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Del Mastro Isn't the Problem, Politics Is

06/25/2015 06:19 EDT | Updated 06/26/2016 05:59 EDT
CP

He looked at me through moist eyes and wanted me to know how delighted he was that our adopted kids from South Sudan had arrived and were seated in the visitor's gallery above the parliamentary chamber. Question period had just concluded and his face had been a mixture of anger, mockery and clear disdain the entire time, and yet there he was, one of Stephen Harper's attack dogs, fighting back tears and being touchingly human.

These thoughts came back to me as I watched the video of Dean Del Mastro being led into a paddy wagon following his conviction for electoral fraud in the 2008 federal election. The irony of his being the Prime Minister's point man on election fraud was hardly lost on the viewer. Here was a man now undone, uncovered in a crime that he often raged about while in the House.

We were members of opposing parties and never once did we meet outside of the House itself and yet for some reason he had made a special effort in reflecting his joy over the arrival of my kids. It was hard to square in my mind, especially in subsequent months as he continued to pour his wrath out on any opposition member that questioned how the government carried itself during election seasons.

Those same eyes capable of tearing up over children were now moist again, as he walked in front of the cameras, a convicted politician now subject to jail time and house arrest. It mustn't have been easy for him during the torturous moments of public disgrace and the use of leg irons was a totally unnecessary choice for the police. Nevertheless, there he was, the humiliator had become the humiliated; anger and cheap politics had come full circle. This dispenser of political wrath had now fallen under the hammer of justice.

The details of the Del Mastro case will be played out in the days ahead as a kind of soap opera, filled with tragedy, vengeance, even sympathy. But the real story that lay behind his conviction is what politics had done to a man who had entered the House of Commons with a sincere desire to serve Canadians. Like all MPs, he had wanted to matter, to make a difference, to carve out a name for himself as a player in Ottawa.

The problem was that his desire to serve Canadians had been transcended by an overriding desire to serve the prime minister and his party. They were heady days, selected as he was to rise up in the Chamber each day and deliver the vitriol at his party's behest. All parties do such things, but Del Mastro had been particularly open to such conduct. To witness a man capable of tenderness be overtaken by such a debilitating partisanship should be a powerful warning to all entering the political world who want to serve their community but are susceptible to spilling political blood at the same time. It is a cautionary tale. Justice Lisa Cameron put it plainly and powerfully as she delivered her verdict: the offences were an "affront" to the principles of our democratic system and, worst still, the very "antithesis" of democracy itself.

Yes, politics had done it again, claiming another victim who had attempted to fly too close to power instead of public service. Tonight Dean Del Mastro will likely be thinking through all of this and only God will be able to judge just how clearly he comprehends what happened to him to have taken him from a place of privilege of service to a cell.

The sight of Del Mastro making his way into the paddy wagon was, in its own strange way, a candid image of the state of politics today. Even the most sacred of democracy's shrines -- the ballot box -- has been so tainted in recent years that Elections Canada itself can't get to the bottom of the malfeasance. Make no mistake about it -- politics itself is in the dock and only the desire to put the public above gross partisanship can save it.

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