Published | PubliÃ©: 2014-11-05
Received | ReÃ§u: 2014-11-05 2:57 AM
VANCOUVER SUN (FINAL)
CANADA & WORLD, Page: B3
MP Del Mastro will not be paid and will lose privileges
Del Mastro, the former parliamentary secretary to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, was found guilty Friday of three Elections Act offences, carrying a possible total penalty of three years in prison and a $6,000 fine, triggering a section of the act that calls for him to be expelled from the House.
But on Monday, Conservative House leader Peter Van Loan moved a motion to send the question to a Conservative-dominated parliamentary committee for study, rather than acting immediately.
On Tuesday, when the House began debating NDP House leader Peter Julian's motion to have Del Mastro suspended immediately, Van Loan surprised him by saying the government would support the NDP motion. Van Loan made the announcement after Julian accused the government of "tucking it under the carpet," and argued that the Conservatives have shown a "systematic pattern of breaking the Canada Elections Act."
Van Loan said the Conservatives will vote with the NDP to stop Del Mastro's paycheques and remove the privileges he enjoys as an MP.
"I do want to restate the government's position, and from the outset I will indicate that the government is of the position that it will support this motion," he said.
When the motion passes, as expected, it will send the matter to the procedure and House affairs committee, which will figure out how and when Del Mastro will be expelled and when a byelection should be called.
Earlier Tuesday that committee happened to be debating a private member's bill from Conservative MP John Williamson that would strip MPs of pensions if they resign after being found guilty.
As the law stands, MPs are stripped of their pensions if they are expelled for serious criminal wrongdoing, but not if they resign.
NDP Democratic Reform critic Craig Scott moved several amendments that would have made the pension provision potentially apply to Del Mastro. "Their amendment says it's only this list of criminal code offences and I said 'No,' " he said.
Tom Lukiwski, the parliamentary secretary to the government House leader, said the bill wouldn't have affected Del Mastro's pension.
"I think what they were trying to do was somehow bring forward a conspiracy theory that we were making amendments to this bill in an attempt to protect Mr. Del Mastro," he said. "I assured them publicly that was not the case."
Scott said he suspects the Tories might prefer that Del Mastro be encouraged to resign rather than fighting to keep his seat, potentially embarrassing the government.
"One assumes that if Mr. Del Mastro can be told, 'you can resign and keep your pension because this act doesn't touch you,' then this is helpful in getting him to resign," he said. "I will not say it's their plan. I will say it's a helpful component if it is their plan." Aaron Wudrick of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation said he's not sure the law should be changed to capture Del Mastro's wrongdoing.
"I don't think you should write legislation to capture the crime of the day," he said.
But he said Del Mastro should be suspended.
"I think given the circumstances a suspension without pay is warranted," he said.
Del Mastro did not respond to a request for comment. ILLUS: Glenn Lowson For Postmedia News File / Dean Del Mastro could be suspended without pay under an NDP motion that the federal Tories support.;
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