City could still see prison’s benefits

The people have spoken. Penticton residents overwhelming voted to reject the bid to locate a proposed correctional facility in the city.

The people have spoken. Penticton residents overwhelming voted to reject the bid to locate a proposed correctional facility in the city.

Last week’s public opinion poll saw 4,302 votes opposed to the correctional facility, with only 2,143 ballots cast in support. While it’s disappointing that less than one-quarter of the city’s 26,500 eligible voters took part in the poll, it doesn’t change the validity of the results. Voter turnout has long been a source of contention in Canadian elections, but that doesn’t diminish the legitimacy of our democratic system.

Although the city’s two proposed sites — one on Campbell Mountain and the other near the Cantex gravel pit — are now out of the running, Penticton could still see some of the economic stimulus that prison supporters had pinned their hopes on.

The Ministry of Solicitor General is expected to announce its choice for the location of an Okanagan prison within the near future. The province is looking at potential sites in Summerland, Lumby, as well as on the lands of the Osoyoos and Penticton Indian bands.

A selection of Osoyoos, PIB or Summerland would still bring significant economic activity to the entire South Okanagan. Although it should be noted that a selection of any of those three locations could likely face the prospect of a referendum to gauge support of local residents.

But the scope of benefits from a project of this magnitude — with an estimated cost of $200 million to build, that  will lead to the creation of hundreds of jobs and bring an overall economic benefit that one Penticton councillor calculated at $1 billion over a 10-year period — will certainly spill over into the entire region.

So while the opinion poll may have killed Penticton’s chances of locating a correctional facility within the city, supporters of the prison may still see some of the benefits they had been hoping for.

— Penticton Western News