Inside Politics

Del Mastro brings battle over 2008 election expense inquiry to House floor

As reported by my colleague Laura Payton, Conservative MP Dean Del Mastro has asked House of Commons Speaker Andrew Scheer to wade into an ongoing investigation into his 2008 campaign expenses that he claims has violated the personal privilege that he enjoys as a sitting MP.

In an emotional address to the Commons, Del Mastro accused Elections Canada of leaking both documents and "select details" of confidential meetings to reporters while refusing to provide him with the same material -- an act that, he averred, left him feeling "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."

He also expressed his frustration and disappointment at what he saw as the inexplicable failure of Elections Canada to drop its inquiry months earlier after he handed over evidence that, to him, "very clearly demonstrates I did not exceed my personal donation limit, that I did in fact adhere to my election spending limit and that all public declarations related to my campaign are entirely accurate."

His proposed remedy: Send the whole matter to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs in order to give him the opportunity to clear his name -- which, he argued, is essential to allow him to function effectively as an MP, unfettered by the "unfounded hatred, contempt and ridicule" to which he says he has been subjected since July 6, 2012, the day he was contacted by a reporter looking for a comment on the investigation based on a "sealed court document" that he claims could only have come from the files of Elections Canada.

While there's no way to predict how the speaker will ultimately rule on the matter, it's worth noting that, as former Commons Law Clerk Rob Walsh pointed out on twitter, it appears that Del Mastro's dispute with Elections Canada relate to his status as a candidate, and not an MP, which could effectively moot his complaint as a matter of privilege.

MPs, after all, are free to seek relief through normal legal channels, and parliamentary privilege was never intended to replace the civil and criminal justice systems to which all citizens can avail themselves in an effort to right perceived wrongs.

It's not even clear exactly who -- or what -- Del Mastro is charging with having breached his privilege: Elections Canada? The reporters who got the allegedly leaked document? The individual who, he suggests midway through his speech, is behind all the allegations lodged against him? At times, he seems to be blaming all of the above, as well as the courts for allowing the production orders to go through, but at no point does he explicitly identify the source of the alleged breach.

In any case, given the complexity of the question before the speaker, it seems unlikely that Scheer will bring down a ruling before the House rises for the summer.

Watch his full address here:

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