PETERBOROUGH, Ont. – A former member of Parliament who spoke for Prime Minister Stephen Harper when it came to electoral-fraud allegations was sentenced Thursday to one month in jail and barred from running for office for five years for cheating during an election campaign.
Dean Del Mastro deliberately broke spending rules then tried to cover up his crime, said Superior Court Justice Lisa Cameron, who ruled that incarceration was appropriate for the first-time offender.
“He was prepared not only to break the rules but to be deceitful about it,” Cameron said.
“This type of cheating and lying will result in serious sanctions.”
Cameron convicted the former Conservative MP for Peterborough last fall of violating the Canada Elections Act during the 2008 federal election. She found he had knowingly exceeded spending limits, failed to report a personal contribution of $21,000 to his campaign, and submitted a falsified document.
The offences were the very “antithesis” of democracy and an “affront” to the principles of Canada’s democratic system, Cameron said.
“Custody is required to reflect the need for denunciation and deterrence.”
Cameron refused a defence request to allow him to serve his jail time intermittently.
In addition to two one-month jail terms he will have to serve concurrently for the overspending, Cameron also imposed four months of house arrest, to start after he is released, for the false return he filed.
He will also have to pay $10,000 to the Peterborough Electoral District Association, and will be on probation for 18 months.
Del Mastro, 44, has already filed an appeal of the conviction and was to apply for bail at a hearing Friday. He was led away after the sentencing for processing before being taken to a jail in nearby Lindsay. His wife was in tears.
Accountant Richard McCarthy, 68, who was Del Mastro’s agent, was given a two-month conditional sentence plus one year of probation for his role. Cameron said McCarthy had acquiesced to the machinations — or at least was “wilfully blind” to them — but was much less culpable.
Once Harper’s point man defending the Tories against allegations of electoral fraud, Del Mastro has maintained his innocence and once called the verdict the judge’s opinion. Going into the day’s proceedings, he said he was not worried by the prospect of a jail term.
“I prefer to do whatever’s necessary to stand for the truth,” he said.
In Ottawa, the Opposition New Democrats called Del Mastro the man Harper “handpicked” to be his party’s spokesman on ethics and noted other Tories have also been convicted for electoral fraud.
“Conservatives have now been convicted of cheating in every election they won,” the NDP said in a statement.
Michael Sona, a former Conservative staffer, was convicted last year in the 2011 robocalls scandal. The Conservative Party pleaded guilty to exceeding election spending limits and submitting fraudulent election records in the 2006 election.
Federal Infrastructure Minister Denis Lebel, speaking in Quebec City, said he didn’t think Del Mastro’s conviction and sentence would affect the Conservative banner.
“I think Canadians will be able to make the distinction between an individual and a political party,” he said. Following the sentencing, Del Mastro’s lawyer expressed disappointment at the punishment. His client, Leo Adler said, was stunned.
“It’s a shock to anybody who has gone through their life without a single criminal blemish to all of a sudden be told that you have to go to jail,” Adler said outside court.
Prosecutor Tom Lemon said justice had been served by imprisoning Del Mastro.
“Anything short of that would not have adequately denounced these offences,” Lemon said.
Del Mastro resigned his Peterborough seat in the House of Commons — where he had been sitting as an Independent since being charged — shortly after his conviction.
Adler said the appeal would be based on “substantial errors” made by the trial judge.
Cameron said she took the impact of the negative publicity visited on Del Mastro and his family into account in crafting his punishment. But at least one local man, sitting at the courthouse, said he would vote for Del Mastro if he ran as an Independent.