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MP Dean Del Mastro removed from Conservative caucus, charged under elections act

Video: MP Dean Del Mastro charged for overspending and under reporting during the last election campaign. Jacques Bourbeau reports.

OTTAWA – The Prime Minister’s Office has confirmed Conservative MP Dean Del Mastro has been removed from the Conservative caucus following news Thursday he has been charged with four offences under the Canada Elections Act.

The charges have to do with spending and campaign contributions in the 2008 election.

Sources told Global News Del Mastro was booted from caucus Thursday afternoon, just hours after news of his charges was released.

The charges were laid against the Peterborough, Ont. MP Thursday, Elections Canada Commissioner Yves Côté said in a release.

Del Mastro’s official agent Richard McCarthy is also facing three charges.

The charges against Del Mastro and McCarthy have to do with allegations of incurring election expenses more than the limit and omitting contributions of $21,000 in electoral campaign returns to the Chief Electoral Officer.

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Elections Canada alleges Del Mastro and McCarthy didn’t report election expenses of $21,000, and instead reported spending only $1,575.

Del Mastro, who has long maintained his innocence, is also charged with exceeding the contribution limit for a candidate in his own election campaign.

In a statement, Del Mastro said he learned of the charges laid against him on Thursday.

“As I have consistently stated in the past, I entirely reject these allegations and look forward to the opportunity to defend myself in court,” he said.

“While it is my full intention to continue to support the government’s economic agenda and the principals for which it stands, I have advised caucus leadership that it is my intention to step out of caucus until this matter is resolved.”

When reached at his home, McCarthy said he had no comment.

Video: NDP House Leader Nathan Cullen comments on Del Mastro

NDP House leader Nathan Cullen said Prime Minister Stephen Harper should remove Del Mastro in his parliamentary secretary role as well as kick him out of caucus.

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“This is an incredibly serious and bad day for the Conservative party of Canada, yet an important day for Canadian democracy,” said Cullen.

In a release Côté said it is fundamentally important that the spending and contribution limits enacted by Parliament be respected.

“It is also essential that the reports and information provided to Elections Canada be accurate and truthful,” he said.

“The level-playing field principle and the requirement for transparency call for nothing less. We will continue to be vigilant to ensure that these rules are observed.”

Del Mastro’s first court appearance is expected Nov. 7 in Peterborough.

A conviction under the act can carry fines of between $2,000 and $5,000, a sentence of up to five years in prison, or both.

– with a file from The Canadian Press