Retired Vice-Admiral Mark Norman endorsed Conservative leader Erin O'Toole for prime minister Saturday. As the former head of the Canadian Navy, Norman was in line to become Canada's Chief of Defence staff before allegedly leaking government secrets.

"On Monday, we need to choose a leader of substance," said Norman: "a leader who will face these challenges with courage, integrity, reason and a solid plan for what's in the best long-term interest of this country."

“I believe Erin O’Toole is the leader that Canada needs now.”

The endorsement comes amid a controversial election campaign where the Trudeau Liberals came under significant scrutiny over their handling of sexual misconduct allegations in the Canadian Armed Forces and within caucus.

"I could no longer stay silent," tweeted Norman. "This is too important.

"Here’s my endorsement of Erin O'Toole — you won’t all agree and that’s ok —that’s life in a democracy."

In April 2021, the Trudeau Liberals shut down a defence committee inquiry into Norman in a party-line vote. Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan came under fire for failing to make progress on the file after numerous high-ranking defence officials were accused of misconduct.

Norman allegedly leaked cabinet secrets about a $700-million federal shipbuilding contract to pressure the federal government in 2015 not to cancel it. He was suspended as the military’s second-in-command in January 2017 and later charged with breach of trust in March 2018, following an RCMP investigation.

After the charge stayed, Norman clarified he wanted to return to active duty. He retired in 2019 after reaching a financial settlement with the Trudeau Liberals for an undisclosed amount.

Norman pleaded not guilty because there was no reasonable chance of a conviction.

This prompted an apology from the House of Commons. The Conservatives were among the backers who contributed to Vice-Admiral Norman's defence fund.

Some commentators called the $1.4 million inquiry a "political witch-hunt."