July 9, 2014 3:29 pm

MP Del Mastro takes stand in own defence at election overspending trial

Conservative MP Dean Del Mastro rises during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Thursday March 1, 2012. Del Mastro, who represents the riding of Peterborough, has been charged with four counts of violating the Canada Elections Act in connection with his 2008 campaign expenses. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

PETERBOROUGH, Ont. – Dean Del Mastro has taken the stand in his own defence at his election overspending trial in Peterborough, Ont.

The Independent MP has yet to discuss the 2008 federal election campaign – the period of time during which Elections Canada alleges he broke campaign spending limits and rules for personal contributions.

But Del Mastro says that during the 2006 campaign he drew on his personal line of credit to bolster his run for office, although he kept his contribution within spending rules.

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READ MORE: Del Mastro eager for get-out-the-vote calls, voter ID, says witness

Del Mastro also says he was part of the Conservative party’s so-called “blue plan” in 2006, a centralized voter identification calling program the party used to target select ridings.

He says he didn’t find being part of the plan particularly useful and employed his own campaign volunteers to target potential voters.

Del Mastro’s stance on the “blue plan” is noteworthy since a key Crown witness noted earlier in the trial that the MP was “disappointed” to not be part of the program in the 2008 federal election.

That testimony came from Frank Hall, president of Holinshed Research, the now-defunct data consulting firm whose services are at the heart of the case.

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Hall has told the court Del Mastro urgently wanted voter ID and get-out-the-vote services for his 2008 election campaign once he realized he wouldn’t be getting similar help from the Conservative party.

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.

This is the first time the trial has heard his side of the story.

Earlier in the day, Del Mastro’s defence lawyer Jeffrey Ayotte asked his client’s former adviser, Alan Wilson, about the Peterborough Conservative Electoral District Association’s dealings with Holinshed.

The Crown alleges Del Mastro paid the firm for its voter identification and get-out-the-vote calling services from a personal account, thereby exceeding a limit on personal contributions for the election campaign.

The Crown has also alleged Del Mastro tried to cover up the overspending by using backdated invoices to make it appear Holinshed had only charged a fraction of the overall cost during the election period.

But under questioning from Ayotte, Wilson said he thought Del Mastro had only paid Holinshed for its new software, called Geovote, designed to make it easier to identify the political leanings of those living in a riding.

Wilson says the Peterborough EDA, of which he is now the president, had “at one point in time” paid for a portion of Geovote.

He also says Del Mastro’s constituency office, where he used to work, received a sample of Geovote but was unhappy with the way it performed and never sought the full version of the software.

“What is your understanding that Holinshed had been paid for?”Ayotte asked.

“For Geovote,” Wilson answered.

Del Mastro left the Conservative caucus in September 2013 and has maintained his innocence throughout the trial, which is now in its third week. reme Court Justice in Ottawa on Sept. 30, 2002.

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