How can Penticton best advance its economy? We who are opposed to locating a prison in Penticton argue that our beautiful city is well positioned to leverage existing assets into a strong, diverse, knowledge-driven creative economy.
This is the economy that will enable us to be nimble and to compete successfully in today’s rapidly changing world.
This is the economy that will make Penticton one of Canada’s most attractive places to live for the creative entrepreneurs and skilled workers that make up the knowledge-driven economy.
This is the economy that will enable our city to achieve aspirations for improved living standards and quality of life for all citizens.
But to succeed we need a clear vision of what we want our city to look and feel like in the foreseeable future, a plan to get there, and, most important, civic leadership with the will and courage to stick to the plan. We will never get there through ad hoc planning that leads us to amend our OCP every time we see a new bright shiny object.
So why can’t we pursue a willed future and have the prison, too? As has been pointed out repeatedly in letters from prison opponents, the known risks are simply too great. These risks have been well identified in excellent research dealing with the impact of prisons on small rural cities with struggling economies — circumstances that are comparable to our situation. The risks are numerous and are both economic and social. Of special concern are the risks of:
Unforeseen costs that can only be estimated with a detailed impact analysis. Some small prison towns have been devastated by huge infrastructure costs.
Social harm including increased prison-town crime rates and inevitable rise in policing costs. We know drug use is rampant in prisons and it spills into the host community with great harm.
Re-branding our image to that of a prison town. Large cities with economic diversity may be able to blunt the prison image, but smaller ones can’t.
But here’s the greatest concern of all: once we accept a prison, there can be no turning back. That is why a risk analysis is so critically important to our decision. Of course, citing a risk does not guarantee that it will happen. But even a quantitatively small risk with devastating impact is unacceptable, especially when we have better options.
So, no, we can’t have our cake and eat it. If we believe in our strengths and our potential for a better, stronger, more vital Penticton, we must say No to a prison. We can do better. We must do better. It is that simple.