Dean Del Mastro charged with Elections Act violations, no longer in Conservative caucus
Conservative MP Dean Del Mastro is facing four charges for violations of the Canada Election Act, including a charge that he exceeded the campaign spending limit and submitted “misleading” documents related to his expenses to the federal agency.
Yves Cote, the Commissioner of Elections Canada, announced the charges in a news release Thursday afternoon. The charges relate to expenses incurred during the 2008 federal election campaign.
The Prime Minister's office confirmed later Thursday that Del Mastro is no longer a member of the Conservative caucus.
Del Mastro and Richard McCarthy, his official agent, are each facing three charges, including “incurring election expenses in an amount more than the election expenses limit.”
They are also charged with:
- "providing the Chief Electoral Officer an electoral campaign return that omitted to report a contribution of $21,000.00, omitted to report an election expense of $21,000.00 and instead reported an election expense of $1,575.00, and in so doing provided a document referred to in subsection 451(1) of the Act that each knew or ought reasonably to have known contained a material statement that was false or misleading.”
- "providing to the Chief Electoral Officer an electoral campaign return that omitted to report a contribution of $21,000.00, omitted to report an election expense of $21,000.00 and instead reported an election expense of $1,575.00, and in so doing knowingly provided a document referred to in subsection 451(1) of the Act that did not substantially set out the information required by subsection 451(2).”
Del Mastro, MP for the Ontario riding of Peterborough, is facing a fourth charge of “wilfully exceeding the contribution limit for a candidate in his own election campaign.”
Del Mastro issued a statement late Thursday, saying: “I entirely reject these allegations and look forward to the opportunity to defend myself in court.” The statement went on:
"Since my election in 2006, I have been dedicated to first and foremost, the people of the Peterborough Riding, and that will not change moving forward, and secondly to the Conservative Party. While it is my full intention to continue to support the Government’s economic agenda and the principals for which it stands, I have advised caucus leadership that it is my intention to step out of caucus until this matter is resolved."
If he is found guilty, Del Mastro could be fined or given jail time.
"In our electoral system, it is fundamentally important that the spending and contribution limits enacted by Parliament be respected. It is also essential that the reports and information provided to Elections Canada be accurate and truthful,” Cote said in his statement.
"The level-playing field principle and the requirement for transparency call for nothing less. We will continue to be vigilant to ensure that these rules are observed."
Del Mastro is the second Conservative MP to leave caucus. Former Peter Penashue left caucus, resigned his seat and then ran in a byelection earlier this year over ineligible campaign expenses. Liberal Yvonne Jones won the byelection.
Senators Mike Duffy, Patrick Brazeau and Pamela Wallin have also left the Conservative caucus over ineligible housing and travel expense claims.
Del Mastro was moved out of his role as parliamentary secretary to Prime Minister Stephen Harper just over a week ago after serving in that position for many years. He was then appointed parliamentary secretary to the minister for the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency, but will no longer hold that role.
Harper refused to comment on the charges against Del Mastro when asked about them by CTV News during a photo op in New York.
Before news emerged that Del Mastro had withdrawn from caucus, the NDP called on the prime minister to expel him from cabinet and caucus.
NDP MP Nathan Cullen told reporters on Parliament Hill that Del Mastro “can’t continue in the positions that he holds right now…with this kind of serious, serious cloud over his head.”
"This is an incredibly serious and bad day for the Conservative Party of Canada, yet an important day for Canadian democracy in the defence of Canadian's ability to vote freely and fairly in our elections," Cullen said.
Deputy Liberal Leader Ralph Goodale said that given the ongoing scandals plaguing the government, “there is something fundamentally wrong with the judgment and the ethical approach and the style of this prime minister.”
In June, Del Mastro expressed his frustration at the length of time Elections Canada was taking with its investigation into his expenses, saying he felt “violated and betrayed” by the federal agency. The charges come nearly two years after Elections Canada opened its investigation.
The investigation focused on the $21,000 payment he made to a consulting firm from his personal account, which did not appear on his official campaign return and which would have put him over the campaign spending limit.
Until earlier this year, Del Mastro served as the Conservative government’s main attack dog in question period on a range of issues when the prime minister was not in the House.
Del Mastro’s first court appearance is scheduled for November.
With files from The Canadian Press