Decision to close 103-year-old Dauphin jail is final, says Pallister government
Dozens of opponents swarm legislature Thursday, as NDP presents petition to prevent closure
The Pallister government is standing firm on its decision to close the Dauphin Correctional Centre, despite the Opposition NDP handing in a petition against the closure during Thursday's question period, with dozens of people from Dauphin in attendance.
The closure, announced in January, is an unpopular move because of the impact it will have on the City of Dauphin as a whole.
NDP leader Wab Kinew said part of that antagonism stems for there being no consultation with the community prior to the announcement.
Kinew asked Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister why there was no consultation during question period Thursday.
"The previous administration, under NDP rule, failed to listen to its own consultants in respect to the closure of the facility," Pallister said in response, adding the NDP government was told "on several occasions" the jail was at end-of-life.
The facility is over a century old and does not meet the current standard required for a correctional facility, Justice Minister Cliff Cullen has said.
During a media conference call Wednesday, Cullen cited several reports that were conducted while the NDP were still in power that said the facility was in terrible condition.
The closure will result in 80 people losing their job by the end of June, which opponents have compared to losing 8,000 jobs in Winnipeg.
This has led to concern about how the city's economy will be impacted as a whole by the layoffs, because the affected workers and their families may be forced to move.
"My mother comes from Dauphin. I love that area dearly … and care very, very deeply about the future of that region," Pallister said.
During Thursday's question period, NDP leader Wab Kinew presented a petition with 5,700 signatures from Dauphin and the Parkland area, condemning the decision to close the jail.
"They want their jobs protected, they want a new healing lodge facility," Kinew said, as dozens of people from Dauphin watched from the gallery.
"The amount of people that have attended today, the amount of Manitobans who have signed those petitions, definitely are trying to send a clear statement: suspend your decision to close the Dauphin jail. Put the new one in place, and let's build," Michelle Gawronsky, MGEU president, told reporters after question period.
Cullen told reporters on Wednesday's conference call that the decision is final, and there are no plans for a new facility.
"Looking back, there is no record for any tender for design, no tender for construction," Cullen said. "It's our view the NDP were out making promises to people in the Parkland that they weren't going to be keeping."
As for jobs, Cullen has been adamant that the province would work with the affected workers, and on Wednesday he announced a transition committee was developed to take that on.
There are currently 100 job vacancies in corrections in the province, Cullen told reporters.
"Our expectation is anyone who wants to stay and work in corrections will have the ability to do that," Cullen said.
The transition committee will also help the workers' family members who are also government employees to find provincial opportunities in new areas, and will find chances for retraining laid off workers who want to stay in Dauphin, said the media release about the committee.
Although the decision to close the jail is final, Cullen said there is flexibility as to when workers will be cut; those with children in school will be kept on until summer break.
With files from Riley Laychuk and Ezra Belotte-Cousineau