Minister responds to article on Okanagan jail

An open, competitive process will harness the experience of qualified bidders and maximize value for money.

I’m writing to correct the record about the Okanagan Correctional Centre and the use of the public-private partnership model to deliver the project (NDP critic questions costs for Okanagan jail, Dec. 21).

British Columbians have seen many projects delivered under the PPP model — on or ahead of time, and on budget. The ongoing expansion of the award-winning Surrey Pretrial Services Centre is continuing this successful approach. Just last year, it was recognized with a Gold Award for Project Financing by the Canadian Council for Public Private Partnerships. The Okanagan Correctional Centre project is likewise on schedule at this stage, with the construction cost estimated to be about $200 million — a lower estimate despite adding an 18-cell women’s unit.

An open, competitive process will harness the experience of qualified bidders and maximize value for money. In the past year, we’ve seen unprecedented interest in partnership projects, with upwards of 11 teams responding to RFQs — most of them Canadian.

As a holistic approach incorporating not only construction but also operations and maintenance, the PPP process typically goes further, providing the contractor with incentives for meeting deadlines, incorporating state-of-the-art efficiencies and ensuring a lasting, quality facility. At the same time, the PPP model ensures government maintains control over services, owns the asset, and uses an amortization schedule that is standard for any large capital project.

We also want to point out that our stated offer to pay the two unsuccessful, shortlisted bidders a small portion of their Okanagan bid-related costs is not unique in the development industry. The construction cost and length of agreement contemplated are considerable and warrant an in-depth process toward final bidder selection. This is just one more step that will protect taxpayers’ interests and maximize value-for-money for more than a generation to come.

The community and citizens of Oliver signalled their interest in hosting this new secure custody centre, and the Osoyoos Indian Band site had community support and met all of the project criteria. We look forward to working with the Osoyoos Indian Band during the facility’s construction phase, which will create up to 500 direct and 500 indirect jobs. When it’s finished, the centre will employ around 240 workers and many others in B.C.’s interior, including nurses, doctors and trades personnel.

Shirley Bond

Minister of Justice and Attorney General