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Dunlop becomes jail critic

Janis Leering: The Mirror
November 14, 2003

Sharon Dion was speechless when she heard Simcoe North MPP Garfield Dunlop is the new critic of Community Safety and Correctional Services.

Dion, a Penetanguishene resident who is chair of Citizens Against Private Prisons, was quite surprised to learn her MPP is now the critic of the jail.

"Why would he have a concern about this now, when he didn't before?" asked Dion. "He always dodged me."

Dunlop announced his new position recently, which is in addition to being the Chief Opposition Whip.

Dion said when Dunlop's party was in power for the past few years, he didn't appear to have any interest in dealing with private jail issues.

Now that the Liberals are in power, Dunlop said he wanted to be the critic. He requested the job, and was appointed by Ernie Eves earlier this month.

He told The Mirror it made sense for him to have the position, since the OPP Headquarters, Project Turnaround young offender program, and the Central North Correctional Centre are all in his riding.

"I felt comfortable being the critic, I would like to work on the opposition, to make sure the Liberals do their best in that area," said Dunlop.

He believes under Dalton McGuinty's rule, the Liberal party doesn't consider public safety a number one priority, and he wants to make sure the government doesn't lose track of safety.

He also said he will be calling Dion to speak to her about the Penetanguishene jail.

Dion said if Dunlop wants to talk to her about the jail, she is willing to educate him on prison privatization.

"Hopefully now, he's willing to listen," said Dion.

She also hopes he will renege on a previous statement, where he told Dion anyone who opposes private prisons will have egg on his face after the five-year contract is completed.

Dion wants to know why Dunlop is involved in the position now, especially since the OPP Headquarters and the jail were always in his riding.

Dunlop said he would have been eager to be the Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services while the Tories were still in power, but he didn't want to overstep his bounds.

"I told the premier I would be interested in it at some point, but being the parliamentary assistant to the premier and assistant to the Minister of Education, I thought it would be good to learn the system first. I didn't want to jump in immediately," said Dunlop.

Dion also told The Mirror there was a rumous circulating that the private contract for Project Turnaround, the young offender's institution in Hillsdale, won't be renewed this year by the Liberals, who are opposed to private facilities. She's confident the same will be true for the Central North Correctional Centre in a few years.

But Dunlop said the rumour about Project Turnaround hasn't been confirmed yet.

"It would be a tragedy if they try to shut it down. Firstly, it's more effective than the public institution, which was shut down by the NDP in 1993 or 1994."

Dunlop said the private facility is cheaper, and he added there are lower recidivism rates, and said if the contract is canceled, approximately 20 jobs will be lost.

"Project Turnaround is accepted by the community, and is a good facility."

It was reopened in 1997 as a private facility, with a military-style punishment for young offenders.

Dunlop said he will continue to learn more about his new position over the next few months, and plans to contact Dion in the future to talk about jail issues.

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