Thank you, Mr. Speaker, Yesterday, we had the Minister of Justice in front of us during Committee of the Whole and I wanted to expand on a couple of items related to the Department of Justice that I brought to his attention.
The first is an issue that I’ve discussed with him previously and that is the fact that there are a number of aging penitentiaries across this country that sooner or later the federal government will have to replace and look at building a new federal penal institution somewhere in this country. My belief and desire is for that facility to be located here in the Northwest Territories. Imagine for a moment what a federal penitentiary built in one of our larger communities, like Yellowknife, Fort Smith, Hay River, or Inuvik, would mean to that community. Between 300 and 400 jobs, spin-off business opportunities and contracts for local businesses, a marked increase in our population, which would translate directly into a larger revenue stream through the Territorial Formula Financing Agreement.
I was very surprised when the Justice Minister yesterday stated on page 75 of unedited Hansard, “We haven’t really raised that issue at the federal level as of yet because we were dealing with the courthouse a while back and we had to set our priorities.” The Minister’s comments are very
disconcerting. Firstly, he has not raised the issue of a penitentiary here in the Northwest Territories at the federal level in the past year when we know that the issue of a courthouse has fallen off the government’s radar.
Which brings me to the courthouse issue. My inclination is to say we are making a big mistake by not pursuing a new courthouse facility. The reality is that part of the maturation process our government is still undergoing will require us to build a public institution for the judiciary. The legislative, executive, and judicial branches are the very building blocks of a parliamentary democracy. As a government, we cannot continue to ignore the needs of our judiciary. As a government, we have spent millions of dollars and probably paid for the current facility at least 10 times over.
This facility that 20 years ago may have been adequate today is just not meeting the growing needs and demands of our judiciary. There are serious concerns over space constraints, space utilization, and security. Eventually a new courthouse will have to be built. There seems to be no end in sight to the escalating construction costs to build infrastructure in this Territory. We need to find a way to get this project back on our capital plan.