The importance of the decision on whether a prison will be located in Summerland cannot be understated. The impact on our community will be profound and long lasting. There are positive and negative impacts.
Given the importance of the decision, it is imperative that the citizens of Summerland ultimately make the decision by way of referendum.
This is what our mayor and council facilitated with the recent referendum concerning the building of a new RCMP facility. For this they deserve credit.
Penticton recently implemented a referendum to allow its citizens to vote on whether they would approve a prison in their community. The citizens of Penticton overwhelmingly voted against locating the prison within the confines of their community.
When confronted with the question of whether Summerland would follow in the footsteps of Penticton and hold a referendum, Mayor Janice Perrino suggested Summerland would avoid the cost of a referendum at the outset as a referendum may not be necessary if Summerland is not successful in its bid to the province for the prison.
She intimated that the citizens of Summerland would ultimately have a say in deciding on the prison as a community-wide vote would be held before Summerland would accept any offer from the province.
In fact, in a June 22 article in the Summerland Review, Perrino is quoted as follows:
“If Summerland were to win the bid, Perrino would personally prefer ‘some sort of a vote’ to measure public support before accepting any offer. ‘My preference… would be for every home in the community to have a voice as to whether they would go along with this…’”
Summerland citizens should have the same opportunity as the citizens of Penticton. Ms. Perrino owes it to the community to ensure that a vote is held just as she ensured a vote was held on the new RCMP facility. This will ensure that the will of the majority prevails and that the community can live with the decision that it has fully participated in.
This is especially important as the Summerland bid provides for the site of the prison to be located at the foot of Rattlesnake Mountain, in an area with amazing nature trails, beautiful views of Okanagan Lake and the community, in the vicinity of orchards and residences at the northern gateway to Summerland near Highway 97.
I agree with Ms. Perrino when she says everyone in the community should have a voice with a vote and let us hope that she and council follow through with this commitment should Summerland’s bid for the prison succeed.