Top general appoints third acting deputy as suspended admiral remains in limbo - InfoNews

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Top general appoints third acting deputy as suspended admiral remains in limbo

Chief of the Defence Staff Jonathan Vance speaks during a press conference on the Joint Suicide Prevention Strategy, in Ottawa on Thursday, Oct. 5, 2017. Vance appears to be keeping the seat warm for the possible return of Vice-Admiral Mark Norman, who was suspended last year as the military's second-in-command because of an RCMP investigation. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
March 02, 2018 - 1:39 PM

OTTAWA - Canada's top soldier appears to be keeping the seat warm for the possible return of Vice-Admiral Mark Norman, who was suspended last year as the military's second-in-command because of an RCMP investigation.

Defence chief Gen. Jonathan Vance issued an internal directive this week tapping army commander Lt.-Gen. Paul Wynnyk as the third acting vice-chief of defence staff in 14 months as Norman's fate remains uncertain.

The directive included a significant reshuffling of the military's top brass, including the naming of a new air force commander, as four of 11 lieutenant-generals and vice-admirals prepare to retire in the coming months.

But Vance's decision to appoint Wynnyk on a temporary basis was particularly notable given growing questions about the length of the RCMP's investigation into Norman — and why he remains suspended despite a lack of charges.

Norman, who served as head of the navy before taking over as vice-chief in August 2016, was initially relieved of his duties and suspended with pay in January 2017 under a cloud of secrecy.

Court documents later revealed that the Mounties suspected him of having leaked cabinet secrets to a Quebec shipyard over fears the Trudeau government would cancel a key shipbuilding project.

But the RCMP have yet to announce whether they plan to charge him or drop the case, leaving Norman — who has denied any wrongdoing — in limbo and some observers calling for his reinstatement.

RCMP spokeswoman Stephanie Dumoulin confirmed in an email on Friday that the investigation is ongoing.

Wynnyk is the third senior officer to serve as acting vice-chief after Lt.-Gen. Alain Parent, who is retiring after less than a year on the job, and Vice-Admiral Ron Lloyd, who held the position for the five months after Norman's suspension.

That amount of turnover is having a "crippling" effect on the military, warned defence analyst David Perry of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute, adding that it also poses a threat to the Liberal government's new defence policy.

Perry recently released a report which found that, only eight months into its 20-year defence policy, the government was already on track to spend billions less on new equipment than promised because of problems in the system.

"It's a really crucial position in terms of how the Department of National Defence spends money and not, and to not have a permanent person in there for a year and a half is a major impediment," he said of the vice-chief.

"So if the government wants to successfully see their defence policy come to fruition, they need to resolve Admiral Norman's situation so they can have a vice-chief appointed who doesn't have an acting tag associated with his title."

Conservative MP and defence critic James Bezan echoed concerns about the impact that the uncertainty around Norman's fate is having on not only the military, but also vice-admiral and those around him.

"I want this to get dealt with and finished off," Bezan said. "You can't hurry along the investigation, but 14 months of having Mark Norman and his family sitting in limbo is not jurisprudence in my opinion."

Among the other changes to the military's senior levels was the appointment of Maj.-Gen. Jean-Marc Lanthier to replace Wynnyk as Canadian Army commander and Maj.-Gen. Al Meinzinger as the new Royal Canadian Air Force commander.

Meinzinger takes over from Lt.-Gen. Michael Hood, who is retiring, along with NORAD deputy commander Lt.-Gen. Pierre St-Amand and Lt.-Gen. Marquis Hainse, who most recently served as Canada's military representative to NATO.

Lt.-Gen. Steve Bowes, who served as commander of the Canadian Joint Operations Command, is being seconded to Veterans Affairs headquarters in Charlottetown. He will be replaced by Special Forces commander Maj.-Gen. Mike Rouleau.

— Follow @leeberthiaume on Twitter.

News from © The Canadian Press, 2018
The Canadian Press

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