Harbour Grace councillor wants penitentiary outside St. John's

Hayward Blake adamant rural NL is the right choice for new prison

Melissa Jenkins melissa.jenkins@tc.tc
Published on February 19, 2014
Harbour Grace Coun. Hayward Blake would like to see the province's new penitentiary built outside of St. John's.
Photo by Melissa Jenkins

One municipal leader in Harbour Grace is speaking out against St. John’s Mayor Dennis O’Keefe’s idea that a penal institution get constructed in St. John’s.

Coun. Hayward Blake emailed The Compass this morning (Feb. 19) to voice his opinions and beliefs that the new penitentiary the provincial government has confirmed is gonig to built should be built in Harbour Grace, or at least outside the greater St. John’s area.

The current penitentiary — Her Majesty Penitentiary — in St. John’s is over 150 years old, and is in need of replacement.

“I feel that the location of the new penitentiary could be an opportunity for the province to create economic development outside the City of St. John’s. With all due respect to the mayor of St. Johns, the new penitentiary should be located anywhere but (there),” the email from Blake read.

Harbour Grace was on a short list in 2008 with St. John’s and Stephenville. Senator Fabian Manning, who was the region’s MP at that time, and former federal public safety minister Stockwell Day visited the province on an exploratory visit to determine possible sites for a prison.

That visit was federal. The provincial government has now announced if it doesn’t get funding from the federal government, it will go ahead and build it without.

The proposed locations may no longer be front-runners, and the penitentiary could be built in a place that was not initially being considered.

Blake, who is a former educator, is insistent that growth be considered for outside the greater St. John’s area, and Harbour Grace would be ideal. He argued St. John’s Mayor Dennis O’Keefe is incorrect to believe St. John’s is the only viable option.

“I can list the advantages of Harbour Grace, and they are: a new Addictions Centre, the Splash Centre, a nearby hospital and long term health care facility, state of the art fire brigades, an excellent education system, a marine services centre, a marina, hotels, shopping, recreation, a tremendous infrastructure all along the Baccalieu Trail, and, dare I say it, proximity to St. John’s,” the email said.

But Blake is not impartial to the penitentiary going in another rural community, suggesting municipalities such as Placentia, Clarenville, Bishop’s Falls, Corner Brook and Stephenville could also be viable options. He believes it’s a benefit to wherever it is built.

“The penitentiary will not benefit just one town, but an entire region. The economic activity that such a facility will generate would be long term and make any of (those) places… sustainable for the long term,” the email continued.

Blake is calling on all municipal leaders to “make this an issue.”

He would like to see the Conception Bay North Joint Council lobby for the penitentiary to go in its region, but also believes other councils and joint councils should be doing the same.

“This is an opportunity for the government to invest in a part of the province other than St. John’s. Invest in a region of the province that needs the stimulus that the penitentiary will provide to a region,” he wrote.

Blake believes the investment would be essential to the upkeep of some municipalities, which may not be flourishing as they once have.

“An investment of this magnitude in any region outside of metropolitan St. John’s would be a “game changer” for that particular region and ensure viability of the town(s) well into the future. The location of the penitentiary is just too important to the economic viability of other areas of the province, to become just another project for the city of St. John’s,” the email concludes.

Melissa.jenkins@tc.tc