It’s the day after my MP was sentenced for electoral fraud. Yesterday morning, I wrote that I didn’t feel “feel particularly excited or triumphant” about the fact that my former MP would be imprisoned for his crime, even if only for a month.
That was before two things happened: First, I watched this video of a handcuffed and shackled Dean shuffling to the paddywagon en route to the Central East Corrections Centre in Lindsay, Ontario. It was a literal walk of shame, a comprehensive image of how far the fall has been for the Right Honorable Dean del Mastro, MP for Peterborough, Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister, Minster of Intergovernmental Affairs, and personal representative of the PM on the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics. When I said yesterday that I couldn’t “muster the scathing contempt” I’ve expressed in the past towards Dean del Mastro? I watched that video and it all came rushing back. It made it real to me, as I hope it’s now real to him.
This was a man who had everything: the trust of his constituents; a position in Parliament; the confidence of the Prime Minister of Canada; he was an honoured and respected member of the Canadian House of Commons and the Canadian Conservative Party. And in his greed, his arrogance and his desire for power, he pissed it all away. Hell, even the editors of our local very pro-Conservative (and very pro-del Mastro) newspaper acknowledge that Dean did this to himself. He cheated, he lied, and he tried to cover it up, and when he failed at that he tried to bully his way out of it.
And in the meantime, he did nothing, nothing to help the people of this city. He talked a big game about passenger rail and waterfront redevelopment, but the truth is that the city and county of Peterborough have not been substantially improved by the tenure of Dean del Mastro, MP (CPC), and in some ways could arguably be worse. Our unemployment rates are at a record high, our infrastructure is crumbling, and the last time I checked we still didn’t have a high-speed rail link to Toronto. And the party that del Mastro so proudly represented in vicious, underhanded partisanship has managed to embroil itself in scandal and mismanagement while thoroughly trashing the national economy and undermining the basic rights and freedoms of Canadians through their own arrogance, greed, and lust for power.
The second thing was finding out that Dean del Mastro has joined a very short list of MPs who have been convicted of crimes. In fact, if you exclude MP Svend Robinson, who got a conditional sentence of probation for shoplifting, Dean del Mastro is the first MP since 1943 to go to prison for crimes committed while in office. The only previous holder of that “distinction” was Labour-Progressive MP Fred Rose, who was convicted of espionage during the Gouzenko Affair. One-hundred-forty-plus years of Confederation, and there’s been exactly two MPs to receive jail time for crimes committed while in office and my MP, the man who claimed to represent my interests, gets to be one of them.
Yeah, that pissed me off.
I went back and read the post I wrote after his conviction, in which I directed a statement to del Mastro personally, and I find that it still stands. He’s a crook, a liar and a cheat; an insult to the very concept of democracy; an embarrassment to his political party and to the Parliament of Canada. He chose to break the law — not for any noble or altruistic reason, but for base and petty greed. He deserves his punishment, and a good deal worse, and I won’t waste any pity on him.
Perhaps he’ll be granted bail today pending the success of his appeal. I rather hope not. Considering the damage to voter confidence and democratic practices that he’s inflicted in this riding and across the country, I think thirty nights in jail is pretty damned light. Any sympathy I might have had for his incarceration evaporated rather quickly following the discussion of which of his residences he would be confined to during his house arrest; he represented a city which has the highest per-capita rate of homelessness in the country.
Dean del Mastro’s supporters can insult Justice Cameron’s intelligence, and make excuses for his failures, or even whine about the “totally unnecessary” use of leg irons en route to prison, but the simple fact of the matter is this: Dean del Mastro, a rich man, used his money and his privilege to cheat the system and break the law. He chose to violate elections spending rules, and then he chose to cover it up. He did not choose to help the most vulnerable members of his community, his constituency, or his country. He didn’t even try.
He’ll serve time in prison for his crimes, but it’s his failure — his refusal— to shoulder the responsibility of aiding the people he claimed to represent which truly fills me with contempt.