A planned $40-million jail in Shediac is continuing to divide the southeastern New Brunswick town, as some worry about the impact on tourism and the possible need for a stronger police presence.
Finance Minister Victor Boudreau, the local MLA, tried to reassure residents at a public meeting Wednesday night that the new 90-cell correctional centre will be a safe addition to the community.
“People will barely see it when they drive by. I see the positive. I see economic development. I see young families moving to Shediac that may be working there,” he said.
At the community meeting, tourism operators and some citizens continued to express worries about safety and the future jail’s effect on tourism, while others were frustrated by the lack of consultation before the project was announced.
Leo Doiron, a former town councillor, said he believes the current mayor and council were blinded by the $800,000 the jail will pay in property taxes to the municipality.
Doiron argues the jail will also create expenses for the town.
“Are they going to require more RCMP [officers] in the town of Shediac? I have a hard time believing that the RCMP is going to say 10 officers is enough, the same way it was before we had a prison in town,” he said.
Campground owner concerned
The planned jail would sit less than 600 metres away from Camping Beausejour, a well-known local campground.
Marie-Paul Martin, the owner of the campsite, is the jail’s most vocal opponent. She said she had met privately with officials from the departments of Public Safety and Supply and Services, who tried to sell her on her upcoming neighbour.
“They explained how high-tech it would be. How they were going to play a social role, with places where we could go have reunions and parties … they want to be good neighbours.”
Another concern for many of the jail’s opponents, such as Martin, is how quickly the facility was approved.
Joanne Murray, the executive director of the John Howard Society of Greater Moncton, said she heard many questions at the public forum about the approval process along with questions about public safety.
“What’s this going to do to the town in terms of having inmates walking around throughout the town?” Murray said, summing up the questions posed to her.
Murray said her organization can at least lessen local safety concerns, and if necessary the John Howard Society will help released inmates and transport them out of town.
The proposed jail complex is not being opposed by everyone in the community.
Rene Clement is one resident who is backing the project.
“I think it’s a terrific idea. As a matter of fact, I told … Victor Boudreau … that he should have brought it down to my place,” he said.