OTTAWA — A second public official has been charged over the alleged leak of cabinet secrets related to the $700-million naval shipbuilding contract that is also at the heart of the case against Vice-Admiral Mark Norman.
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police announced Wednesday that Matthew Matchett has been charged with one count of breach of trust following an extensive criminal investigation than began more than three years ago.
Matchett, who was suspended without pay from his job at Public Services and Procurement Canada in October, is due to appear in court on March 5, the police said.
He is the second person after Norman, the military's former second-in-command, accused of leaking information about the shipbuilding contract between the federal government and Davie Shipbuilding in Quebec.
The contract, negotiated by Stephen Harper's government and finalized by Justin Trudeau's newly minted government in 2015, involved leasing a converted civilian ship to the navy as a temporary support vessel.
Norman has denied any wrongdoing. The court has so far heard nine days of pre-trial arguments as Norman's lawyers fight for access to thousands of government documents. A formal trial is scheduled to begin in August.
RCMP investigators had previously indicated in court filings that they believed two government officials, acting independently of each other, had leaked government secrets in November 2015.
That was when the new Trudeau government first decided to hold off finalizing the contract with Davie pending a review. It ultimately decided to approve the deal a few days later.
Court filings from Norman's team in October identified the second person as Matchett, who worked at the time at the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency. He later moved to Public Services and Procurement Canada.
The filings included emails obtained by Norman's lawyers from the RCMP that seemed to show Matchett updating Ottawa lobbyist Brian Mersereau, whose clients include Davie, as the Liberals prepared to review the shipbuilding deal.
They also talked about Matchett dropping off documents — referred to as "the motherload" — at Mersereau's office.
Mersereau later told the RCMP in a witness interview in August 2016, also obtained by Norman's lawyers, that he found a draft memorandum to cabinet and two PowerPoint presentations waiting for him when he returned to the office the next day.
The RCMP reported in separate court filings recovering a draft memorandum to cabinet and other secret documents after executing a search warrant at the Ottawa office of Mersereau's lobbying firm, Hill+Knowlton Strategies.
None of the documents or witness statements has been entered as evidence or tested in court. The charges against Matchett or Norman have similarly not been tested in court.
Norman's legal team had previously asked why their client was the only one charged with leaking government secrets and alleged that the senior military officer was a victim of political games by the Trudeau government.
Court heard in December, during a pre-trial hearing for Norman, that Matchett's security clearance was withdrawn last June and he was suspended without pay in October after Norman's legal team named him in filings.
— Follow @leeberthiaume on Twitter.
Lee Berthiaume, The Canadian Press