Due to provincial regulations prohibiting such a vote, Penticton council has cancelled a binding referendum on whether the municipality pursues the building of a 360-cell correctional centre within the city’s limits.
Instead, Mayor Dan Ashton announced Tuesday that the city will hold a non-binding community opinion poll from June 14 to 18 between the hours of 8:30 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. at City Hall.
Originally, Ashton said council had been advised that the prison issue met the criteria for a binding referendum under the community charter, the set of rules which govern B.C. municipalities. However, council recently received a legal assessment stating otherwise.
The community opinion poll process will cost the city only $6,000 compared to the referendum’s $50,000 bill.
Ashton said that when it comes time for council to deliberate on the prison, he will cast his vote based on the opinion poll results.
“I will be listening to what the community says and I have been saying that all the way along,” said Ashton. “If the majority of this community wants to carry on with this process then I am prepared to do that and if they don’t, then I’m not prepared to do that.”
Penticton submitted two sites to the provincial government in March — one on Campbell Mountain and the other near the Cantex gravel pit — as part of a larger regional bid. It voted unanimously to hold the now-cancelled binding referendum after facing growing opposition to the prison, including a May 2 protest and a 3,458-signature petition presented to the mayor Tuesday.
“I appreciate the hard work that those individuals have done but I want to hear what the entire community has to say,” Ashton said. “This isn’t something that is for one or two years. A facility like this will be in Penticton for 50 to 60 years or even more. This will set the direction for council so hopefully (the opinion poll) will be a well-participated event.”