PETERBOROUGH, Ont. — The lawyer for former Conservative MP Dean Del Mastro tried Tuesday to undermine the credibility of the Elections Canada investigator who led the case against his client, suggesting multiple opportunities were missed to thoroughly test the integrity of a key witness.
Investigator Alan Mathews spent much of the day testifying at the election overspending trial of Del Mastro, once the Harper government’s point man on defending the Conservatives against allegations of voter fraud.
Mathews, the last witness to be called by the Crown, said he and an assistant conducted an analysis of voter identification calls made by data consulting firm Holinshed Research for Del Mastro’s campaign.
The Holinshed services are at the heart of the case, with the Crown alleging Del Mastro paid for them from a personal account, thereby exceeding a limit on personal contributions for the 2008 election campaign.
The Crown has also alleged Del Mastro tried to cover up overspending by using backdated invoices to make it appear Holinshed had only charged a fraction of the cost during the election period.
Del Mastro’s lawyer, Jeffrey Ayotte, said Mathews didn’t bother to obtain records of phone calls between Holinshed president Frank Hall and Del Mastro, nor did he obtain a warrant to search Hall’s laptop.
Mathews said he took the lead on the case partway through the investigation and didn’t chose to pursue a request to obtain the phone records.
“Telephone records would have been nice to have in this case, you’d agree?” Ayotte asked Mathews, who conceded the records would be useful if they were relevant.
“How are Frank Halls records not relevant?” Ayotte pressed. “You could have got them…but you didn’t.”
Ayotte further hammered away at Mathews for not obtaining a warrant to search Hall’s laptop, a line of questioning the witness deflected by saying a warrant wasn’t necessary — Hall had already consented to a search of the device, within certain parameters.
“So you didn’t apply for a warrant and you allowed Frank Hall to limit the parts of his laptop that you could search,” Ayotte asked. “In retrospect, do you think that was a mistake?”
“I would do it somewhat differently,” Mathews said. “I may have tried to persuade Frank and his counsel more vigorously to allow a wider search.”
Ayotte went on to suggest Mathews didn’t adequately scrutinize an alleged discrepancy between the number of hours of service Holinshed claimed it worked for Del Mastro’s campaign versus the number of hours a company payroll database indicated had actually been worked.
Mathews said he did think the hours of service reported by the company database seemed lower than they should have been, but he didn’t question Holinshed’s president about them.
Del Mastro has pleaded not guilty to charges of overspending during the 2008 campaign, failing to report a personal contribution of $21,000 to his own campaign and knowingly submitting a falsified document.
“I’m very pleased at the way court is proceeding. I’ve waited a long time for this trial to come together,” the MP said outside court Tuesday.
Del Mastro is expected to take the stand in his own defence and said he looked forward to getting his side of the story on the public record.
“I think they’ll see that there’s a counter-narrative — a very important counter-narrative that’s supported by key witnesses.”
Richard McCarthy, Del Mastro’s official agent for the 2008 campaign, is being tried at the same time on three charges, including “incurring election expenses in an amount more than the election expenses limit.” He has also pleaded not guilty.
If found guilty, Del Mastro and McCarthy could each face fines of $1,000 and a year behind bars.
A conviction would not prevent Del Mastro from running from office again.