Every day that the House is in session (not once more until the fall…lucky bastards), MPs from across our fine country funnel into the green chamber to talk, mock, and gawk. Most are ordinary, but a few stand out above the crowd. Count the current MP for Peterborough, Dean Del Mastro, among them. Del Mastro is currently on trial for breaking election law.
It all started with an honest mistake in the heat of the 2008 election campaign. Dean made a little boo-boo when he paid a firm called Hollinshed Research $21,000 for voter identification and telephone services. That amount, $21,000, is 10-times the $2,100 that Del Mastro was legally allowed to contribute to his own campaign. At this point it’s worth noting that Del Mastro pleaded not guilty to the charges. Assuming he isn’t stupid, he must have something up his sleeve.
One can imagine a compelling legal defence for this case. It is painfully obvious that Del Mastro only exceeded the $2,100 limit by 0. That fact that the 0 happened to fall on the end of $2,100, thus making it $21,000, is nothing more than an unfortunate coincidence. Should a hard-working MP really have to suffer because of place value?
Think about that for a second, and then consider the following. Things became a bit more troublesome when evidence surfaced that Del Mastro allegedly assigned the $21,000 in personal expenses to the Peterborough Conservative EDA and to his constituency office, and then filed a separate personal expense invoice of $1,575, which is well within the personal donation limit. How devious! This started as an honest misunderstanding of place value, but it now looks an awful lot like a cover-up. Maybe this is why they call him Del Mastro of Disguise.
For his part, Del Mastro appears unfazed. Following his first day in court, the day on which the above details were made public, Del Mastro said, “Nothing happened today that we didn’t expect. I thought the day went very well and I’m pleased things are moving forward.” Is this false confidence? Will it last? As an investigation into allegations that Del Mastro’s brother paid people to donate to his campaign begins, and Del Mastro’s trial continues, we can be sure of only one thing. If this trial is anything like Del Mastro’s political career, it will be hilarious, interesting, and maybe even a bit disturbing.