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COMMENTARY · 18th February 2010
Merv Ritchie
Edited: Feb. 19 - NDI slide show and speaking notes attached below. Mayor Pernarowski's notes on slides 10 to 18. Monaghan's followed with slides 19 to 24.

The news about Terrace, heard across BC, has been featuring reports about the City pursuing a Federal Penitentiary. Those who live here must be wondering where this new venture, this concept, this new Council initiative came from. On March 10, 2009 the City Council presented a complete list of their initiatives at a town hall meeting which we reported on HERE. No where can be read a reference to a Jail. In fact in the past three years of attending Council we cannot recall this topic ever being mentioned. Mayor David Pernarowski was interviewed on CBC today speaking to this possibility and it was suggested an area near the Airport might be suitable. Even the local weekly newspaper has featured this as a major Council initiative. Yet by all accounts it simply came out of nowhere.

The first time this was mentioned in public was in January during a presentation in Victoria to the two legislature caucuses, the NDP and the Liberals, and it was first presented to Terrace City Council on February 8th, 2010, when the Mayor displayed the slide show he delivered at those meetings. Most of the slide show was new to the Councillors as they did not have a hand in creating it. Mayor Pernarowski and City Chief Administrative Officer (CAO), Ron Poole, acknowledged Northern Development Initiative Trust (NDI) designed it.

According to Councillor Bidgood this jail is not a major initiative of the Terrace Council. He recalled a discussion on a proposal, initiated by NDI shortly before the meeting in Victoria, that Terrace might consider applying for a grant to do a feasibility study on applying to the federal government for the consideration of locating a federal corrections facility here, but that was where it stopped. No Council discussions were held on this in any depth like ‘was this something Council wanted?’, certainly no discussion related to location. That, however, didn’t stop NDI from including this in the notes and slide presentation requesting the Provincial Government support this initiative and Pernarowski suggesting a location.

“The passing of Bill C-17 in the House of Commons is expected to put significant demands on the existing correctional facility occupancy space in the Province.” wrote NDI on behalf of the City of Terrace and read Mayor Pernarowski, “However the construction of a federally-operated correctional facility in the region could mean $170 million in investment, up to 200 permanent employment positions, and would directly support economic diversification.”

This paragraph was preceded by a request that the Provincial Government support Terrace in its desire to establish this jail here.

CAO Poole stated that none of the initiatives presented at the meeting in Victoria were new, that they were all presented in the past. Mayor Pernarowski also stated that everything in the slide show had been discussed. They both acknowledged however, that the slide show had not been shown to the council before it was delivered to the politicians in Victoria.

The discussions of establishing a penitentiary here were at best peripheral, nothing that could be taken as a major council initiative as has been widely reported. Pernarowski even joked about the slide show as if his fellow councillors would be bored if he brought a slide show to Council. This is no laughing matter.

There are a number of points/issues to consider from the preceding material. First and foremost is; what is this Bill C-17 that will create the need for more space to lock up Canadian Citizens? A second point to consider is what is acceptable for ‘Economic Diversification’? The third consideration is how NDI has become the primary determining factor, not the elected Councillors, for how Terrace develops as a community.

NDI is a bureaucratic body, which was set up by the BC Government after they broke their election promise and sold BC Rail. Although the alleged fraudulent surroundings of the sale are still before the courts, NDI has been operating as an independent funding agency using the money available to assist Northern regions. The Penitentiary concept was not the only thing NDI had Pernarowski speak about as a Terrace initiative, he also asked the Provincial Government to request the Federal Government ‘devolve’ (turn over) to the Province, environmental assessments for mining projects. Pernarowski even took on the task of promoting Clean Green energy asking for an ‘Expedited conclusion to the BC Utilities Commission inquiry” and “A more frequent call for power by BC Hydro.” It is almost as if NDI wrote the speaking notes for Pernarowski on behalf of Premier Campbell. It wouldn’t be much of a stretch to believe this though as NDI is a paid political position. As for economic diversification, the call for green power, into a new grid system connected to Alaska, to facilitate the development of resource properties along the Northern Transmission Line (NTL) route, might suit the region better than a penitentiary. This however might involve having a discussion on the concept, not just being a puppet and repeating what someone else told you to say.

