A decision on the long-anticipated proposed correctional facility is expected “very soon,” according to the minister in charge.
In a letter dated Nov. 4, Solicitor General Shirley Bond wrote B.C. Government and Service Employees’ Union president Darryl Walker to inform him that she hopes “to make an announcement very soon” with respect to the possible development of a correctional centre in the Okanagan.
“We currently have site proposals from four communities. We are now identifying funding for completion of a business case that will meet all development requirements and their costs regarding facility design, site development, off-site and environmental issues and discussions with affected First Nations,” she wrote. “At this time, evaluations of the proposed sites are being completed.”
Interest in a correction facility has come from Lumby, Summerland, the Penticton Indian Band and the Osoyoos Indian Band.
Bond also mentioned that she has met with community leaders about the status of the proposal, but “we must complete the necessary diligence with respect to evaluation and funding.”
Walker said the letter was reassuring in the sense that it’s an indication a pending decision will be made, but would like to see the government move swiftly.
“Our belief is it’s time to get on with it. It will take, I suspect, two to three years even once a shovel goes in the ground to bring this about,” he said. “In two or three years, we will look very, very different provincially within our prison system.”
He said that overcrowding at nearby Kamloops Regional Correctional Centre is currently “overflowing,” which justifies, in his mind, a new remand centre now.
Should Bill C-10, the federal government’s omnibus crime bill, pass, Walker added, there will be more pressure put on the provincial system as additional criminals are sent to prison.
“We’re not only concerned with what is happening now, we believe down the road there will be a greater need,” he said, adding Bond should consider seeking additional resources from Ottawa should the federal government lengthen sentences.
“They’re the ones who are changing the law. Have they given any thought to what the cost is going to be to provincial funds and whether the federal government will make some more money available?”
Walker suggested that the ministry should decide on their desired site as quickly as possible so thorough consultations can be made with affected communities.
“We are waiting with baited breath just like everyone else,” he said.
“We’re all in the same situation. Money seems to be very, very tight, and it probably is. But for capital budgets, there seems to be a lot of construction. Building, especially highways, is brisk these days.
“I suspect they would be able to find the money for the capital construction, it’s just when and where and let’s get to it,” he said.