Tough economy slows prison call

B.C. government still finalizing the details on the proposed correctional facility in the Okanagan.

  • Dec. 16, 2011 5:00 a.m.

simone blais

Black Press

Uncertain financial times has prevented the B.C. government from pulling the trigger on finalizing the details on the proposed correctional facility in the Okanagan.

So says Premier Christy Clark, whose visit to Penticton Monday was spent answering questions from the media about the proposed Okanagan prison facility, and what was taking her government so long to make a decision.

“It’s still in planning work. It’s working its way through Treasury Board and some of those government processes right now. It’s taken longer than we’d anticipated for two reasons.,” she said.

“First, it’s a huge capital project in what is a very tough economy. As economies of the world have really gone south, we’ve been very carefully considering every dollar that we spend. It’s a very big project.”

Pursuing a prison are Lumby, Summerland, the Penticton Indian Band and the Osoyoos Indian Band.

Clark dismissed the idea that the HST referendum resulted in delays on the prison project.

“Overall, it’s fair to say that the HST has had an impact on the budget. There’s no question about it. There’s $1.6 billion we have to pay back to the federal government. So that’s having an impact across government,” she said.

“But we’re working our way through it. We’re looking at government with the knowledge of the HST having an impact, but way, way, way more importantly what is going on in the world economy.

“That is the biggest challenge B.C. faces economically, and we are at the moment a safe harbour for jobs and job creation. But we will not remain a safe harbour if government starts going out spending irresponsibly. If we’re not a safe harbour anymore, then we’re not attracting investment and losing jobs, not creating them. That’s the equation we’re trying to put together.”

When asked when residents could anticipate the government’s decision, Clark only offered “soon.”

“You’ll get a final decision soon. I wish I could be more specific than that,” she said.

The other element holding back a decision, she said, was the volume of material submitted by citizens reflecting their opinions on the project.

“I’m feeding that knowledge into our decision because if you want to open up government and you believe in letting people have a say, which I do, you listen to people’s views before you make a decision,” she said.