Red Deerians received more details about the Red Deer Justice Centre that will include a new and larger courthouse with more space for mediation and resolution services.
The centre will have 12 courtrooms with the potential to expand to 16. Right now Red Deer has seven. Enhanced security measures will also separate prisoners, public and staff.
“When completed the Red Deer Justice Centre will be a place where people can come for justice both inside and outside the courtroom. It will serve families and communities of Central Alberta for generations to come,” said Justice Minister Kathleen Ganley at a press conference held outside the Red Deer Courthouse on Thursday.
In the provincial capital budget released earlier in March, $97 million over four years was set aside for the project.
“Over the coming months we look forward to finalizing a project plan which includes selecting a building site. We hope to be able to have shovels in the ground by the end of 2018 barring major delays in site selection or assessment.”
Previously the province announced $14.5 million to hire 35 more Crown prosecutors and 30 support staff to address workloads and court delays.
“Red Deer has 11 crown prosecutors and that’s a full compliment. But as we proceed forward over the year we’ll make further determinations as to where the staff will be allocated. We’ll continue to monitor the situation closely,” Ganley said.
Mayor Tara Veer said Red Deer will need more Crown prosecutors to go along with its expanded courthouse capacity.
“Timely access to justice is absolutely essential for us to uphold public safety,” Veer said.
Red Deer has been waiting 10 years for a new courthouse and has held onto the former downtown RCMP detachment building as the location to build the new justice centre.
Premier Rachel Notley said planning and assessment for the justice centre will begin immediately.
“The previous government was told again and again that a new courthouse was in urgent need. Yet they failed to act. Some people still say we shouldn’t be making necessary investments like this until the economy recovers. I wholeheartedly disagree. In this economic downturn we have a choice, we can lead the economic recovery or we can follow the recession. Our government is choosing to lead the economic recovery,” Notley said.
When it comes to funding another priority in Red Deer — expansion of Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre — the premier said her government is working with Alberta Health Services to look at the health care priorities in the region.
She said her government has been unable to fix the infrastructure deficit in two years that was created by previous governments. But $40 million has recently been invested in Central Alberta health care.
“We have actually been focused on investing in health care. Certainly, just as throughout the rest of the province, we know there’s more to be done and we’ll continue to work with AHS and ask them to work with local advocates and community leaders and identify the next priorities as we move forward.”