A federal prison near Kimberley?

Regional district directors are floating the idea of a maximum security prison in the East Kootenay

The East Kootenay’s regional government is adding federal prison to its “file of ideas” that would encourage economic development.

Although the idea would be a decade down the road, and has not been endorsed by the entire board of directors, Chair Rob Gay told the board on Friday, October 4 that the idea had been presented to him.

Gay and a small group of board members met with Kootenay Columbia MP David Wilks in September to discuss the possibility of a maximum security prison in the East Kootenay.

Gay told the board Friday that of the two federal prisons in B.C., one may need to be relocated after another 10 years.

“So the thoughts were, maybe we should let MP Wilks know that at least our area is interested. We didn’t go any further than that, we didn’t make any commitments. I just said that I was going to bring that forward to the board and mention that we had that discussion,” said Gay.

While he did not state his support for a prison in the region, Chair Gay did point out that it would bring jobs to the region.

“Federal prisons are economic generators. There is no question. It’s long-term employment; the ratio for these penitentiaries is about one worker for every person who is incarcerated,” he told the board.

A federally owned property near Kimberley was floated as a possible location for a prison – what’s known locally as the old Kimberley airport, between Meadowbrook and Tata Creek off Highway 95A.

The idea was first presented by Kimberley councillor Don McCormick, who is originally from Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, which has three prisons: the Prince Albert Correctional Centre, Pine Grove Correctional Centre and the Saskatchewan Federal Penitentiary.

However, Kimberley Mayor Ron McRae pointed out that McCormick was not acting on behalf of the city.

“I just want to point out to the group that the City of Kimberley did not officially authorize what Mr. McCormick did. He did that on his own and the City of Kimberley is not pushing the concept of having a prison within the city limits of Kimberley, nor within the Regional District of East Kootenay,” McRae told the board.

Chair Gay added that there was no direct outcome from the meeting.

“If people come forward with economic development ideas that may create jobs, we’ll listen to it, but we didn’t endorse anything, we didn’t support anything, it was just under our file of ideas,” he said.

“We talked about what’s the possibility, and they said, like five per cent.”