It appears we are not being told the truth by our provincial Liberal government, and perhaps, possibly, by our local politicians here in the South Okanagan.
As someone who has been personally promoting the need for a correctional facility in the Okanagan, I have learned that a lack of transparency (one might call it a form of deceit) by the Campbell/Clark Liberals, and in particular by our present Solicitor General and former forestry minister Rich Coleman, now makes it necessary for a change of mind.
In April 2004 the provincial government handed over control of its real estate wing to a private company, Brookfield LePage Johnson Controls (BLJC) which included the operation of 10 B.C. correctional facilities. (In 2004, Coleman had earlier stated that “privatization is not even being discussed in government circles.”) Under this contract, BCGEU employees (which includes all personnel working in prisons), formerly negotiating with the province, came under BLJC management. BLJC also controls Island Timberlands on Vancouver Island, which is registered in Bermuda, which makes it exempt from certain Canadian taxes and civil judgements, which follows that control of our correctional facilities would also be coming from its Bermuda headquarters.
In March of this year, Brookfield signed a deal with the B.C. government to design, build, finance and maintain an extension of the Surrey Pretrial Services Centre. This facility becomes the first P3 (private-public partnership) correctional facility in the province.
It is quite likely that any negotiations held between any group in the Okanagan for a remand centre would need to be concluded with BJCL as the main “proponent,” despite assurances by Mayor Dan Ashton (who would no longer be involved) that this would not happen.
It is also quite possible, now that extensions are being considered for a number of corrections facilities in B.C. (Surrey being the first, Prince George also being on the list), that we could never be assured that increases in the number of cells in the Okanagan correctional centre would remain at the 350 cell level now called for.
I must admit that I have changed my mind, not for the need of a correctional facility here, but because of the possibility of having to deal with a P3 contractor such as BLJC, whose primary objective is the enrichment of the management and shareholders of the company.