Of Ships And Men (Or Rather, Man)

This week, I decided to focus my attention on two (luckily related) stories I’m interested in. Stories I’ve been following for years (eight years for one, one year for the other) but following in a kind of hit-and-miss way. Like I was watching Game of Thrones, but only when I was in an airport lounge or a laundromat with a television running.

It all came to a head when I realized that, if pressed, I couldn’t coherently explain either of these stories to anyone.

(I call it my Reach-for-the-Top Syndrome: the fear that someone is suddenly going to ask me a question about current events that I can’t answer. It’s actually just one strain of Reach-for-the-Top Syndrome — another is the fear someone will ask you a question about current events and you’ll KNOW the answer but your buzzer won’t work. I’m not sure which is worse.)

Here are the stories I am focusing on:

  1. The National Shipbuilding Strategy (NSS) and more particularly, the large-vessel component of the NSS.
  2. The criminal case against Vice-Admiral Mark Norman.

I channeled my interest in both into a Timeline of Events which took me a borderline disturbing amount of time and energy to compile but which actually helped me to better understand both the NSS and the case (such as it is) against Norman.

That said, my first recommendation to anyone interested in the Norman case is not to read my timeline, but to read Postmedia reporter David Pugliese’s fantastic January 2018 “Man Overboard” article about the case, which is referenced so many times in the footnotes to my Timeline, you’ll sound like a frog if you read them aloud (“ibid ibid ibid).

After you’ve read Pugliese’s piece (or before, since you’re already here), check out my Timeline. Although probably exhausting it is nowhere near exhaustive but it does contain links to a lot of additional material. I don’t expect you to read all of it in one sitting, but it will be here, waiting for you, anytime you need to verify some NSS-related event.



Vice-Admiral Mark Norman & The National Shipbuilding Strategy: A Timeline

2004: Paul Martin’s Liberal government attempts (unsuccessfully) to replace the Canadian Navy’s two aging supply ships (HMCS Preserver, commissioned 1969, and HMCS Protecteur, commissioned 1970).

2006: Stephen Harper’s Conservative government issues a Request for Proposals (RFP) to replace the (still aging) HMCS Preserver and HMCS Protecteur.

2008: Harper shuts the tender down on the eve of the election (which happened on 14 October 2008) as the bids exceed the government’s cost limits. In 2014, the Canadian Press will report that the federal government paid out as much as $8 million to “settle legal claims arising from the collapse of the first failed bid.”

 starboard bow view of the Canadian replenishment ship HMCS Protecteur (AOR 509) refueling the Canadian destroyer escort HMCS Nipigon (DDH 266) off its port side and the Portuguese frigate Almirante Magalhaes Correa (F 474) off its starboard side. 1982. (Photo by US Armed Forces via Wikimedia Commons)

Starboard bow view of the Canadian replenishment ship HMCS Protecteur refueling the Canadian destroyer escort HMCS Nipigon off its port side and the Portuguese frigate Almirante Magalhaes Correa off its starboard side. 1982. (Photo by US Armed Forces via Wikimedia Commons)



3 June 2010:  Conservatives under Stephen Harper introduce a 30-year, $38 billion National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy (NSPS) to renew the fleets of the Canadian Coast Guard (CCG) and the Canadian Navy. The strategy has three components:

  • a large-ship construction program (38 ships of more than 1,000 tonnage displacement, 23 for the Navy, 15 for the CCG; divided into combat and non-combat packages);
  • a small-ship construction program (116 ships of less than 1,000 tonnage displacement); and
  • a ship repair, refit and maintenance program.

The strategy has the stated goal of “sustain[ing] a strong and viable Canadian marine industry.”

20 September 2010: Public Works and Government Services Canada (PWGSC) issues a Solicitation of Interest and Qualification (SOIQ) inviting shipbuilders interested in participating in the large-ship construction to submit responses.

8 October 2010: The results of the qualification process are made public: five shipyards are shortlisted to participate in the Request for Proposals (RFP) stage:

Irving Shipyard, Halifax. (Source: Irving)

Irving Shipyard, Halifax. (Source: Irving)


7 February 2011: The large-vessel RFP is released. The deadline for submissions is 7 July 2011.

30 June 2011: The deadline for the RFP is extended by two weeks at the request of two competitors –Davie shipyard and Seaway Marine & Industrial, a subsidiary of Ontario’s Upper Lakes Marine. Upper Lakes Marine wants to buy the bankrupt Davie and submit a bid in a joint venture with SNC-Lavalin and South Korea’s Deawoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering. The Davie acquisition requires the approval of a Québec Superior Court. The extension is opposed by the other two bidders — Irving and Seaspan.

