Dean Del Mastro eager to fight Election Act charges
Peterborough MP wants to go to trial 'as quickly as possible,' says his lawyer
The lawyer for former Conservative MP Dean Del Mastro says his client wants to go to trial "as quickly as possible" to face four charges laid against him by Elections Canada.
In an interview with CBC News, lawyer Jeff Ayotte said Del Mastro denies the allegations against him and is looking forward to fighting them in court.
"He's anxious to put this matter behind him and have his name cleared and be exonerated," Ayotte said in a telephone interview from his office in Peterborough, Ont., on Friday.
Elections Canada announced on Thursday that Del Mastro, who represents the riding of Peterborough, Ont., in the House of Commons, was facing four charges related to his 2008 election campaign.
Del Mastro and his official campaign agent Richard McCarthy are accused of wilfully overspending during the campaign and of submitting documents to Elections Canada that they knew or should have known were false.
Del Mastro faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $5,000 fine.
The politician issued a statement yesterday rejecting the charges against him and confirming that he had left the Conservative caucus until the matter is settled.
Ayotte reiterated that position today.
"His position is he is completely innocent of any of the charges against him," he said.
Ayotte said he has not received any instructions to enter settlement negotiations and will instead work to move Del Mastro's case to trial as quickly as possible.
"Mr. Del Mastro is confident the trial process will clear his name so he can get back to work," the lawyer said.
Meanwhile, the Opposition New Democrats, are pointing the finger at Prime Minister Stephen Harper for allowing Del Mastro to serve until very recently as his parliamentary secretary.
The NDP's ethics critic Charlie Angus, in an interview with CBC News, said Del Mastro is just the latest in a series of Conservatives accused of breaking the rules.
Angus, who refused to speculate on the outcome of the trial, said "when these allegations were brought forward, very serious allegations, the prime minister ignored them, was very defiant and maintained Mr. Del Mastro as his personal parliamentary secretary."
"And now suddenly Mr. Del Mastro is gone. It's really a question of, once again, of the prime minister seeming to have very poor judgment when it comes to ethical breaches," Angus said.