OTTAWA - First a sleepover, now a double-dog dare.
Punchy MPs, bleary-eyed from their all-night vote marathon, were exchanging rhetorical blows Friday in the House of Commons over the election-spending headaches of Conservative attack dog Dean Del Mastro.
The Ontario MP, who normally defends the Conservatives against accusations of dirty electoral tricks, finds himself caught up in Elections Canada allegations that he spent too much during the 2008 campaign and then tried to cover it up.
Liberal MP Scott Andrews repeated the allegations during question period as he called Del Mastro — who is Stephen Harper's parliamentary secretary — on the carpet, even though he wasn't in the House to defend himself.
"The prime minister and his parliamentary secretary can no longer fabricate spin around the fact that serious Elections Canada rules have been broken," Andrews said.
"Let us be clear, it is about the documents he did not submit. The facts are, the member was responsible for filing forged documents. The member took steps to hide the truth about spending limits."
That got Tory MP Pierre Poilievre on his feet, urging Andrews to take it outside — and giving question period a distinct schoolyard flavour.
"A lot of people watching may not realize that parliamentary privilege protects this member so he can say anything he wants without ever having to prove it," Poilievre said.
"He can disparage anybody's reputation and he never has to back up any of his allegations with facts. He has made some very clear ones. He has no evidence to back them up.
"I would encourage him, if he has the integrity, if he has the courage, to take the exact statement that he just made, walk outside in front of the media and repeat those allegations. It is my bet that he will not do it."
Court documents filed by an Elections Canada investigator allege Del Mastro's campaign filed a false document to the agency. The MP's official agent, Richard McCarthy, is also under investigation.
None of the claims have been proved in court, and Del Mastro insists Elections Canada never contacted him about his campaign return.
The matter revolves around a contract for polling and research.
In court documents, Elections Canada says 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.
"I believe that Dean 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 as no services were provided by Holinshed," the court document says.
"Dean Del Mastro then submitted this invoice to the campaign and was reimbursed $1,575 ... for a contract which he never paid."
Elections Canada further alleges Del Mastro took those steps to "deceive" an auditor "into a false belief that the election expense of 'election surveys or other surveys or research' was only $1,575 and not $21,000 as stipulated in the contract."
Del Mastro's lawyer did not return a call for comment.
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