LINDSAY, Ont. — Former Conservative MP Dean Del Mastro, once a political pitbull who defended his party from partisan claims of dirty electoral tricks, has been found guilty of exceeding spending limits during the federal campaign in 2008.
Del Mastro was also convicted of failing to report a personal contribution of $21,000 to his own campaign and knowingly submitting a falsified document. He was found guilty on a fourth charge, but that charge was stayed.
The now-Independent MP, a former parliamentary secretary to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, now faces a maximum penalty of one year in jail and a $1,000 fine, as well as the prospect of losing his House of Commons seat.
Del Mastro sat with his hands folded in his lap and a serious look on his face as Justice Lisa Cameron delivered her verdict in a courtroom in Lindsay, Ont.
“The defence evidence does not raise a reasonable doubt about the allegations; further, the evidence I accept does prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt,” Cameron said.
Much of the case pitted Del Mastro’s testimony against that of Frank Hall, the president of a now-defunct data consulting firm called Holinshed, whose alleged services lay at the centre of the case.
Cameron said she had concerns about Del Mastro’s testimony and had to reject his evidence on key issues.
“I have concerns about the credibility of this evidence, specifically its veracity on contested issues revolving around Holinshed’s provision of election services in the fall of 2008. There are a number of inconsistencies and improbabilities,” she said.
“At times the way in which he testified led me to believe that he is avoiding the truth….On a number of occasions Del Mastro did not answer the questions put to him in cross examination, he frequently obfuscated the evidence.”
Cameron also found that Hall, who was alleged to have altered the dates on contracts for voter identification, “essentially turned a blind eye to the machinations” of Del Mastro.
She did, however, find that it was “clear” that the work Holinshed was doing for Del Mastro was an election-related service.
Outside the courthouse, Del Mastro sounded a defiant tone as he vowed to hold on to his Commons seat, hinting — but not saying outright — that he intends to appeal the decision.
“We’ll take one step at a time. I’ve always maintained, and I maintain ardently, that I have in no way broken any laws governing elections,” Del Mastro said.
“I would suggest we’re going to take a very hard look at this ruling and we’ll come up with a plan going forward.”
During the trial, Del Mastro denied Hall’s claim that Holinshed provided hundreds of hours of voter-ID calling for the campaign — a claim that was supported by emails between Hall and Del Mastro that were found on his computer by investigators.
Del Mastro testified that he rebuffed Hall’s efforts to get him to buy Holinshed’s voter ID services, and denied ever receiving or sending the emails in question.
He also said he was not familiar with spreadsheets attached to some of those emails, which Hall said he had been sending regularly to Del Mastro’s campaign as part of the voter identification services he was providing.
He did acknowledge that he had discussions with Hall about new riding mapping software that was under development by Holinshed to identify the political leanings of would-be voters in a particular constituency.
Del Mastro said he told Hall he was interested in buying the software — called GeoVote — and gave Holinshed a $21,000 personal cheque in 2008 as a deposit when Hall said he needed one.
The Crown, however, said the cheque was actually to pay for voter ID calls, putting Del Mastro over the limit both for personal contributions and overall campaign spending.
The prosecution has also pointed out that while the cheque was dated for August, prior to the election period, Del Mastro’s account only had sufficient funds to cover it in October, when it was cashed.
The Crown also alleged Del Mastro tried to use backdated invoices to make it appear Holinshed had only charged his campaign a fraction of the overall cost of its services during the election period — an allegation the MP firmly denied.
Del Mastro told court that GeoVote never ended up working for his campaign and that it became the subject of a small claims court case Hall tried to bring against him that was ultimately abandoned.