OTTAWA – Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s parliamentary secretary is demanding that Elections Canada put its cards on the table after more than a year of unresolved allegations concerning his 2008 campaign expenses.
Dean Del Mastro, the MP from Peterborough, Ont., ended a long silence on the issue this week, first with appearances on major television political shows and then with a question of privilege in Parliament.
“I feel violated and betrayed by an agency in which I and every other member of this place, indeed in which all Canadians, must place their trust,” a sometimes teary Del Mastro told the House of Commons on Thursday.
“I feel strongly that this process has been conducted with malice and contempt for me as a member and for my family’s well-being.”
The Commons is poised to adjourn for the two-month summer break within the next eight days and Del Mastro says it is long past time to clear the air.
“I can attest that since Wednesday, June 6, 2012, I have been subjected to unfounded hatred, contempt and ridicule as the result of a leaked document belonging to Elections Canada,” the Conservative MP told the House.
Publicly available court documents and investigative leaks last year revealed that Del Mastro was under the microscope for allegedly overspending his campaign limit in the 2008 election.
The investigation appears to have revolved around claims that Del Mastro paid a polling company $21,000 from his personal account, an amount that did not show up on his official campaign return and would have put him over his election spending limit by about 20 per cent.
There were also published reports that Elections Canada was looking into whether a family-owned business reimbursed its employees for donations to Del Mastro’s campaign, which is illegal.
Elections Canada will not comment on whether an investigation is even underway, but Del Mastro — who maintains his innocence — claims investigators have wrapped up their work. He’s demanding a “full and frank disclosure” of the proceedings.
He also wants the Commons Speaker to rule that the way the investigation has unfolded is a breach of his parliamentary privileges.
“We must draw a line in the sand here on a matter that transcends party affiliation and state clearly and collectively that members of this place are entitled to equal, fair and unbiased treatment, treatment without prejudice and in keeping with the laws of this land,” said Del Mastro.
At the time the allegations became public, Del Mastro was the government’s point man in parrying opposition questions about fraudulent robocalls from the 2011 election — a role he was forced to abandon due to the cloud cast by Elections Canada.
Indeed his case is just one of several, lengthy Elections Canada investigations that focus on the governing Conservatives.
Manitoba MPs Shelly Glover and James Bezan have taken the elections watchdog to court in a fight over their 2011 campaign returns.
Elections Canada took the extraordinary step of writing to Commons Speaker Andrew Scheer last month recommending Glover and Bezan be suspended from the Commons until their expense reports are in order. Scheer, who did not inform the House of the letters, has decided to await the outcome of the court proceedings before acting on the recommendation.
The commissioner of elections is also continuing his ongoing investigation of thousands of fraudulent automated phone calls made during the 2011 election campaign.
To date, a single, junior Conservative campaign worker in Guelph, Ont., has been charged.
A Federal Court judge in a civil suit ruled last month that phone fraud did occur in six other ridings during the 2011 election and that the likely source of the fraud was the Conservative party’s database. However the court said it was presented with no evidence that any Conservative candidates or party officials were involved in the fraud.