After making headlines this week over controversial remarks Wild Rose Liberal candidate John Reilly officially opened his campaign headquarters in Canmore on Friday saying he needs to stick to his message of why he is running.
The former provincial court judge said he is disgusted with the Conservative government’s tough on crime approach.
He called Stephen Harper’s mandate of mandatory minimum sentences a cookie cutter approach to justice that will fill up the country’s jails.
“I’m not against tough justice,” Reilly said. “I want tougher justice for serious offenders and sanctions other than imprisonment for those who can be reformed.”
He pointed to programs like addiction counseling, mediation and life skills as means to help those who are down and out and get caught up in the justice system as a result.
“When we can deal with offenders in that way we can use the justice system to make our society better,” Reilly said.
He criticized the Conservatives saying they want to Americanize the election system, prison system and military.
"I think the two major parties should change their names – the Conservatives to the American party and the Liberals to the Canadian party,” he said.
Not new to making controversial statements, last week Reilly was a guest on QR77’s Rutherford Show and spoke against mandatory minimum sentences for some sexual assaults.
He used a specific example of a case he presided over as a judge and later said doing so was a mistake and apologized.
“I made a mistake and I don’t want to talk about it,” he said at his headquarters.
While Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff said on Thursday Reilly would remain the candidate in the riding Conservatives were calling for the 64-year-old to be sacked.
Reilly told the crowd of supporters he will survive the controversy and continue campaigning in Wild Rose for the next three and a half weeks.
NDP candidate Jeff Horvath said he has known Reilly for several years and has a lot of respect for him.
Horvath said while he was not comfortable with the comments Reilly made, he doesn’t think he should be removed as candidate because he apologized.
“In political campaigns you are talking to the media a lot and he said something I feel is inappropriate but he apologized and that is the right thing to do,” he said.