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Hudak revives law-and-order message, pledges public sex-offender registry

The Conservative campaign vowed to make the province's sex-offender registry public and to place monitoring bracelets on anyone police consider to be at a high risk to offend.

The party's platform has a heavy focus on law and order, but Mr. Hudak spent the first week of the campaign focusing on the Liberals' plan to provide a $10,000 tax credit for companies who hire immigrants and on his plan to reduce taxes to create jobs.

"I will create a sex-offender registry and make it public so moms and dads will know if there's a child predator in their neighbourhood and take the right precautions," he said.

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Surrounded by a group of parents who earlier this month found out sex offender Sarah Dahle was living next to a neighbourhood school in a halfway house, Mr. Hudak said his program would make it easier to keep track of high-risk offenders, and keep parents informed about who is living next door.

Asked about whether the program could lead to vigilante justice or make it more difficult for sex offenders to adjust to life out of prison, he said violence against anyone wouldn't be tolerated.

"I believe crime and violence against anyone won't be tolerated," he said. "Including criminals. I trust parents to use that information responsibly."

Parent Paula Pimiskern said if she had information about where Ms. Dahle was living, she would tell her kids to steer clear.

"If we knew where, then we could tell our kids not to linger," she said. "if we knew there was someone there, we could tell them to stay away."

Mr. Hudak praised the parents for getting Ms. Dahle moved out of the community, though he didn't respond to a question asking him where sex offenders should live when they finish their jail terms.

"These parents were shocked by news that a sexual offender ... was released into a house right next to a school," he said. "I thank these parents for standing up and doing what is right. [Ms. Dahle]has been moved up the 401 and is now in the London area somewhere."

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Liberal Leader Dalton McGuinty, once again adopting a condescending tone toward his chief rival, said Mr. Hudak's tough-on-crime policies are "misinformed."

Releasing inmates in provincial jails into the community to work on chain gangs is not only expensive, Mr. McGuinty said, but it puts everyone at risk.

"Our prisoners are where they should be," he told reporters following a speech to a business group in his hometown of Ottawa. "That's in the jails."

Mr. McGuinty also slammed Mr. Hudak's plans to put the Ontario sex-offender registry online and have convicted individuals wear ankle bracelets.

Such an approach would just force convicted sex offenders into hiding, Mr. McGuinty said, and police would lose track of their whereabouts.

"I just think he's misinformed when it comes to those particular kind of policies," he said. "It's not in keeping with our desire to uphold public safety."

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Mr. Hudak should listen to those in authority, he said, and take his cues from police, as the Liberals did during their eight years in office. These are the individuals who have the expertise and who are devoted to keeping our streets safe, Mr. McGuinty said.

Mr. Hudak's program calls for GPS monitoring of high-risk-to-offend criminals, and used the example of someone who beat his wife when asked who would be a candidate for 24-hour surveillance until his trial.

"For example, if there's an ex-husband charged for beating his wife and there's a high-risk to re-offend, police would have GPS tracking devices – so if he goes anywhere near his wife or anywhere near his kids, police can stop a violent act before it happens," he said.

The plan is contentious, even among law enforcers. Ontario Provincial Police Commissioner Chris Lewis said in a recent interview that he's "discussed this internally. And in the U.S. states where they do that, it doesn't lend itself to greater adherence. … We have almost 100 per cent compliance in this province with the sex-offender registry, because they're not online and they obey the rules."

The commissioner also expressed concerns that residents would seek out sex offenders and mete out their own punishment, citing an example in the United States when citizens attacked a man "they didn't know from a hole in the ground" and killed him for his crimes.

NDP leader Andrea Horwath said she'd have to speak with police chiefs and public-safety officials before deciding whether it's a good idea to strap GPS devices to sex offenders or make public the sex-offender registry.

"I don't think that's a decision that can be made without serious consultation with the chiefs of police," she said. "I know when the issue came up they raised some concerns. ... Does this create vigilanteism? What are the policing implications of that?"

– With a report from Anna Mehler Paperny

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About the Author

Karen Howlett is a national reporter based in Toronto. She returned to the newsroom in 2013 after covering Ontario politics at The Globe’s Queen’s Park bureau for seven years. Prior to that, she worked in the paper’s Vancouver bureau and in The Report on Business, where she covered a variety of beats, including financial services and securities regulation. More

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