21 July 2011: The RFP closes. The court has ruled that Upper Lakes Marine may buy Davie’s assets. The government receives bids from Davie, Irving and Seaspan.

16 August 2011: Defense Minister Peter MacKay announces the word “Royal” will be returned to the names of the Canadian Navy and Air Force.

19 October 2011: The federal government announces large-ship construction contracts will be awarded to:

  • Irving — Combat package: 6 Arctic/Offshore Patrol Ships; 15 Canadian Surface Combatants (to replace the RCN’s Halifax-class frigates and Iroquois-class destroyers). Estimated value $25 billion over 20-30 years.
  • Seaspan — Non-combat package: 2 Joint Supply Ships (RCN), 3 Offshore Fisheries Science Vessels (CCG), 1 Offshore Oceanographic Science Vessel (CCG), 1 Polar Icebreaker (CCG). Estimated value: $8 billion over 20-30 years.



February 2012: PWGSC signs “umbrella agreements” with Irving and Seaspan. Public Works Minister Rona Ambrose describes the agreements as “long-term strategic sourcing arrangements that define the working relationships and administrative arrangements under which the government will negotiate fair and reasonable individual contracts.”

The agreements establish “target state” requirements for both shipyards to ensure they have the “capacity, facilities, processes and practices in place to ensure international productivity levels and rates of production are met.”

This means both shipyards will have to undertake major infrastructure modernization projects (“at no cost to Canada,” according to the federal government). The Seaspan yard in North Vancouver has chiefly produced barges and ferries and the Irving Yard (as the engineering firm Hatch will report after completing the project) basically has to be demolished to allow for the construction of new facilities. Or as Irving Shipybuilding President Kevin McCoy will tell reporters in 2016:

“Now I’ll tell you, starting a shipyard up from scratch … all new software, new training, over 700 new procedures in place, establishing a supply chain for shipbuilding in Canada, all of that is a significant challenge.”

March 2012: Nova Scotia’s NDP government under Darrell Dexter extends $260 million forgivable loan and $44 million repayable loan to Irving Shipyards in return for a promise to create 4,000 jobs. (Are the people of Nova Scotia not people of Canada? Did Irving not hear what Prime Minister Harper said about this not costing us anything?) The shipyard is also offered a $200 million loan guarantee which does not become public until 2016 at which point, the Liberals, under Stephen McNeil, say they will not honor it.

Autumn 2012: Shipyard modernization work worth an estimated $200 million begins at Seaspan. (Remember, the shipbuilding program is not just about building ships, it’s about building shipyards.)

Seaspan Shipyards, Vancouver. (Source: Seaspan)

Seaspan Shipyards, Vancouver. (Source: Seaspan)


27 February 2013: The supply ship HCMS Protecteur is seriously damaged by fire. off of Hawaii and must be towed home to Canada.

7 March 2013: Defense Minister Peter MacKay and Public Works Minister Rona Ambrose announce the government will pay Irving Shipyards $288 million just to design the Arctic Offshore Patrol Vessels.

2 May 2013: The CBC’s Terry Milewski reports that the government has already bought the design for the Norwegian boat the Arctic Offshore Patrol Vessels are to be based on for $5 million and, moreover, that the Norwegian ship, the Svalbard, was designed and built for less than $100 million in 2002. Milewski points to Denmark and Ireland as countries that have also designed and built similar ships for less than half the cost of the Canadian vessels. The government cannot explain the price difference.

21 August 2013: Irving announces launch of modernization work worth an estimated $300 million, lays off workers.

25 October 2013: Harper government announces plans for two new supply ships, the HMCS Queenston and HMCS Chateauguay, to be built by Seaspan as per the umbrella agreement.

Late 2013: An “independent evaluation, penned by retired colonel George Petrolekas and defence analyst Dave Perry” recommends the federal government buy a French Mistral-class landing ship and convert “at least two civilian-grade tankers into refuelling vessels” rather than spending $2.9 billion on two new ships. The report is ignored and the public knows nothing about it until the CBC’s Murray Brewster reports on in it in December 2014.

