Wednesday 9 July 2014

Dean Del Mastro walks down memory lane: “It was hard for a 23-year-old white guy to get a job.”

We are into week three of the Dean Del Mastro trial, and have finally arrived at the moment many have been waiting for: Mr. Del Mastro, MP for Peterborough, has taken the stand in his own defence.
Dean Del Mastro
Under examination from his lawyer, Jeff Ayotte, Del Mastro took a walk down memory lane, explaining that he had to return to Peterborough from his studies at the University of Windsor after his father died in the winter months of 1994.

“I would have graduated that spring, but was called back,” he said. “Those were Rae Days. It was hard for a 23-year-old white guy to get a job.”

The Crown alleges that Del Mastro and his agent for the 2008 campaign, Richard McCarthy, went over their campaign spending limit, and then covered it up. Central to the Crown’s case is a $21,000 personal cheque from Del Mastro to Ottawa polling firm Holinshed – well over the $2,100 personal limited and, if within the writ period, putting the campaign over, too.

We didn’t get that far on Wednesday, though. It was slow going out the gate with Del Mastro who, for some unknown reason, felt the need to use the court’s time – estimated by defence counsel Ayotte to be costing taxpayers $7,000 a day – describing his natural facility for selling cars.

“I never used a single sales technique you will see in a sales book,” he said. “I have never been lower than in the second sales spot at any point in my career.”

We heard that Del Mastro’s career began at Kawartha Dodge Chrysler, where his father had been general manager, then to Russelle Toyota. After that he “fulfilled his father’s dream” by opening his own dealership. What followed was a string of successes:  landing Suzuki in 1997, becoming the youngest top Suzuki seller in 1999, and the youngest ever chairman of the Suzuki Advisory Board in 2001.

Del Mastro was full of bromides about growing up in a poor, hardworking family,

"My family is a glass is half empty family,” he said (sic). “And I am a glass is half full person."

To barely-concealed looks of dismay from Justice Lisa Cameron, Del Mastro then went on to say something about how “he is the straw that stirs the drink,” apparently alluding to his ability to bring "positive change" to Peterborough.

During the afternoon Ayotte kept trying to keep Del Mastro on track, directing testimony to Del Mastro’s spending habits in the 2006, 2008, and 2011 campaigns.

“I won by seven votes on the sixth ballot for the 2006 nomination,” he said. “For that election I had to draw on my personal line of credit.”

Del Mastro, who completed his university degree in 2008, described himself as a “bit of a savant” with statistics. When kept on topic by Ayotte, Del Mastro showed a detailed and at times impressive knowledge of the spending and strategic decisions behind his three successful campaigns.
Crown prosecutor Brendan Gluckman
According to Del Mastro’s evidence, the Conservative Party offered him only limited support, and his lack of access to the Party’s “Blue Program” – which provided targeted assistance to campaigns – in 2008 was not a crisis, as Holinshed’s Frank Hall previously indicated.

“The benefit [of the Blue Program] is not as much as people might think,” he said, later adding that it was “simply not true” that, as stated by Frank Hall in earlier testimony, Del Mastro placed a “panicked” call to Hall after learning that he had been dropped from the program.

Del Mastro testified that, thanks to a strong team of volunteers and work on the ground, he was able to dramatically improve his numbers from 2006 to 2008. Going into the 2006 vote Del Mastro had identified about 19,000 likely voters, and received almost 23,000. Then in 2008 about 24,000 supporters were identified, with Del Mastro getting approximately 27, 600 votes. This was all the more remarkable given that turnout dropped from 71% to 62% in the two elections.

The reason for this testimony, one assumes, is to indicate that Del Mastro was in no need of the help of Frank Hall’s firm, Holinshed.

In the past four days we have seen a stream of witnesses, among them: forensic expert and RCMP Corporal David Connors; former Holinshed employee David Pennylegion; Tom Rittwage, who worked with former Holinshed client Rick Norlock, the Conservative MP for Northumberland – Quinte West; Elections Canada investigator Al Mathews; Kevin Lo, a forensic computer expert for the defence; as well as fellow Conservative and former Del Mastro advisor, Alan Wilson.

So far, this testimony has some common themes: first, it is possible for an individual to corrupt data and to have altered  correspondence; and second, that person would have to be the nefarious Frank Hall, who was so bitter at Del Mastro’s refusal to pay him, and at the loss of Conservative clients (which led in whole or in part to the failure of his polling business) that he went complaining to Elections Canada and, while he was at it, proceeded to falsify documents and perjure himself.

Oh, and third, if Hall is not an evil mastermind, then Del Mastro might be guilty.

On Wednesday morning Alan Wilson testified that the Peterborough Electoral District Association (EDA) had purchased “part of” Holinshed’s GeoVote software, which can be used outside of election periods. This, one assumes, could be part of the defence’s explanation for the $21,000 personal cheque from Del Mastro to Hall.

Del Mastro faces four charges, and McCarthy three. Each charge brings a maximum penalty of a $5,000 fine and one year in jail. The Crown confirmed these charges to La politica on Wednesday, but would not comment on a likely sentence should there be convictions. However, in the case of guilty verdicts, it is La politica’s understanding that jail time would be highly unlikely.

(TE Wilson is the author of Mezcalero, a Detective Sánchez novel.)

A reverse timeline of the Dean Del Mastro trial:

June 23: Defence and crown battle over evidence admissibility on first day of Del Mastro trial