OTTAWA — Conservative MP Dean Del Mastro has resigned from caucus and as a parliamentary secretary, after he was charged Thursday under the Elections Act related to expenses in the 2008 federal election.
"As I have consistently stated in the past, I entirely reject these allegations and look forward to the opportunity to defend myself in court," Del Mastro said in a statement.
Elections Canada laid four charges, accusing the MP from Peterborough, Ont., of wilfully exceeding the political contribution limit, as well as spending beyond the campaign limit and under-reporting political contributions and expenses.
Court documents show that Del Mastro is suspected of knowingly exceeding the 2008 campaign spending limit of $92,567 by about $17,850.
An Elections Canada investigator has also accused Del Mastro of trying to cover up the alleged violation by paying for $21,000 worth of voter contact calls from his personal bank account, then having his campaign create a false document to hide the expense.
Sources tell QMI Agency Prime Minister Stephen Harper gave little choice to Del Mastro but to step aside from caucus.
New Democrat MP Nathan Cullen says if Del Mastro's charges are substantiated in court, he should resign his seat.
"The idea that Mr. Del Mastro can somehow sustain this until the next election and then face voters seems like it would be a difficult one for me to imagine," said Cullen.
Del Mastro made a tearful statement in the Commons in June, accusing Elections Canada of a witch-hunt and of leaking details of its investigation to the media.
"I feel that this process has been conducted with malice and contempt for me ... and for my family's well-being," he said at the time. "Elections Canada has been in possession of evidence that I provided to them freely since last summer, which very clearly demonstrates I did not exceed my personal donation limit, that I did in fact adhere to my election spending limit and that all public declarations related to my campaign are entirely accurate."
Cullen says he wasn't moved by Del Mastro's plea.
"Mr. Del Mastro is going to have to do a lot more," he said.
Del Mastro's first court appearance is scheduled for Nov. 7 in Peterborough.
Richard McCarthy, Del Mastro's official agent, faces three charges related to the same allegations.
The charges carry a maximum penalty of five years in prison, or a $5,000 fine.
-- with files from Brendan Wedley