26 November 2013: Canada’s auditor general warns the Harper government has not budgeted adequately for replacing the country’s frigates and Arctic patrol vessels. Michael Ferguson says the budgets have not been revised or increased in over half a decade despite rising labor and material costs. Ferguson warns the strategy may not produce as many ships as promised.



19 September 2014: RCN Vice-Admiral Mark Norman, Commander of the Royal Canadian Navy, announces that both the Protecteur and the HMCS Preserver (corroded to the point that the “structural integrity of the ship” has been degraded “below acceptable limits”) will be retired early. HMCS Preserver serves as a floating oil barge until officially decommissioned in October 2016.

18 November 2014: Vice-Admiral Norman informs the House of Commons committee on national defense:

“The retirement of current refuellers and the delay in the construction of Joint Support Ships have led to capacity issues, which have a ripple effect. Owing to the capacity issues, Canada is unable to support and maintain those ships at sea if it needs to deploy them elsewhere.”

November 2014: Shipyard modernization work is completed at Seaspan which now claims to be “Canada’s most modern shipyard.”

The Sir John Franklin, an offshore fisheries science vessel, is nearing completion at Seaspan's Vancouver Shipyards in North Vancouver. The ship will be launched Dec. 8 and then towed on Dec. 12 to Victoria, for final trials and testing. Two other similar vessels are also being built in North Vancouver. Photograph By HEATH MOFFATT PHOTOGRAPHY, SEASPAN

The Sir John Franklin, an offshore fisheries science vessel, under constructionat Seaspan’s Vancouver Shipyards in North Vancouver. (Photo by Heath Moffat Photography, Seaspan)



16 January 2015: The federal government reaches an agreement with Irving to build six Arctic Offshore Patrol Vessels after increasing the estimated budget for the program from $3.1 billion to $3.5 billion. The CBC’s Murray Brewster reports:

The agreement is to construct six light icebreakers for the navy’s use in the North and off both coasts, but there will be a ceiling to the budget and officials acknowledge the number of ships could slip to five if the program runs into trouble.

January 2015: The federal government decides to lease a supply ship from a private firm (an idea “created” and “pitched unsolicited” by Davie in 2014). It receives proposals from Irving, Seaspan and Davie. 1

14 May 2015: HMCS Protecteur is decommissioned.

23 June 2015: Defense Minister Jason Kenney announces  the government is entering discussions with Davie Shipyard about acquiring an “interim” supply ship.

July 2015: The federal government arranges to lease supply ships, on a temporary basis, from Chile and Spain.

1 August 2015: Kenney announces his government has signed a Letter of Intent (LOI) with Davie to “to continue discussions on pursuing an at-sea support services contract.” The deal is dubbed “Project Resolve.” Admiral Norman begins “regular email communication with Spencer Fraser, a former RCN officer who headed Federal Fleet, the Davie affiliate that would oversee Project Resolve.”2

3 September 2015: Irving begins construction of the first Arctic Offshore Patrol Ship.

September 2015: Public Works officials ask the Defense department to consider allowing the government to purchase the Project Resolve ship after the lease period is up, but Defense bureaucrats balk on the grounds that it could call into question the government’s shipbuilding plan.

8 October 2015: The MV Asterix, which Davie has bought for the Project Resolve conversion, arrives in its Québec shipyard.

19 October 2015: Federal elections result in a majority Liberal government under Justin Trudeau. The Liberals’ election platform includes promises to fix the “broken” procurement system and invest heavily in the navy.

Top: MS Asterix container ship, pre-conversion. Bottom: MS Asterix naval replenishment ship, post-conversion.

Top: MS Asterix container ship, pre-conversion. Bottom: MS Asterix naval replenishment ship, post-conversion.

17 November 2015: A letter from James D. Irving, the firm’s co-chief executive officer, is sent to four members of the new Liberal cabinet: Defense Minister Harjit Sajjan, Finance Minister Bill Morneau, Procurement Minister Judy Foote and Treasury Board President Scott Brison. Irving says the Davie deal was “done on a non-competitive basis without transparency” 3 Irving argues his firm had offered a lower-cost option. Seaspan sends its own interim proposal, leading, as the CBC’s James Cudmore would write, “to the bizarre situation of NSPS shipyards offering to build an interim supply ship for Canada that was only necessary because the NSPS program had yet to deliver supply ships.”

