Mayor Tara Veer is thrilled Red Deer will finally get a larger new courthouse after being promised $97-million over four years for the project in the 2017 Alberta budget.
“This is great news for Red Deer! We’ve waiting four or five years for this,” said Veer, who attended Thursday’s budget announcement in Edmonton.
The first $25-million will be granted in 2017-18 for project planning. Veer noted the City of Red Deer has been holding the former downtown Red Deer RCMP building property as a potential site, with further discussions needed on its suitability.
Red Deer City Council has been lobbying for a new courthouse, with help from Crown prosecutors, police and other partners. Municipal leaders have argued there’s a huge need in this growing city — with a local crime rate comparable to Edmonton and Calgary’s — to speed up legal processes and look after the safety and security of citizens.
Veronica Jubinville, press secretary for the Alberta Justice Minister, said a new courthouse for Red Deer “was a very high priority,” since the NDP government had noted local traffic court was held in a city hotel because of overcrowding in the existing court building. “The Red Deer community has been clamoring for this for years,” she added.
Veer believes the project also got green lighted because of the Supreme Court of Canada’s ruling last summer, known as the Jordan decision. It set stricter timelines for criminal cases. Except in exceptional circumstances, trials must now happen within 18 months in provincial courts and 30 months in Alberta Queen’s Bench.
While it will take at least four years to get the larger new courthouse built, Veer believes a recent government decision to hire more Crown prosecutors should help keep criminal cases moving in the meantime.
“It’s excellent news — long overdue,” said Councillor Paul Harris, who noted a larger new courthouse will mean more cases can be heard, and more charges potentially upheld. He added a backlog of court cases need to get before judges in a timely manner.
Red Deer City Councillors were also pleased that stability in municipal funding from the province was maintained — which means they will not have to revisit the recently approved municipal budget.