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Group seeks unanimous support for courthouse

The Attorney General’s Office is next on the list for a local group pushing the province to build a bigger courthouse in Red Deer.

Government and opposition MLAs from throughout Central Alberta met on Friday morning with three local leaders at the centre of a plan that includes a land swap with the City of Red Deer.

Former Court of Queen’s Bench justice Jim Foster, who retired from the bench in April, has been working with Brent Handel, president of the Central Alberta Bar Association, and Red Deer Mayor Morris Flewwelling on a plan that would see the province build a new courthouse on the former RCMP site while the existing courthouse would be converted to office space for the city.

People who live throughout Central Alberta are already feeling the impact of crowding in the Red Deer courthouse, said Foster, also a former Red Deer MLA who served as attorney general in Peter Lougheed’s government.

Children are being harmed by long delays in family court, which has reached the point where it is now part of the problem rather than the solution, he said.

Foster anticipates that some services available in the Red Deer Courthouse, including traffic court, transcription services and the Crown prosecutors’ office, will have to be moved into other buildings to make more space for family and criminal court at the existing building.

Foster, Flewwelling and Handel presented a proposal on Friday morning to Red Deer MLAs Mary Anne Jablonski and Cal Dallas, as well as opposition MLAs Rick Strankman, Rod Fox, Kerry Towle, Joe Anglin and Bruce Rowe.

A similar meeting was held late in summer with reeves and mayors of municipalities throughout the region.

Foster said his group needs unanimous support of local politicians before making a presentation to Attorney General Jonathan Denis, with whom they hope to meet in January.

However, they are not going to ask for a meeting until they know that all of the MLAs are on board and that the issue will not become a political football, said Foster.

The opposition MLAs called to meet on Friday told the group that they cannot take a position before taking the information back to their own caucus, he said.

Dallas, Red Deer South MLA and International and Intergovernmental minister in Premier Alison Redford’s cabinet, said he and Jablonski, Red Deer North MLA, are familiar with the issues facing the courthouse in Red Deer.

Dallas said that while he and Jablonski understand the problem, he is not in a position to endorse any particular option.

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