Dean Del Mastro, formerly Stephen Harper’s main man, is on the ropes. It’s worth repeating because it’s painfully true. On Thursday, as the Crown lambasted Del Mastro for the last time during his trial for exceeding the election expenses limit, filing a false return, and exceeding his donation limit, Del Mastro, the man who Stephen Harper hand-picked to defend the Conservative Party in the wake of the robocalls scandal, looked strangely mortal. No need for Nelly in the courtroom, everyone could tell it was getting hot in there. (Or, dare I say, ‘thurr’.)
The main source of heat had to be the contrast between the stories told by the prosecution and the defence. The starkest contrast, and undoubtedly the most interesting, was between Del Mastro’s testimony and the testimony of star witness Frank Hall of Holinshed Research Group. Del Maestro claims that he hired Hall’s firm to help him get out the vote on election day, while Hall claims that Del Mastro actually contracted his firm to do a voter ID calling campaign which involved daily work and frequent contact with Del Mastro’s staff.
After a few yawns, you might complain that this is an issue of semantics. Get out the vote vs. voter ID- who cares? No one would care if the difference between these two terms and these two stories wasn’t the difference between the ~$1,500 that Del Mastro claims he spent and the ~$21,000 that the Crown claims he spent. Del Mastro is on trial for overspending on his campaign, so these details, no matter how boring, are critically important.
To make a long story short, Del Mastro claimed that the $21,000 that he paid Hollinshed was not for a voter ID campaign, but rather for a vote mapping software that he wanted the firm to design for his constituency office and future campaigns. The Conservative Party was supposed to pay for part of the software, but Mr. Del Mastro wrote a personal cheque so that the Party could reimburse him. Yet he never received the software. Hall says that’s because he was never paid for it. So what was the $21,000 for again?
To answer that question, the Crown introduced as evidence an email exchange between Del Mastro and Hall in which the two men discussed both the software and the voter ID campaign. This was somewhat damning evidence for Del Mastro, as it proved that the voter ID campaign was on the table. Consequently, Del Mastro pulled out the only reasonable defence he could muster: “I didn’t do it.” Del Mastro claimed he had never seen those emails before (AKA he pulled a Shaggy).
Del Mastro also sung a familiar refrain: that Elections Canada (and everyone else) was out to get him. Will anyone, including the judge, believe his story? That’s a tough call. Del Mastro is a former Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister, and was a Conservative representative on the House of Commons Ethics Committee. His resume suggests that he is a trustworthy man.
If you’re skeptical, just ask a more recent Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister, Paul Calandra, about Del Mastro’s character. Is Del Mastro guilty of overspending during the 2008 election campaign? When asked about Conservative scandals, Mr. Calandra responded, “I do like flowers.” When asked again, he responded, “Senator Duffy and Nigel Wright are the subjects of this investigation.” It was immediately apparent that Calandra is even better than Del Mastro at concocting an “I didn’t do it” defence. Lest we disgrace the office of Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister any further, or forget that Del Mastro is innocent until proven guilty, perhaps we should leave the most important questions to the judge. For her part, the judge says she will release her verdict on October 31. That’s ominous. Enjoy the next two months of presumed innocence, Dean.