June 25, 2015 / 3:00 PM / 5 years ago

Former top aide to Canada PM jailed for campaign violations

OTTAWA (Reuters) - A former aide to Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper was sentenced to a month in jail on Thursday for breaking campaign financing rules, the latest in a series of people appointed to key posts by Harper to run into trouble.

Member of Parliament Dean Del Mastro pauses while announcing his resignation in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa November 5, 2014. REUTERS/Chris Wattie

Dean Del Mastro, an ex-legislator who once served as Harper’s private parliamentary secretary, was led away in handcuffs and leg shackles from a sentencing hearing in Peterborough, Ontario, about 140 km (87 miles) northeast of Toronto.

Opposition parties were quick to denounce Harper and Del Mastro, saying the case showed the need for voters to kick out the ruling Conservatives in a federal election this October.

“The prime minister of Canada’s parliamentary secretary is going to jail for election fraud. Let that sink in,” tweeted Gerald Butts, a senior aide to Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau.

Del Mastro was found guilty last year of exceeding campaign expense limits and failing to report a campaign contribution and election expense. He steadfastly denied the charges.

He will serve a month in jail, spend four months under house arrest followed by 18 months’ probation, according to a release from the prosecutor’s office.

“This type of cheating and lying will result in serious sanctions,” local media quoted Judge Lisa Cameron as saying at the hearing.

Del Mastro’s official campaign agent, accountant Richard McCarthy, was sentenced to two months of house arrest and a year’s probation.

A spokesman for Harper said Del Mastro “is being held accountable”. Harper came to power in 2006 vowing to clean up Ottawa after a kickback scandal helped bring down the previous Liberal government.

Critics note that a number of people Harper has named to prominent jobs over the years have been charged with a variety of offenses.

“Conservatives promised they were going to change Ottawa and get rid of Liberal corruption and scandal. Instead, Ottawa changed them,” said a release from the official opposition New Democrats, who recent opinion polls put in the lead.

Harper appointees in trouble include Mike Duffy, a high-profile former journalist named by the prime minister to sit in the Senate, the upper chamber of Parliament, in 2008.

Duffy is currently on trial in Ottawa facing charges of bribery and improper spending.

Reporting by David Ljunggren; Editing by Peter Galloway and Alan Crosby

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