19 November 2015: During a federal cabinet meeting (which Vice-Admiral Norman does not attend) Project Resolve is put on hold for two months. 4

19 November 2015: Spencer Fraser emails Alex Vicefield (head of Inocea which owns the Davie shipyard) and Davie official John Schmidt. The subject line reads, “From Mark” and the email says, of events unfolding around Project Resolve, “Most positive interpretation could be govt just unsure and asking questions; cynical view could be folks manipulating new govt to try to kill it. Not sure what the truth is.”

Fraser also tells them Cudmore has heard rumors about the Irving letter from somewhere inside government. 5

19 November 2015: Vicefield emails company executives and lobbyists about a request from public works to delay the Resolve deal. Postmedia’s David Pugliese will report on 12 January 2018 that Vicefield, suspecting Treasury Board President Scott Brison is behind the request, writes:

“If it does transpire to be that, I will do a full page plea in the Globe and Mail to Scott Brison asking that this Nova Scotia minister put his regional bias aside for matters of national security. …then I will lay off 400 guys next week.”6

20 November 2015: CBC reporter James Cudmore reports (based on leaked cabinet information) that Project Resolve has been delayed, pointing out that “The letter of intent signed by the government offers Davie $89-million if the finalized contract is not signed by Nov. 30.”

20 November 2015: Vice-Admiral Norman emails Spencer Fraser telling him that “CBC reporter [James] Cudmore had somehow obtained a copy of the Irving letter, ‘which shows they have been interfering.'” 7

25 November 2015: CBC reporter James Cudmore, citing “briefing materials prepared for some Liberal ministers” and “classified secret,” reports:

The government’s massive $39-billion national shipbuilding procurement strategy (NSPS) is in need of repair, with costs for some projects soaring by as much as 181 per cent and others on the cusp of being cancelled, according to briefing materials prepared for some Liberal ministers.

November 2015? In April 2017, the Globe and Mail’s Robert Fife and Steve Chase will report that following the publication of Cudmore’s story, Security Operations of the Privy Council Office launch an investigation into the source of the leaked classified information.

20 November 2015: Judy Foote, minister of what is now called Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC), announces the Davie Shipyard will be granted the sole-source contract to provide a temporary supply ship for the navy.

1 December 2015: CBC reporter James Cudmore reports the price of building 15 new warships for the RCN has ballooned to more than $30 billion.

2 December 2015: Vice-Admiral Mark Norman confirms for the CBC’s James Cudmore that Canadians have not been given accurate information about the growing price of the navy’s new warships, which could cost as much as $30 billion:

Norman said the $26.2 billion total budget for 15 of the yet to be designed warships was set in 2008 and likely based then on numbers that were two years old. Still, they became locked in, and no one offered an update, not until today.



8 January 2016: James Cudmore leaves the CBC. (This is noted at the end of any of this articles still available online.)

12 January 2016: Postmedia’s David Pugliese reports James Cudmore is now working for Defense Minister Harjit Sajjan. His exact title is not known but later turns out to be “policy adviser.”

22 February 2016: Procurement Minister Foote announces the government has hired retired Royal Navy Rear Admiral Steve Brunton as Expert Adviser to the national shipbuilding program. Later that month, Brunton will issue a report (which will be made public by Post Media’s David Pugliese in August 2018) suggesting the government does not fully understand “the level of risk” involved in the massive shipbuilding program.

February 2016: At some point during February 2016, the Davie shipyard submits an unsolicited bid to the federal government, offering to build a Polar Class 3 icebreaker, three “river-class” icebreakers and two multipurpose vessels worth, altogether, an estimated $1.1 billion. The Canadian Press will report on the bid on 10 March 2016, saying:

The pitch involves converting three different types of vessels which Davie already has under construction — or can be obtained on the international market “at highly affordable prices.”

4 March 2016: Irving invites the media to tour the “world’s most modern” shipyard.

11 March 2016: The federal government announces it will not entertain the Davie bid.

March 2016: The National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy is renamed the National Shipbuilding Strategy (I don’t know if this was a suggestion from the “Expert Adviser” but I like to think it was.)

Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Adm. Jonathan Greenert welcomes Commander of the Royal Canadian Navy Vice Adm. Mark Norman for an office call at the Pentagon. (U.S. Navy Photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Julianne F. Metzger/Released)

Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Adm. Jonathan Greenert (right) welcomes Commander of the Royal Canadian Navy Vice Adm. Mark Norman (left) for an office call at the Pentagon. (U.S. Navy Photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Julianne F. Metzger, Public Domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

14 May 2016: Procurement Minister Foote says the federal Liberals inherited a “mess” when they took over the national shipbuilding plan. Foote makes the comment during a press conference at the Seaspan shipyard. in Vancouver, during which she announces an extra $30 million for the science vessel and an extra $35 million for the Joint Supply Ships under construction at the shipyard. Foote also takes the opportunity to chastise Davie for its “unsolicited bid” to provide vessels to Ottawa:

“Davie’s unsolicited bid was just that – an unsolicited bid. And we’ve indicated to Davie that we’re not open to receiving unsolicited bids,” Ms. Foote said.

25 May 2016: Minister Foote announces a “way forward” for the NSS and a “series of enhancements” to “strengthen” it, all of which make the National Shipbuilding Strategy sound like a hot mess:

  • Greater expertise and stronger oversight—Engaging an Expert Advisor and improving governance and communication with the shipyards.
  • Increased internal capacity—Hiring additional shipbuilding staff and increasing training.
  • More accurate planning—Introducing more accurate costing approaches.
  • Detailed monitoring—Implementing measures to track the performance of the shipyards.
  • Increased transparency and accountability—Regularly updating Canadians and parliamentarians with both annual and quarterly reports

May 2016: The RCMP raids the offices of Hill + Knowlton and Fleishman Hillard, lobbying firms that had worked for Davie, and the Davie offices with search warrants allowing them to collect emails and other information. At Hill + Knowlton, they find a Memorandum to Cabinet, marked “secret” in the office of Brian Mersereau but no indication it is linked to Norman.

13 June 2016: The Liberal government announces it will buy and modify an off-the-shelf design for the Canadian Surface Combatant (CSC) fleet to be  built by Irving rather than designing new ships from scratch. Minister Foote says the move will cut two years off the time it will take to get the ships into the water.

27 October 2016: The federal government invites “pre-qualified companies” to submit proposals for the design of the Canadian Surface Combatant fleet. A press release notes “the Government of Canada and Irving Shipbuilding Inc. consulted extensively with industry to develop the RFP and will jointly evaluate the bids.” The deadline for bids is 27 April 2017.

November 2016: At some point during the month, the Privy Council Office produces a 210-page report on the leak of classified cabinet information about Project Resolve a year earlier. The report does not identify the source of the leak. The Globe and Mail’s Robert Fife and Steve Chase will later report that it is Prime Minister Justin Trudeau who now pushes for an RCMP probe.

16 November 2016: The RCMP launch a surveillance operation against Norman, stationing a police officer outside his house in Orléans, a suburb of Ottawa. 8.



9 January 2017: Seven police officers raid Vice-Admiral Mark Norman’s home. They stay in the house for six hours, seizing a desktop computer, a laptop, two cell phones and three iPads (one owned by Norman’s wife). Norman’s defenders will later argue the RCMP, which had a warrant to seize DND files and related materials, overstepped itself by seizing “thousands of pieces of personal effects” from the Norman family. 9

Marie Henien (Source: Henein Hutchison http://hhllp.ca/)

Marie Henien (Source: Henein Hutchison)

13 January 2017: General Jonathan Vance, chief of the defense staff, suspends Norman from his command, appointing Admiral Ron Lloyd as acting vice-chief of the defense staff. In a formal letter, Vance writes he has lost confidence in Norman without saying why. 10

16 January 2017: News of Norman’s suspension becomes public but neither the Canadian Forces nor the Prime Minister will say why Norman has been suspended.

24 January 2017: Defense Minister Harjit Sajjan finally speaks publicly about Norman’s suspension but says only it was not due to national security concerns.

16 February 2017: The Government of Canada “and Irving Shipbuilding Inc” extends the Request for Proposals deadline for the design of the Canadian Surface Combatant fleet from 27 April 2017 to 22 June 2017.

23 February 2017: Although yet to face any charges, Norman retains high-profile Canadian criminal lawyer Marie Henein to represent him. Heinen issues a statement denying Norman has done anything illegal.

27 March 2017: Defense Minister Harjit Sajjan promotes senior policy advisor James Cudmore to director of policy.

6 April 2017: Prime Minister Trudeau, asked about the Norman case, tells journalists:

“This is an important matter that is obviously under investigation, and will likely end up before the courts, so I won’t make any further comments at this time.”

