In April, Justice Minister Marion Horne announced her government had decided to build a new jail in the same location as the old one.
Monday, she changed her mind.
“It was this government party that said we would not build on the existing site,” said Horne.
Horne also promised that a proposed $600,000 interim space plan at Whitehorse Correctional Centre would be completed by March 31st.
But it didn’t happen.
In fact, the changes — that would include “renovations to the women’s dorm, which will increase its physical size, add additional washroom facilities and allow for more organized living spaces,” — haven’t even started.
“This interim space is very important to this government and is very important to the safety of the workers and the clients at the correctional centre,” said Horne during Monday’s question period.
“This work is ongoing and it will be completed in due time.”
In the meantime, the inmates and staff at the jail are still suffering in the same shoddy conditions, said NDP Justice critic Steve Cardiff.
Three bids came in to do the renos, he said.
And they were all over $1 million.
That’s much more than the government set aside for this project, he said.
“The department said it would have another look and try to shave about $300,000 off the project — in other words, reducing the scope of the project and the benefits that would accrue to the people who work and have to live in that facility,” said Cardiff.
“I don’t think reducing the scope is a good idea.
“Apparently they were discussing various options with the lowest bidder.”
The government hoped to have the work done by March 31st, said Horne.
“A number of factors have contributed to this completion date not being met,” she said.
Justice worked with the Property Management Agency to develop a preliminary estimate for this project, said Horne.
“Preliminary costs were estimated at $507,000. In Supplementary Estimates No. 1, this amount was transferred from the new correctional centre funding in preparation for the renovations.
Property Management Agency then worked with local architects through schematic design, producing a class 3 estimate of $900,000.
“The renovations are currently expected to be completed by mid-July 2008.”
The scope of the project has changed, said Cardiff.
“It’s no longer a level playing field — it should be re-tendered,” he said.
“But unfortunately, that would slow down the renos even more.”
In 2001, the then Liberal government started breaking ground for a new jail.
But when the Yukon Party got in, work stopped.
“(Premier Dennis) Fentie’s government decided not to build a new corrections centre,” said Liberal Justice critic Don Inverarity in a past interview with the News.
“Instead it spent millions over the last five years on studies and renovations.”
Justice could not get information on the interim space plan before deadline.