The last point is the Federal Bill to be passed in the House of Commons, Bill C-17, which will apparently cause an influx of new inmates. This Bill has been referred to as the “Pot Law”. Yes, the Federal Government is in the process of redesigning the terms of incarceration for possession, cultivation and trafficking of cannabis and its derivatives such as hashish. The new law suggests very small amounts should be treated simply with fines; under a gram of hash nets a $300 fine, less than 15 grams of pot $150. The new law even allows for being busted for up to three pot plants, $500 fine. But that’s where it the nicety ends.

Over 3 plants could net you 5 years. Today most police leave you alone unless you have a decent sized plantation 15 plus plants. With this new law you are considered a hard core criminal at three. More than 25 plants nets you 10 years and more than 50 could get you a term of 14 years behind bars. The consideration of alcohol causing virtually all the domestic disputes and causing such carnage on the highways is not part of this discussion. Nor is the fact that a plant that has just sprouted from a seed can still be counted as one plant of your three plant max.

All of this seems to be lost on elected officials that parrot what the bureaucrats write for them. It is sad that the elected members of Governmental bodies cannot think for themselves. In the Federal and Provincial legislative houses they cannot even freely vote, they must vote as they are told. But listening to our Mayor profess to speak on behalf of our City when he is just reading text prepared for him by the Campbell Liberal appointee to promote the very things Campbell wants, well this is all just too embarrassing for Terrace. So now what do the rest of the Councillors do? Not support the Mayor? Hardly, they’ll all find some way to explain how they were aware of this and support it whole heartedly; unity of the lemmings possibly?

Same thing happened in Kitimat. Mayor Monaghan read off a sheet prepared for her to accompany her slide presentation courtesy of NDI. Most of the information used was delivered to NDI by KTIDS (Kitimat Terrace Industrial Development Society) another completely unelected body. The Councillors in Kitimat however expressed outrage at not being consulted prior to the presentation. Even Rio Tinto Alcan expressed some surprise that NDI had included the Kemano Completion Project in Kitimat’s desired initiative. It wasn’t part of their plan according to spokeperson Collean Nyce. Was this just another wish list of Campbell included in the NDI package Monaghan parroted? It sure fits with the call for clean green power Mayor Pernarowski asked for.

Today Terrace hit the news with CBC and others talking about the City’s desire to build a federal penitentiary within its boundaries. It has all become a typical ‘Dog and Pony Show’ where a slick salesman leads you through a series of amazing stunts and at the end you jump up with glee and buy into the product. These are the tactics of fraudsters and scam artists, not reasoned thinking people, those who we purportedly elected to represent us.
Elect a Vegetable.
Comment by Ben Christie on 20th February 2010
It is sad that the elected members of Governmental bodies cannot think for themselves. In the Federal and Provincial legislative houses they cannot even freely vote, they must vote as they are told.

There you have the problem in a nutshell. Until we get rid of "Party" politics alltogether and actually elect people who will do as they are told by their constituants, we have no representation anymore. Total waste of time to vote.
Two sides...
Comment by Mike Forward on 20th February 2010
I see two sides to this.

On the one hand, I see the NDI performing its function, which is to try and stimulate the economy of the area and attract new business and potential employers to the area. This is the reason it was created and they seem to be performing that function, at least.

The downside of it to me is the lack of communication between the NDI and the local Councils. This is seemingly the norm up here. Where a united front could get the job done quicker, it builds distrust and disrupts the "political harmony"(if such a thing exists) when one group(NDI) blindsides another(local Councils) with proposals.

Not even focussing on the idea of a correctional facility but just broadly, it would be nice if the NDI and Councils could collaborate on some of these ideas. That responsibility goes both ways - the NDI has to be more forthcoming with Councils, and the Councils have to look to get more involved and get more information from the NDI. And I do not mean loudly pontificating during broadcasted Council meetings about how you were not included - I mean approaching the parties involved and saying that you want in on the process.

As far as the specific idea of a correctional facility goes, obviously every proposal has its pros and cons. The pros obviously being a large number of permanent jobs, the cons obviously being that a large number of convictssome potentially dangerous offendersbeing housed not all that far from our families and loved ones.