Postmedia’s David Pugilese asks the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) how Trudeau knows the case was going to trial. The PMO won’t comment.

21 April 2017: Ontario Superior Court Justice Kevin Phillips lifts a publication ban and unseals much of a redacted RCMP affidavit used to obtain the warrant to search Norman’s house. Robert Fife and Steven Chase of the Globe and Mail report that:

In the unredacted sections, the RCMP accuse Vice-Adm. Norman of criminal breach of trust for leaking government secrets, an allegation that arises from a 16-month investigation into how cabinet deliberations were passed on to Quebec’s Chantier-Davie Canada Inc. shipyard, which has a contract to provide a temporary naval supply ship.

In dismissing Norman’s legal counsel’s concerns that publication of the allegations in the RCMP search warrant could jeopardize Norman’s chances of getting a fair trial, Phillips writes:

“Nowhere is there any suggestion that the man was even thinking of trying to line his own pockets, or get any personal advantage whatsoever.

“In my view, the mindset and alleged communications arising from it is hardly the stuff of stigma or moral turpitude. At its highest, it appears that the potential allegation against Vice-Admiral Norman is that he was trying to keep a contractual relationship together so that the country might get a badly needed supply ship.”

5 June 2017: The Government of Canada “and Irving Shipbuilding Inc” extend the deadline for submissions for the Canadian Surface Combatant RFP from 22 June 2017 to “no sooner than mid-August 2017.”

BAE Systems' Type 26 Frigate (Source: BAE Systems)

BAE Systems’ Type 26 Frigate (Source: BAE Systems)

23 August 2017: Procurement Minister Judy Foote steps down from cabinet.

28 August 2017: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau shuffles his cabinet, moves Carla Qualtrough from sport and persons with disabilities to public services and procurement.

20 November 2017: The Canadian government rejects Vice-Admiral Norman’s request for financial assistance with his legal fees because, as Postmedia’s David Pugliese will report on 22 January 2018, “it has determined the senior officer is guilty of disclosing confidential information…”

27 November 2017: Britain’s BAE Systems — in partnership with Lockheed Martin Canada, CAE, L-3 Technologies, Macdonald Dettwiler and Associates Ltd. and Ultra Electronics —  submit the first bid to design and build the RCN’s new frigates, offering its Type 26 warship design. Construction is not expected to begin until 2020, raising fears there will be a gap in production at the Irving Shipyards after completion of the Arctic Offshore Patrol Vessels.

30 November 2017: The RFP for the design of the Canadian Surface Combatant fleet closes.

30 November 2017: Italy’s Fincantieri and France’s Naval Group bypass the CSC RFP process and make what a spokesman for the French company calls “a spontaneous offer” to the Canadian government of 15 FREMM multimission frigates at a fixed-cost of $30 billion with delivery of the first ship by fall 2019.

Pierre Tan, reporting the offer in the US-based Defense News on December 4, will say the European consortium’s offer was “part of a strategy to protect intellectual property rights on the technology” (technical details must be shared with Irving, which is helping evaluate the bids) and “overcome a perceived preference by Irving for BAE Systems’ offer.”

5 December 2017: The Canadian government rejects the Fincantieri/Naval Group offer. The PSPC says in a statement:

“The submission of an unsolicited proposal at the final hour undermines the fair and competitive nature of this procurement suggesting a sole source contracting arrangement. Acceptance of such a proposal would break faith with the bidders who invested time and effort to participate in the competitive process, put at risk the Government’s ability to properly equip the Royal Canadian Navy and would establish a harmful precedent for future competitive procurements.”

8 December 2017: Seaspan launches the first of three Offshore Fisheries Science Vessels to be built at the Vancouver shipyard the OFSV1 (which will be renamed the Sir John Franklin in what I really hope will not become a tradition of naming Coast Guard vessels after captains who abandon their ships in the ice, then starve to death). The vessel is billed as “the first large vessel designed and built under Canada’s National Shipbuilding Strategy.” Immediately following the launch, the shipyard lays off approximately 200 trades workers.

8 December 2017: Davie lays off 281 workers, citing a lack of government contracts in the wake of the completion of the MV Asterix (the Project Resolve ship). Davie had proposed converting a second supply ship, the Obelix but the government rejected the idea. Davie, which had earlier laid off 113 workers, threatens further layoffs.

