Voice your opinion at the ballot box

Following months of hotly charged rhetoric, Penticton residents will now make their way to the polls and cast their vote on an issue that could set the direction for the community for decades to come.

A non-binding opinion poll will be conducted next week to gauge Penticton residents’ reaction to the prospect of a 360-cell correctional centre being located in the community. The vote will be held Tuesday through Saturday between the hours of 8:30 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. at Penticton City Hall.

While the poll must be non-binding for legal purposes, make no mistake that city council will abide the outcome of the referendum. To do otherwise would make a mockery of council’s decision to conduct the vote and would carry fatal political consequences in this fall’s municipal elections.

While a no vote will certainly eliminate the Penticton sites — one on Campbell Mountain and another near the Cantex gravel pit — a yes vote doesn’t assure the provincial jail will be located in the city. Penticton is one of several Okanagan communities to express an interest in the proposed provincial jail and remand centre.

Solicitor General Shirley Bond has hinted the province will make a selection on the site of an Okanagan correctional centre in mid-June, although it seems to fly in the face of reason that a decision on a facility not scheduled to open until 2015 couldn’t be put off for a week to allow for further public input to be obtained.

Whatever the final outcome of the referendum may be, the most important thing is that all Penticton residents make their opinion known.

Whether you believe the correctional centre will bring a huge economic boost to the community or you fear the facility will jeopardize community safety, there are no wrong reasons to vote.

The whole purpose for the referendum is to find out your opinion, and you are the only one that can know the answer to that.

— Penticton Western News