PETERBOROUGH, Ont. - Prime Minister Stephen Harper's parliamentary secretary, under investigation by Elections Canada, says media reports alleging his family was involved in a donation reimbursement scheme are baseless.
The reports have alleged that a company owned by Dean Del Mastro's cousin, David Del Mastro, reimbursed its employees for contributions to his campaign. Under the Elections Act, it is illegal to conceal the source of a political contribution.
Speaking at an event in his riding of Peterborough, Ont., on Wednesday, the Tory MP said the allegations have taken a toll on his family, who run several businesses in this community northeast of Toronto.
"(The business) has my father's name on it — I take it very seriously," he said.
"So when my name is thrown around in the media, especially with allegations that have no process, you have to understand — this is a very unfair thing."
Del Mastro is currently under investigation by Elections Canada related to another discrepancy related to his last re-election campaign.
The independent agency is looking into whether Del Mastro, who normally defends the Conservatives against accusations of dirty electoral tricks, exceeded his spending limit and then tried to cover it up.
The matter revolves around a contract for polling and research.
In court documents, Elections Canada claims Del Mastro paid Holinshed Research Group $21,000 out of his personal bank account. But the Peterborough MP's campaign return shows only $1,575 was paid to the company.
The agency alleges Del Mastro "took steps to hide the true nature of the transaction by paying the $21,000 election expense from his personal bank account ... and obtained a false invoice from Holinshed in December 2008 ... which was never paid to Holinshed."
"Dean Del Mastro then submitted this invoice to the campaign and was reimbursed $1,575 ... for a contract which he never paid,'' the court documents say.
Del Mastro admitted Wednesday that he wrote the cheque but said he did not break any rules.
"I followed all rules. I always have. I always will," he said. "All my campaigns are above board. And I stand by those statements 100 per cent."
Del Mastro said that in the past, all his campaign expenses had been "reviewed, audited and approved" by Elections Canada. He said he is more than willing to hand over any necessary documentation, but has yet to be approached by the agency.
Down the street at Del Mastro Motors, one of the MP's three brothers, Mike Del Mastro, said news of the allegations is the talk of the city.
"The truth will come out and I'm sure his name will be cleared, but how much damage will be done?" he asked.
Mike Del Mastro said he believes the allegations are politically motivated.
"It's the job that Dean has," he said. "As kind of the spokesperson for the party, he's target No. 1."
None of the allegations against him have been proven in court and no charges have been laid.
Del Mastro was in Peterborough to announce an $8-million investment fund for the region.
The money comes from a larger $20-million fund from the FedDev Ontario's Prosperity Initiative for the province and will provide loans to local small- and medium-sized businesses.
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)