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Former Conservative MP Dean Del Mastro holds a news conference on Parliament Hill, in Ottawa, on May 9, 2019.Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press

A former Conservative MP who spent time behind bars for electoral offences is accusing Canada’s elections commissioner of having a personal vendetta against him – and he’s calling for a parliamentary investigation.

Dean Del Mastro was convicted of failing to report a $21,000 contribution he made to his own 2008 re-election campaign, overspending and knowingly filing a false report.

He spent nearly a month in jail in 2015, an experience so difficult he recalled that at certain points he never thought he’d make it out alive. He also revealed Thursday that he’s considering another run for public office, although perhaps not at the federal level.

Del Mastro, who still maintains his innocence, returned to Parliament Hill to urge lawmakers to launch a thorough investigation into the handling of his case. He wants any hearings to include testimony from elections commissioner Yves Cote.

“I think it was a personal vendetta – I think there were people within Elections Canada that determined that I needed to be taken out,” said Del Mastro, who served as parliamentary secretary to former prime minister Stephen Harper.

“Ultimately, I believe that the manner in which I was treated represents malice on behalf of the commissioner of Canada elections. There’s no other way to explain the treatment that I received versus the treatment that others did.”

The commissioner enforces the Canada Elections Act. Del Mastro insisted elections officials were biased against him because of his role, at the time, of defending the Harper government as it dealt with a controversy about election robocalls.

A spokeswoman for the commissioner said Thursday that due to confidentiality laws she was unable provide details about Del Mastro’s case nor could she comment on his remarks about Cote.

“We don’t proceed with charges unless we have facts and evidence to support the laying of charges in any case,” said Michelle Laliberte, who noted Del Mastro’s conviction was upheld after a number of appeals.

His push for a parliamentary probe comes amid renewed public discussion about the elections commissioner’s decision to strike a so-called “compliance agreement” in 2016 with SNC-Lavalin.

Del Mastro, the former MP for Peterborough, Ont., maintained he never got a chance to reach a compliance agreement to avoid prosecution while Elections Canada negotiated deals in other cases, including one with Quebec engineering firm SNC-Lavalin.

The company reached the deal with Elections Canada after admitting executives who’d left the company by then had encouraged employees to give money to both the Liberal and Conservative parties on a promise they would be reimbursed. Reimbursing donors with company bonuses was a way to skirt an election law that forbids corporations from making political donations.

The Liberals got nearly $118,000 under the scheme, compared with the Tories’ $8,000.

To reach a compliance agreement, however, a party must admit wrongdoing. Del Mastro still insists he did nothing wrong.

He describes his conviction as a matter of differences of opinion on accounting practices. Del Mastro hopes a probe by MPs could lead to a new trial and he maintains he has evidence that was never brought before a court.

Del Mastro shared details of what life was like behind bars at a facility in Lindsay, Ont.

At first, he said, he spent 12 days in segregation because the warden feared he would be at risk among other inmates. But he asked to be moved to the general population, where he stayed for another eight days.

Segregation, he said, “is the craziest place on earth.”

“People scream all night,” Del Mastro said.

“My cell had been graffitied inside with Satanic propaganda – all the walls, the ceiling. It was like being inside the mind of a crazy person. People kick the doors and scream, and it sounds like they’re being tortured 24 hours a day.”

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