HALIFAX - It's time for Premier Darrell Dexter to stop misleading Nova Scotians over his government's decision not to build a new jail in Springhill, says Cumberland County's only Conservative MLA.
Murray Scott says he has the evidence proving the previous government's commitment to build a new $18-million jail in Springhill was in the budget and he wants Dexter to follow through with that pledge.
The Cumberland South said he has a Department of Transportation document that shows money was allocated by the previous government for the proposed North Nova Correctional Centre he announced last April.
"Throughout this ordeal, with everything the people of Cumberland County have been through over this issue, the Department of Transportation has finally provided the document that contradicts the premier's comments," Scott said Wednesday. "This rock solid evidence proves that our government had the money in place to build that facility and that the premier misled the people of Cumberland County and for that matter, all Nova Scotians."
The document obtained by Scott through Freedom of Information, indicates $6 million was allocated for the 2009-10 fiscal year and $12 million in the 2010-11 to build the jail in Springhill.
The document also shows $36 million was budgeted for a 200-bed jail in Antigonish.
In early December, Justice Minister Ross Landry announced one 100-cell, $31.3-million jail would be build in northern Nova Scotia and that Cumberland County is out of the mix.
After being questioned by Scott, the premier said his claims on the jail were political in nature and said no money had been committed in the budget for the jail.
The Conservative budget never made it the legislature as the government fell on another financial measure before it was presented.
Scott said the premier promised during last summer's election campaign that his government would honour commitments made by the Conservative government, but denied that commitment was made soon after taking power.
"I have put a lot effort over the last couple of months trying to show this was a firm commitment made by the previous government to the Town of Springhill," Scott said. "The premier is telling Nova Scotians that there was no such commitment so he wouldn't have to honour what he said during the election campaign. The document proves there was a commitment and now it's up to him to honour what he said and to come good on it."
Also, while the premier is claiming building one facility will save money, Scott said the other part of the story is the new facility will only be two-thirds the size of the two jails proposed for Springhill and Antigonish.
"We were talking about a capacity for 300 inmates in the two facilities. The one they're building only has the capacity for 200 inmates," Scott said. "It's a smaller size so of course it will be cheaper."
Scott also wants to know if the Dexter government explored the potential sharing of services with the federal institution in Springhill or the cost-savings that would be generated through the use of geothermal energy.
"He talks about me making a political statement, but now we have the truth and the commitment was made," said Scott. "It's time for him to stop talking about other people's assertions and honour this commitment."
Scott said it's not too late to turn back.
"We acquired the land, surveyed it and transferred it into the province's name. We had all the site design done, made the announcements and got ready to get work started. It was 99 per cent complete and ready for bulldozers. If this government could stop that it's never too late," Scott said.