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Remand reconsidered

Paul Bickford
Northern News Services

Hay River (Mar 14/05) - The fight to keep a remand centre open at the South Mackenzie Correctional Centre in Hay River has received a boost.

Regular MLAs voted March 7 to recommend the Financial Management Board (FMB) reconsider the decision to close the centre in April.

The vote was taken by the legislature's Committee of the Whole.

Hay River South MLA Jane Groenewegen, the committee chair, hopes the FMB, made up of cabinet members, will heed the recommendation.

The Department of Justice announced the remand centre closure as a cost-cutting measure.

"I think everyone needs to understand it's a recommendation to reconsider it," Justice Minister Charles Dent says, noting the FMB will likely meet at the end of March.

Dent says he has no idea what will happen then.

How much money would be saved by closing the remand centre also became an issue in the legislative assembly.

Groenewegen thinks the Department of Justice's estimate of $400,000 in the first year was pulled out of the air.

She asked for an independent review and government sent the issue to its audit bureau. It put the savings at $267,000 in salaries for the first year, plus a one-time capital savings of $30,000.

The audit bureau said if the 5.5 positions at the centre had been eliminated immediately, the government would have saved $400,000 in the first year, Dent notes.

Dent explains the department instead decided to eliminate the positions through attrition. "Because we're being kinder and gentler, we won't save that amount of money in the first year."

Eventually, the cutback will save about $500,000 a year when the cost of casuals is factored in, he says.