TORONTO -- A Tory MP accused of fraud and overspending during a re-election campaign is taking the next step to clear his name of any wrong doing. Dean Del Mastro is speaking to Elections Canada to give a 'cautioned statement' regarding campaign-fiance related allegations.
“Mr. Del Mastro has accepted the invitation to meet with Elections Canada to give a cautioned statement and we are in the process of scheduling a date and time for this meeting,” said Del Mastro's lawyer, Jeffery Ayotte, in an interview with the Globe And Mail.
Anything said by Del Mastro in his statement will treated as evidence should the government watchdog launch an investigation.
On Friday, Scott Andrews, the Liberal Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics critic, pushed for Parliament's ethics committee to reconvene to allow Del Mastro clear his name.
“By proposing this meeting, the Liberal Party is providing Mr. Del Mastro the opportunity, with full Parliamentary immunity, to respond to these very serious allegations. This is a process that he has been asking for and we hope that he will put his money where his mouth is, agree to appear and provide the documents that he claims will exonerate him,” said Andrews in a press release.
Andrews sent the letter on Friday, asking for the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics to come back in the summer after filing a motion to launch a study on the allegations targeting Del Mastro, who is also the parliamentary secretary to Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
The NDP have said that the accusations against Del Mastro warrant a RCMP investigation but aren't sold on the Liberal plan because they didn't want to provide the Tory MP with immunity.
"I'm not interested in a gong show, I want this to be done right. And I don't know if they thought this through because why would we give Del Mastro a forum where he would be then immune for anything he said? That doesn't seem to me as the best way to get to the bottom of this," said Charlie Angus, the NDP's Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics critic.
The issue began with a $21, 000 cheque addressed to Holinshed Research Group for calling voters in 2008. However, Del Mastro knew the amount would put him beyond his spending limit and paid Holinshed the amount from his personal account according to an affadavit sworn by Thomas Ritchie, an official with Elections Canada
On top of that, the Peterborough MP's campaign return shows only $1,575 was paid to the company. According to court documents, he " 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.''
Under Canada's Election Act, it is illegal to conceal the source of a donation.
"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 said Wednesday during an announcement in Peterborough.
Six days after the allegations were brought to light by Postmedia, copies of reimbursement cheques from a Mississauga electrical company owned by the Tory MP's cousin, David Del Mastro, were obtained by the Ottawa Citizen. The copies show that donors were making an extra $50 on top of the $1, 000 they donated to the campaign.
Del Mastro has maintained his innocence since the allegations surfaced, first pleading ignorance about Elections Canada's investigation on a segment of CBC's Power And Politics. During a news conference in his riding of Peterborough, he said he will be "fully exonerated at the end of this process"
Del Mastro says the accusations have damaged his family name though Elections Canada has yet to charge either Del Mastro or his cousin. The MP has said he is more than willing to hand over the necessary documentation if asked.
With Files From The Canadian Press and Althia Raj
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)