The Conservatives used their tough-on-crime agenda to launch an attack website against former provincial court judge and star NDP candidate Carol Baird Ellan in the Burnaby North – Seymour riding this week, inviting the public to judge Baird Ellan’s past legal decisions.
On youbethejudge.ca, the Conservative campaign features three of Ellan’s judicial decisions in cases, including a child sexual abuser and child pornographer, highlighting sentences the Tories describe as soft on crime.
Those include a two-year jail sentence Baird Ellan handed an 86-year-old North Vancouver man in 2010 for past sexual abuse of his two granddaughters.
The site then encourages those who find the sentence too lenient to enter their contact details into a Conservative campaign data collection system.
Mike Little, the Conservative candidate and former District of North Vancouver councillor, said Baird Ellan’s record on the bench is something the public should know about.
“There are a lot of decisions I think the public would be surprised at how lenient she was on the perpetrators,” he said. “Our top priority is naturally going to be to keep our children safe,” he said. Little said for that reason, the Tories chose to outline areas where young victims were “not protected by the justice system.”
The website pointed to one 20-year-old decision where Baird Ellan handed an additional one-day sentence to a man who’d spent 51 days in jail for exposing himself to children for the 22nd time.
Little contrasted that with the Conservatives’ record in bringing in laws that increased minimum sentences for sex crimes against children.
“We just think this is something we need to be discussing,” he said.
Baird Ellan said the website “appears to be a sign of desperation.”
She said the website presents an over-simplification of her decisions as a judge by taking them out of context and not mentioning legal precedents that bind judges’ decisions.
“None of these cases were appealed,” she said. “Two of the things I was passionate about as a judge were justice and fairness.”
Baird Ellan pointed to NDP leader Tom Mulcair’s promise to hire an additional 2,500 police officers as key to public safety.
“The police on the ground are the ones who are doing law enforcement,” she said.
She added ensuring resources for mental health is another key to crime prevention.
Max Cameron, a political scientist at the University of British Columbia, said the attack website appears designed to motivate the base of Tory support in the Burnaby North – Seymour riding, who are more likely to “get riled up over issues of crime and justice.”
Cameron said taking on Baird Ellan’s decisions continues a Tory pattern where “they haven’t hesitated to very publicly criticize the courts for decisions that have been made.”
Liberal candidate Terry Beech said the Tory attack website is “certainly not the type of campaign that I want to run.”
“If I was Mike Little I’d be ashamed for using that tactic,” he said.
Cameron said the fact parties are starting to pull the gloves off is a sign of a tight race in the newly created riding.
“It’s a battleground riding that both the NDP and Conservatives want,” he said, adding campaigns are “going to get a lot nastier” the closer it gets to Oct. 19.