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N.B. public safety minister defends new jail after costs more than double to $66 million

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The New Brunswick government says cost estimates for the new jail in Grand Lake, which have more than doubled, won’t derail the $66 million project.

When it was first announced in 2021, costs for the proposed Central New Brunswick Correctional Centre were pegged at $32 million.

Last year, that estimate increased to $42 million.

With departmental estimates underway inside the New Brunswick Legislature, a new estimate of $66 million was revealed.

This week at estimates, Department of Public Safety Minister Kris Austin blamed the latest cost estimate increase on inflation and referred to it as “the same kind of sticker shock you get when you go to the grocery store.”

“I went back to my department and said look, if you can sharpen your pencil and find every savings you can. I know they have already done that in several cases because the $66 million could’ve been higher,” said Austin, on Thursday. “But they’ve weened that back as much as they could.”

Austin said a more definitive cost estimate would be available later this fall during the tendering process, but didn’t detail what had already been scaled back by department staff.

‘Alarming’ cost estimate

Liberal MLA Jacques LeBlanc said the new $66 million cost estimate was “alarming,” and asked if the project would be “reconsidered” due to the higher estimate.

“At this point and time it’s very concerning about the increase in cost of that institution,” said LeBlanc, on Friday. “We’re even into the [request for proposal] section.”

Austin called the need for a new jail “critical,” citing 106 per cent capacity at correctional facilities on April 1.

Earlier this month, Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Richard Ames said two phases of the Grand Lake project should be finished by August, including tree clearing, site excavation, and grading.

Initial plans had the new jail being built within Fredericton’s Vanier Industrial Park. The provincial government abandoned that plan, following a mix of opinion around the neighbourhood. The Grand Lake location was announced in late July 2023.

For more New Brunswick news visit our dedicated provincial page.

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