottawa, puzzling — chapter in Canadian political history.

Greg Weston’s phone rang after 10 p.m. A top official from a senior minister’s office was on the line. He had a problem, he told Weston. Justice department lawyers were hounding a single mother who had made a harassment complaint. They were trying to wear her down with legal bills. And the official couldn’t get it to stop. Was Weston interested in the story?

You bet he was.

The next day, Weston, who spent decades on Parliament Hill as an investigative reporter and columnist, picked up two thick brown envelopes from an agreed-upon location. He checked out the story, did his research then wrote it up. The fallout was huge. The bad press eventually led the federal government to overhaul the way it handled harassment complaints. And it all started with a leak.

For Weston, that’s how Ottawa functions, when it functions best. The official had a problem he couldn’t fix internally. So he leaked it. Weston wrote about it. Outrage ensued, and the problem was solved. “Leaks are the fuel of the whole Ottawa communications engine,” said Weston, who is now a principal at Earnscliffe Strategy Group, a lobbying and communications firm. “It’s part of how this town works.”

On Wednesday, the Crown stayed a single charge of breach of trust against Vice-Admiral Mark Norman, formerly the second-ranking officer in the Canadian Forces. The decision brought an end to a remarkable — and to many in Ottawa, puzzling — chapter in Canadian political history.

Norman was accused of leaking information about a ship-building contract to a lobbyist and a reporter. Based on that accusation he was suspended from his job, made a pariah in his profession and forced to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars in his own defence. All of that for allegedly doing something that everyone with even a passing knowledge of Parliament Hill agrees happens every day.

In Ottawa, leaks are everywhere. They “are just an essential and regular tool,” Weston said. If they were liquid, they would fill the Rideau Canal. If they were gas, they’d be Jupiter.

[…]

See Also:

(1) The big question is why did they charge Mark Norman in the first place

(2) If Trudeau’s re-elected, what abuse of power comes next?

(3) Trudeau sets up a $595 million slush fund for journalists — but only the ones he “trusts.”

(4) The Beyak suspension leaves us to ask, who is next?

(5) Sajjan says he regrets the process Mark Norman had to go through

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