NEWS
06/25/2015 11:22 EDT | Updated 06/25/2016 01:12 EDT

Jail for ex-Harper pointman; Del Mastro can't run for office for 5 years

PETERBOROUGH, Ont. - A former member of Parliament who spoke for Prime Minister Stephen Harper when it came to electoral-fraud allegations was sentenced Thursday to one month in jail and barred from running for office for five years for "cheating" during an election campaign.Dean Del Mastro deliberately broke spending rules then tried to cover up his crime, said Superior Court Justice Lisa Cameron, who ruled that incarceration was appropriate for the first-time offender."He was prepared not only to break the rules but to be deceitful about it," Cameron said."This type of cheating and lying will result in serious sanctions."Cameron convicted Del Mastro last fall of violating the Canada Elections Act during the 2008 federal election. She found he had knowingly exceeded spending limits, failed to report a personal contribution of $21,000 to his campaign, and submitted a falsified document.The offences are an "affront" to the principles of Canada's democratic system and the very "antithesis" of democracy, Cameron said."Custody is required to reflect the need for denunciation and deterrence."In addition to two one-month sentences he will have to serve concurrently, Cameron also imposed a four-month conditional sentence to run consecutively, following the jail sentence, for filing a false return.The former MP for Peterborough will have to serve the first month of the conditional sentence under house arrest. He will also have to pay $10,000 to the Peterborough Electoral District Association and serve a further 18 months on probation.Del Mastro, 44, has filed an appeal of the conviction and will seek bail pending the appeal at a hearing Friday.He was led away after the sentencing and the status of his bail application was not immediately clear. Del Mastro's wife was in tears.Accountant Richard McCarthy, 68, who was Del Mastro's agent, was given a two-month conditional sentence plus one year of probation for his role, which the judge said amounted to acquiescing to Del Mastro's machinations — or at least was "wilfully blind" to them — but was much less culpable, Cameron said. Once Harper's point man defending the Tories against allegations of electoral fraud, Del Mastro maintained his innocence and called the verdict the judge's opinion. At a pre-sentencing hearing in April, he choked back tears as he described the "nationwide condemnation" he had to endure as a result of the charges.Cameron said she took the impact of the publicity on Del Mastro and his family into account in her sentencing.The prosecution had called for up to 12 months in jail, while the defence asked Cameron for a conditional discharge or, at most, a fine.Del Mastro resigned his Peterborough seat in the House of Commons — where he had been sitting as an Independent since being charged — shortly after his conviction.