23 December 2017: The MV Asterix  leaves the Davie shipyard in Québec  for Halifax where it will “begin integration training during the month of January 2018 prior to supporting Canadian naval operations from February 2018, for the next 10 years.”



19 January 2018: During a visit to Québec, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announces the Coast Guard will enter into negotiations with Davie for the purchase of icebreakers — an arrangement proposed by Davie (which apparently ignored Minister Foote’s warnings about “unsolicited bids.”)

22 January 2018: Postmedia’s David Pugliese reports the Canadian government has turned down Vice-Admiral Norman’s request for assistance with his legal fees.

22 January 2018:  Retired army colonel Lee Hammond launches a gofundme campaign to cover Vice-Admiral Norman’s legal bills which attracts a number of high-profile donors, including Former Defense Minister Jason Kenney, former Harper chief of staff Ian Brodie and retired major-general Lew MacKenzie. The campaign will raise $163,620 of a $200,000 goal in nine months.

23 January 2018: A memo to the deputy minister of finance (which will be obtained and made public by the CBC in August 2018) notes there has been no “tangible progress” in ship construction in 2017, warns of impending production gaps at Seaspan and Irving (see previous entry) and raises the need for a “policy refresh.”

2 February 2018: Prime Minister Trudeau, responding to a question from a member of the public at an Edmonton town hall meeting, describes Norman’s case as “very much underway in terms of investigation and inevitably court processes.” At this point, Norman has been charged with nothing and has not been interviewed by the RCMP.

9 March 2018: The RCMP charges Vice-Admiral Norman with breach of trust. If found guilty, he could face up to five years in prison.

16 March 2018: David Pugliese of Postmedia reports that James Cudmore is leaving his Defense Ministry post for a job with the Office of the Minister of Democratic Institutions.

10 April 2018: Vice-Admiral Norman makes his first court appearance and first public comment on the breach of trust charge he faces:

I’m anxious to get to court, get this dealt with as quickly as possible, and get back to serving the people of Canada. Thank you very much.”


31 May 2018: Seaspan announces that “work will begin soon” on the Joint Supply Ships.

5 June 2018: An official in Procurement Minister Carla Qualtrough’s office says the estimated cost for building those two Joint Supply Ships has risen by $1.1 billion to $3.4 billion.

22 June 2018: The government agrees to sole-source the purchase of three, refitted icebreakers from Davie Shipbilding for $610 million as a stop-gap until replacements can be built but the Coast Guard later admits the “interim” vessels will probably be used for decades as the only icebreaker in the NSS pipeline — the Polar Icebreaker commissioned from Seaspan — won’t be ready for a decade. The CBC’s Murray Brewster had earlier pointed out that the deal with Davie is very similar to the one at the heart of Vice-Admiral Norman’s legal woes.

27 June 2018: Eighteen months after being suspended, Vice-Admiral Norman is removed from his position as the military’s second in command. A DND spokesperson says Norman will be “moved to a supernumerary position within the defence chief’s office…where he will continue to serve as a member of the Forces until the court case plays out.”

By WayeMason (Took photo from road outside shipyard) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

HMCS Harry DeWolf under construction. (Photo by WayeMason. Taken from road outside shipyard. CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons)

13 August 2018: In response to the Davie icebreaker deal, Irving issues a press release:

“We call upon the federal government to confirm to Irving Shipbuilding, our shipbuilders and their families, the province of Nova Scotia, and all Atlantic Canadians that the National Shipbuilding Strategy remains intact and, therefore, construction of the ships for Canada’s navy and coast guard will be done exclusively by Irving Shipbuilding and Vancouver Shipyards.”

13 August 2018: The federal government tells firms bidding on what is now estimated at between $55 billion and $60 billion Canadian Surface Combatant (CSC) contract they will have a second opportunity to fix problems with their bids. Postmedia’s David Pugliese will report a week later that the change “has sparked more concerns the process is rigged” to favor a bid by Lockheed Martin Canada and Britain’s BAE:

Rival firms claim BAE’s Type 26 warship won’t be able to meet Canada’s needs, so the company, which has been involved in other business ventures with Irving, is being given additional chances to fix up its proposal.

