A pervert in a plaid shirt is luring a child in a park, but the Bloc Québécois will not do anything to stop him, the Conservative Party says in a new round of attack ads.
The message, which was sent at taxpayers' expense in every single Bloc riding, features a blurry picture of a small boy leaving a park with an older man. The two are walking hand-in-hand, and a nearby kiddy swing is empty.
"Your Bloc MP has voted against the protection of children," the tag line states.
The hard-hitting Conservative campaign aims to highlight the fact the Bloc was the only party last April that voted against a bill imposing minimum sentences for the trafficking of children, in matters such as prostitution rings.
"The Bloc prefers sweet deals for criminals. That's unacceptable," the Conservative campaign states.
Law-and-order issues are rarely at the centre of political debate in Quebec, but the Conservatives argue that Quebeckers are as concerned as other Canadians about crimes against children.
"What we are denouncing is the fact that the Bloc is voting against the values of Quebeckers," Conservative MP Steven Blaney said in an interview. He represents a riding just south of Quebec City.
The Conservative Party used a controversial method to distribute the ads, relying on each MP's ability to send out free mail to 10 per cent of the addresses in a riding.
The rules state that the pamphlet's contents must relate to parliamentary functions and cannot refer to coming elections. But the Conservatives have raised eyebrows in Parliament by issuing hard-hitting partisan pamphlets in opposition ridings.
In this case, the carpet-bombing of the 48 Bloc ridings was sponsored by Conservative MPs in and outside Quebec.
Bill C-268 proposes "minimum sentence for offences involving trafficking of persons under the age of eighteen years," and has been championed by Conservative MP Joy Smith. It was approved at second reading in April by a vote of 232-47, and will now be studied by the justice committee of the House.
The Bloc explains that it voted against Bill C-268 because it prevents judges from exercising their discretion.
"Minimum sentences have no dissuasive effect," said Bloc MP and whip Michel Guimond.
Mr. Guimond said the use of parliamentary resources to send out the ads is despicable. "It's just unbelievable, saying that we are against the protection of children … and are almost condoning these types of abuses," he said.
The Conservatives defended the practice and the content of the ads, saying that it was a reflection of a clear vote in Parliament.
Mr. Blaney said that with the Winter Olympics coming to Vancouver next year, "we want to make sure that Canada does not become a centre of human trafficking."
Most recent polls in Quebec have put the Bloc or the Liberals in the lead, with the Conservatives far behind. Mr. Guimond of the Bloc said the Conservatives are acting "like tracked animals and they are willing to try anything to survive."
To date, most Conservative negative advertising campaigns have been targeted at former Liberal leader Stéphane Dion and current Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff.
In Quebec, the Conservatives have depicted Mr. Ignatieff as an unknown quantity who speaks Parisian French and has little understanding of Quebec's distinctiveness.
During the last election, Conservative ads portrayed the Bloc as a powerless force in Canadian politics, emphasizing the fact that Bloc MPs are in perpetual opposition.Report Typo/Error