10/01/2015 09:12 EDT | Updated 10/01/2016 05:12 EDT

Harper: Mandatory Minimum Sentence For Serious Fraud Will Be Introduced

Harper is back in Quebec to prepare for the final French language leaders' debate.

TORONTO — The Conservatives pledged Thursday to introduce another mandatory minimum sentence if they're re-elected, this time for serious fraud.

The party has long portrayed itself as tough on crime, introducing or increasing various so-called mandatory minimums even as the courts have struck down some as unconstitutional.

Finance Minister Joe Oliver said a Conservative government would introduce a two-year, mandatory minimum sentence for financial fraud over $5,000 with multiple victims, unless the offender pays full restitution.

Oliver was standing in for Stephen Harper, who had no public events as he prepared for Friday's French-language leaders' debate in Montreal.

Oliver, speaking at a Toronto geriatric hospital, says the law is aimed at those who perpetrate fraud against seniors.

"We will ensure that our laws and law enforcement agencies are able to keep pace with the ways criminals are attempting to defraud our seniors," Oliver said.

The Conservatives would also increase resources for the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre to focus on Internet-based fraud against seniors, he said.

The announcement was one of two highly targeted Conservative pledges on Thursday. Former MP Stockwell Day and candidate Dianne Watts, the former mayor of Surrey B.C., went to that city — recently racked by a spate of gun violence — to promise to create a formal list of criminal gangs, as well as spend $2.5 million more a year on efforts to steer teens away from gang activity.

The Conservative mandatory minimum sentences have covered drug and gun crimes, as well as some sex offences and have come in for criticism by opposition parties and human rights groups.

Earlier this year, the Supreme Court of Canada agreed to explore whether a drug possession mandatory minimum is constitutional. It has already struck down another mandatory minimum for gun crimes.

With the French-language debate looming, the Conservatives hope to double their seat count in Quebec after holding five in the last Parliament.

Harper made an energetic speech to supporters in Quebec City on Wednesday evening, outlining some of his key policies.

While the economy and public safety are main issues in the province, the line that drew the most applause in Harper's pitch was his pledge to legislate a ban on wearing face veils during citizenship ceremonies.

Once again, he said the idea that people should show their faces at the moment they become Canadians reflects both Conservative and Quebec values.

Some suggest that Tory fortunes in Quebec have been buoyed by the niqab issue, which is opposed by both the NDP and the Liberals.

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