The NDP won't say whether it will back a Liberal MP's motion to have the House ethics committee study Conservative MP Dean Del Mastro's 2008 election spending.
Liberal MP Scott Andrews has released a motion he's going to put before the committee on Thursday to debate a study that would see the committee call witnesses, request Del Mastro's banking records and report back next fall.
NDP MP Charlie Angus wouldn't commit to backing the motion. Andrews is the lone Liberal on the committee.
Andrews says in his motion that, since the committee can propose initiatives related to ethical standards for public office holders, the committee should call Del Mastro, his former official agent Richard McCarthy, and representatives from Holinshed Research Group, the company whose president complained to Elections Canada about Del Mastro exceeding his 2008 spending limit.
Del Mastro, the MP for Peterborough, sits on the ethics committee.
It would be difficult for opposition MPs to get the motion to pass, since the Conservatives have more members on the committee than the opposition. The committee's chair is an NDP MP, taking one more opposition vote out of the mix. Without the NDP's support, it would be impossible for the motion to pass even if some Conservative MPs weren't at the meeting.
A spokeswoman for the Conservative whip's office told CBC News she couldn't say whether the Conservative MPs on the committee would vote for or against the motion, because "committees are masters of their own domain" and the whip's office doesn't tell MPs how to vote on committees. The whip's office does, however, tell MPs how to vote in the House of Commons.
Andrews is also calling on the committee to compel Del Mastro to provide his banking records, compel McCarthy to provide related banking records and invoices, and order Holinshed to provide copies of all documents relating to Del Mastro.
Documents filed in court show Del Mastro is being investigated by Elections Canada for spending too much in his 2008 campaign. McCarthy is being investigated for accepting a $21,000 contribution from Del Mastro, which exceeded the candidates' personal spending limit of $2,100, and for submitted an incomplete election return to the agency.
Del Mastro has initiated several studies of his own at the ethics committee, including having former Liberal staffer Adam Carroll called for using Twitter to disseminate alleged details of Public Safety Minister Vic Toews's divorce, and studying the CBC's response to a number of access-to-information requests. He also tried to initiate a study into union sponsorship of the NDP convention, but the chair ruled that motion out of order.
Andrews pointed to the example of Carroll and said the allegations against Del Mastro are serious.
"That knife cuts both ways. You can't have it one way when it's your turn and you can't have it another way when it's someone else's turn, so one would assume they would want to get to the bottom of this and clear the air," he said.
NDP MP Charlie Angus says he'll entertain the motion, but just because Del Mastro "drags his political enemies before our committee and drags their dirty laundry out," doesn't mean the opposition should try to do the same.
"I guess my concern is that Mr. Del Mastro has turned our committee into a kangaroo court, where due process has been blown out time and time again," Angus said.
"So even though I have real questions about Mr. Del Mastro's activities, I believe he's eligible for due process."
Andrews calls that response surprising.
"This is the kind of thing our committee usually looks into," he wrote in an email. "You have to ask the tough questions in the House and get the real answers at committee."
Here are five questions raised by Dean Del Mastro's 2008 campaign spending:<br><br>(CP)
5. Was He Reimbursed For The $21,000 Personal Cheque
Federal election spending laws say candidates can contribute $2,100 to their campaigns, a tenth of the amount in question. Del Mastro says his campaign or his riding association reimbursed him for any election expenses, but records on the website of Elections Canada show no sign of a repayment that big. The records show the campaign reimbursed Del Mastro a total of $437.54 for his 2008 run. Likewise, the expenses filed by the riding association show $96,670 in transfers to Del Mastro's campaign, but none to him. (Shutterstock)
4. Why Isn't The $21,000 Paid To Holinshed Research Group Listed In The Election Return?
After a 2009 falling-out over a contract with Del Mastro, Frank Hall, president of Holinshed Research Group, filed a suit in small claims court. The claim was dismissed as abandoned June 8, 2011, meaning Hall let it lapse. But the records he filed in the claim are still available. They show a $21,000 invoice, as well as the personal cheque from Del Mastro. The Sept. 14, 2008 invoice lists 630 hours of voter identification phone calls, plus election day get-out-the-vote calls. But the Elections Canada return lists only two Holinshed expenses: one for $10,000, categorized in a miscellaneous "amounts not included in election expenses" category, and another for $1,575 for election surveys or other research. (Alamy)
3. What Happened To The Other $11,000?
If the $10,000 Holinshed expense listed in the campaign costs comes from the $21,000 invoice, Del Mastro's campaign has up to another $11,000 unaccounted for. (Alamy)
2. How Does The $21,000 Fit In Under The Spending Limit?
Del Mastro's campaign spending limit was $92,566.79. The expenses he submitted to Elections Canada show he spent $90,987.52 or 98.29 per cent of his cap (before the election agency reviewed and got more detailed information from him, records showed he spent $91,770.80, or 99.14 per cent of his cap). Elections Canada records suggest that if the $21,000 invoice is included, he would have exceeded the limit. Del Mastro did not explain the additional $21,000. (CP)
1. What Happened To Holinshed?
The Ottawa-based research and polling company appears to be out of business, with its website out of service and its phone disconnected. The firm did work for at least 10 federal Conservative candidates in the 2008 election, and worked with Ontario Progressive Conservatives as well. As the CBC's Kady O'Malley pointed out last fall, Holinshed got $125,000 from the federal government to develop GeoVote, a voter ID system. The cash was part of the Canada Economic Action Plan. The project website says the money was to develop "the firm's flagship application GeoVote used in support of election campaigns and data management used in preparation for upcoming elections." It also seems to be the only political polling firm to have got stimulus money. (Alamy)