16 August 2018: The CBC’s Murray Brewster reports that the “first civilian ship built under the federal government’s marquee shipbuilding program will have portions of its hull re-welded because an inspection has uncovered a series of defective joints.” The vessel in question, the Canadian Coast Guard Ship Sir John Franklin, was built at the Seaspan shipyard and is not yet in service.

4 September 2018: Norman appears in an Ottawa court in full dress uniform to hear that his trial is scheduled to start on 19 August 2019 and is expected to last seven or eight weeks with a week’s break in the middle. Postmedia’s Brian Platt notes that the timing of the trial, which will play out not long before the 21 October 2019 federal election, is at the defense’s request.

15 September 2018: Irving launches the Harry DeWolf, the first of the Harry DeWolf-class Arctic offshore patrol ships.

13 October 2018: Documents filed with an Ottawa court show Vice-Admiral Norman’s defense intend to “probe the actions” of Treasury Board president Scott Brison as they try to clear Norman’s name. Postmedia’s David Pugliese reports:

Norman’s lawyers claim Brison, a Nova Scotia MP, is close to Atlantic Canada’s wealthy and powerful Irving family. Their shipbuilding firm had submitted its own proposal to provide a supply ship, which the Conservative government had rejected in favour of Davie’s bid. “It will be the defence’s position that Minister Brison was behind the effort to delay and potentially terminate the Davie agreement,” the documents state.

The court filings also, according to the CBC’s Murray Brewster, contend that:

“The RCMP’s investigation discovered that a government employee, Matthew Matchett, gave a lobbyist then working for Davie the classified Memorandum to Cabinet (“MC”) and slide deck relating to the Liberal Government’s November 19, 2015 iAOR Cabinet committee meeting.”

Matchett, Brewster reports, is the assistant director, industrial benefits, for the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency. He faces no charges.

13 October 2018: Members of Unifor Marine Workers Federation Local 1, which represents about 1,000 Irving shipbuilders, launch a campaign to keep the maintenance of Halifax-class frigates in Nova Scotia, saying the federal government has recently made comments suggesting it plans to move some work to Davie.

15 October 2018: The RCMP confirm that the probe into the  alleged leak of cabinet shipbuilding secrets did not stop at Vice-Admiral Norman and is ongoing.

16 October 2018: Postmedia’s David Pugliese reports that Irving is pushing the government to both leave all Halifax-class frigate maintenance in Halifax and order two more Arctic Offshore Patrol Vessels. Told that Irving workers feared layoffs if maintenance work was shared with his shipyard, Davie official Frédérik Boisvert says:

“If they [Irving] are concerned about Nova Scotian jobs, they should explain to their union workers why they are building their own tugs in Eastern Europe.”

19 October 2018: The Canadian government selects the BAE consortium’s Type 26 warship design for the 15-vessel Canadian Surface Combatant fleet. The decision is not without controversy as Irving has been involved in the selection process and is rumored to favor BAE, with which it has other business dealings. Critics also note that while the original brief called for a “mature” design, the BAE/Lockheed Martin Canada consortium was allowed to submit its Type 26 warship which  “existed only on the drawing board” at the time it was submitted.

1 November 2015: Procurement and Public Services Canada announces it will divide $7 billion in maintenance work in support of the navy’s 12 Halifax-class frigates  between the Irving, Seaspan and Davie shipyards.

2 November 2015: Defense Minister Harjit Sajjan announces that Irving will build a sixth Arctic offshore patrol vessel for the RCN.

6 November 2018: The CBC’s Paul Withers reports the Canadian Coast Guard hopes to “squeeze another five years of service” from the 55-year-old science vessel Hudson. Reports Withers:

CCGS Hudson was supposed to be replaced as early as 2014 as part of the National Shipbuilding Strategy. But the project to build the replacement at Vancouver’s Seaspan shipyard still has no budget, confirmed construction start date or timeline for completion.

December 2018: Vice-Admiral Norman’s defense will bring forward a pre-trial motion dealing with the disclosure of third-party records.



March 2019: Vice-Admiral Norman’s defense will bring forward a pre-trial motion to stay the proceedings.

19 August 2019: The trial of Vice-Admiral Mark Norman is scheduled to begin in Ottawa.




  1. Pugliese, David. “Man Overboard.” National Post.  https://nationalpost.com/feature/man-overboard (accessed 5 November 2018).
  2. ibid
  3. ibid
  4. ibid
  5. ibid
  6. ibid
  7. ibid
  8. ibid
  9. ibid
  10. ibid