MP Dean Del Mastro motion could delay sentencing, loss of seat

Peterborough MP Dean Del Mastro is filing to reopen his defence against allegations he spent too much in the 2008 election and covered it up. Del Mastro was found guilty last Friday, but says there is fresh evidence that Elections Canada didn't turn over in time for the trial.

Former Conservative MP to file evidence he says wasn't disclosed in time by Elections Canada

MP Dean Del Mastro, who was elected as a Conservative but stepped down from caucus after he was charged with spending too much on his 2008 campaign and covering it up, speaks to reporters after being found guilty on Friday, Oct. 31, 2014. (Laura Payton/CBC)

MP Dean Del Mastro is filing to reopen his defence against allegations he spent too much in the 2008 election and covered it up.

The Peterborough, Ont., MP was found guilty last Friday, but says there is fresh evidence that Elections Canada didn't turn over in time for the trial.

The application to reopen the defence could delay his sentencing. That in turn delays his conviction, a technicality that in turn protects him from the measures that would ban him from taking his seat in the House of Commons and from running for another seat for five years.

While Del Mastro has been found guilty, his conviction won't be entered into the record until he is sentenced. The Canada Elections Act blocks those convicted of breaking election rules from sitting in the House or running for a federal seat for five years after conviction.

In a news release, Del Mastro says his lawyers will bring the application immediately.

Del Mastro was found guilty on three counts last week and is to be sentenced Nov. 21 in a Lindsay, Ont., court.

There's a four-part legal test to determine whether new evidence can be submitted, he said in the news release, including it's believed the evidence "could reasonably, when taken with the other evidence adduced at trial, be expected to have affected the result."

Del Mastro's defence will also have to explain why he wasn't able to make the motion until after the verdict had been delivered.

Committee to consider expulsion

Del Mastro, in an interview with Rosemary Barton on CBC News Network's Power & Politics last Friday, said there was a debate until the last few days of the trial whether they should bring a motion to present additional evidence. In the end, however, he and his lawyers did not.

"We were confident that the ruling was going our way. We felt that we had put forward a very strong case, we thought that we had not just Elections Canada precedent but actual statements and evidence provided by the chief auditor at Elections Canada that entirely supported our case, but ultimately we didn't hear that considered in the ruling."

Del Mastro isn't in Ottawa this week because his wife gave birth over the weekend to their first child.

Although he wasn't in the House, MPs spent much of the afternoon debating his case.

NDP House leader Peter Julian asked House Speaker Andrew Scheer to find a prima facie breach of privilege — an initial case for breach of privilege. Should Scheer do so, Julian said he was prepared to move to suspend Del Mastro on the spot, without pay, and send the matter to the procedure and House affairs committee for further study.

Del Mastro's sentencing hearing hasn't yet taken place, Government House leader Peter Van Loan pointed out, and, he noted, could result in an absolute discharge that voids the conviction.

Van Loan proposed the Speaker refer the question to committee immediately, with sweeping terms of reference that would allow MPs to look at suspending Del Mastro without pay pending a final resolution, or even expel him.

The committee would also be charged with reporting back to the House on how it should deal with related matters, including Del Mastro's pension, travel benefits, office budget and staff.

Scheer agreed to take the matter under advisement, but pledged to come back to the House "as quickly as possible" with his decision. 

'Frequently obfuscated'

The prosecution had argued that Del Mastro ordered $21,000 in voter identification, voter contact and get-out-the-vote services from a now-defunct company called Holinshed, but reported only $1,575 in services because the campaign realized that reporting the full amount would put it over the limit.

Del Mastro, however, said the $21,000 he paid out of his personal chequing account was for a separate set of services that Frank Hall, Holinshed's owner, never delivered.

In her decision, Judge Lisa Cameron said that in her view, from the timing of the contract and its language, it "is plainly a contract for election services." She also said that she found Del Mastro wasn't credible, "frequently obfuscated" during his testimony and that there were a number of inconsistencies.

The judge's ruling "was not a final decision," Del Mastro said. "I've in no way broken any of the laws governing elections."

He seemed unfazed by the judge's finding that his testimony wasn't credible.

"I know what the truth is. That's her opinion. My opinion is quite different." 

NDP raises Del Mastro's parliamentary status in the House

Del Mastro's status as a sitting MP dominated the first round of question period today. 

"The prime minister's former parliamentary secretary has been convicted of election fraud," Julian noted — the "same individual" who, he added, "defended the Conservatives' scheming and robocalls week after week in this place."

"Will the Conservatives admit that when it comes to election fraud, they're the champions?"

In response, the prime minister's current parliamentary secretary, Paul Calandra, advised the House that "any further measures" would be considered by the procedure and House affairs committee.

Not surprisingly, that didn't stop the NDP from continuing to raise the issue, which prompted Scheer to rise twice to "caution" opposition members to limit their questions to the administration of government.

"I didn't hear anything in the preamble that touched on the administrative responsibility of government," he told Julian.

"I have had to remind members that they need to bring their questions back to that realm, issues about election activities or current individuals' status."


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