A Prison in Summerland, BC? No: Oliver.

Correctional facility approved for Oliver, BC

Archive for January 2012

The reasons for the delay with the Okanagan prison decision

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In December, I spoke with Rudy Enzmann, Executive Assistant to Okanagan MP Dan Albas about the delay re the announcement for the correctional facility in the Okanagan. The context of our conversation, is as follows:

Site Servicing

The holdup re the decision is in part, due to ongoing internal cost reviews on infrastructure costs.

Some of the sites that were initially put forward, were already fully serviced whereas others were completely un-serviced.  Ultimately site servicing costs can be very significant and this would be a consideration in the site selection process along with how the costs of these services were being paid for. 

It is conceivable that the Province may assume the full costs of these expenses or conversely look to enter into cost sharing or partnership agreements with a municipality. 

If it is the latter case, then initial costs could be offset by the benefits down the road and there would be agreements based on latecomers fees, eg: If the site is only on septic it could be a cost sharing issue but all these scenarios are factors currently being looked at, and it may be that the Province assumes all costs.

There’s also the possibility of holding a referendum to authorize borrowing funds required for that infrastructure. Some communities will chose not to participate because of the complexities of the arrangement or the requirement to borrow the money. When the municipality gets into an infrastructure agreement, it may have surplus or “reserve” funds for infrastructure; it could be electrical or water funds or they may have to look to borrow the money for the project.

Public expenditures are always undertaken in order to provide a public benefit. The challenge with provincial remand centers is that these require a straight outflow of capital funds to build, maintain and operate on a yearly basis. These are significant expenditures.

Location

Various areas have been looked at and since there are already facilities in Prince George and Kamloops, the Province needs to look at the Okanagan.

There is no doubt from information to date [that Rudy has seen], that there is justification to have a remand in the southeast quadrant. We can justify that from a logistical standpoint. Proper inmate housing along with the ability to provide logistics and efficiencies that meet legal requirements and the needs of the justice system are also important concerns as are overall costs to taxpayers to do so.

But there are site servicing criteria that have to be considered and it’s a strictly geographical aspect as to where you put the facility. Servicing is a huge part of it and it’s costly.

Transportation

There’s another aspect that has been overlooked and that’s the transportation issue. For remand prisoners you have a lot more movement; shuttling to different facilites. There’s a lot of movement of inmates. To accommodate that movement you need a very good road network. 

What transportation arteries do we have? One of the challenges with the South Okanagan is, for example; a slide on the road. The advantage in other parts of the Okanagan is that there are far more road options so you could use a detour if necessary. South Okanagan sites are geographically isolated and you get road closures. A road closure is a problem when you’re transporting a lot of prisoners.

The bottom line is that expanding the Kamloops facility isn’t the answer because the Okanagan is a corridor where it’s needed. It will be somewhere in the Okanagan and you can make an argument that it should be in the southeast quadrant of BC.

HST Payback

The other factor in the holdup of the decision is the HST. The HST payback could put a huge dent in the plans for the facility.

This is speculation only, but a decision may not occur until after the Provincial throne speech [Feb 14] and the new budget is released [Feb 21]. Although it also could occur at any time. 

As mentioned, the final point as to the timing of the announcement, is purely speculative. $200 million is a very significant amount of money, and more so as reverting back to the PST will result in a net loss of revenue to the Provincial Government and increased administration costs.

At the time the previous budget was tabled the results of the HST referendum would not have been known, likewise it also my personal opinion that the Province underestimated the amount of excess revenues that were generated by moving to the HST. I believe this was in large part because the Government, much like the public, was very unaware of the massive amount of services under PST that were taxable exempt.

Fortunately the BC Government now has a much more broad-based understanding of the revenue implications of reverting back to the PST system and also now has established repayment terms with respect to the transition money.  As such I will maintain my speculative point of view that a decision will not likely be forthcoming until after the upcoming budget/throne speech.

Footnote: Rudy Enzmann was the only person who was forthcoming with information concerning the delay with the correctional facility announcement. Instead of giving the standard answer of “it’s a big decision and has to be weighed carefully”, he took the time to explain the holdup and with reasons that made sense. Thank you Rudy.

Written by summerlandbc

January 25, 2012 at 11:35 pm