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Penetanguishene council has mixed reaction to jail's first year

Janis Leering: The Mirror
Jan. 7, 2003

The Mirror recently asked each of the Penetanguishene council members how they feel about just passing the one-year anniversary of the Central North Correctional Centre.

Here are their various responses:

Mayor Anita Dubeau
"I'm pleased with the economic spin-offs that have been created for the community.

"I feel that Management and Training Corporation Canada has gone out of their way to hire local people for doing business, and that's a plus. They try to accommodate to the best of their ability if there is ever a problem, such as the current situation where they turned off the garburators and have trucked the waste offsite.

"There have been issues from time to time, and MTC Canada has come forward immediately. I do not believe the safety of the community is threatened at the moment, but we have to always show due diligence and be aware about what is happening there."

Coun. Brian Cummings
"I still think there are a lot of secretive things going on, and I'm not in agreement with it. I haven't seen anything from the team that reports to the ministry, and there have been several incidents at the jail. It's not running as smoothly as we are told it is. There's not too much to say about Management and Training Corporation - Canada as a private operator, because I don't hear much about the company itself.

"I want to know where the programs are they said they would do in the RFP - the industry program was supposed to be up and running in six months from occupancy, but it's not. They also don't teach Grade 12 equivalency, which was supposed to be paid for by MTC."

Coun. Louise LeClaire
"I feel that any new facility will suffer growing pains and difficulties. Management at the jail has kept the municipality informed and I feel Management and Training Corporation-Canada have stepped up to the plate. If anything is going on, they have told us. They are also involved in the community as corporate citizens. Most of my frustration has been with the ministry. If I started a business as large as theirs, there would probably be problems. Doug Thomson, facility administrator, has always come to council to discuss any problems."

Coun. Michel Mayotte
"I'm just happy they are in town. We are working with MTC-Canada, but I'm upset with the government for lying through their teeth.

"It didn't matter to me whether it was a private or public facility, it's a new business in town. It has created new jobs, and I'd like to give them another year before I comment. I've heard a lot of stories, but I want to give them time to iron out the big bugs. I don't think one year is sufficient."

Deputy Mayor Randy Robbins
"We have heard from Doug Thomson, facility administrator, and he gave us his perspective, which was not an argumentative position.

"Personally, I'm swinging back to the province and questioning if they are doing what they said they would do. We need to watch the jail diligently. The first priority is the safety of the citizens, and correctional officers, before we are concerned about the inmates. Any issues of concern I have are with the province. We should take the ministry to task for their communication, or inability to communicate with the municipality. You would think that since this is the first privately-operated jail, the ministry would think about cleaning up the problems, so it is a shining example of what can happen. The jail has done some things we didn't expect, and the ministry should correct that."

Coun. Anne Murphy
"I feel that there are many outstanding issues. As a councillor representing our ratepayers, my hope is that all the issues are dealt with in an expeditious manner. As a councillor, we know the issues and feel that they are of vital importance.

"If these are left unresolved, they will only lead to larger problems in the future. If, as an elected official, I am answerable to the ratepayer, then MTC-Canada and the province must also be answerable to our ratepayers.

"In my opinion, we have dealt with the upper-tier government in a fair and honest manner, but it has been to no avail."

Coun. Bob Cascagnette
"We had to bid to get the super jail, and now they are trying to abide by the rules. I say let's not get too hasty, let's sit down, and wait until a full report comes back. Then we can discuss the issues.

"There are 380 employees that work there, they have bought homes, cars, and are shopping in the area. This has been a plus for the municipality, and we have to work together. Instead of telling them what to do, we should ask when they expect things to be done. MTC-Canada has done a good job, and remember, this is the first private jail in Canada. We have to sit down together and get things ironed out."

Coun. Dan LaRose
"The jail on a whole is working well, MTC-Canada is a good operator.

"I think if you just moved to the town right now, you would not see any difference.

"Our biggest struggle is with the province, and the fact that they are refusing to pay taxes is continuing to be a thorn in our side. We were promised to get the taxes, and we haven't seen any of that yet."

Coun. Debbie Levy
"MTC-Canada has employed a majority of employees from the local area, and they have given a true economic boost to the community by shopping locally, something they are determined to do.

"In that regard, the jail has had a positive impact on the economy of Penetanguishene, Midland, and the surrounding area. Unfortunately, our dealings with the province have not been as positive. Every issue with the ministry has been a battle, the biggest one is concerning the impact on our sewage treatment system.

"I hope the province and MTC-Canada bring in the technology needed. Council is determined to take steps legally on that issue.

"By this time next year, I hope our relationship with the ministry is better."

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