Fredericton — The population of New Brunswick shot up this year, increasing by 25,000 people. With the health care system in dire straits and housing issues reaching crisis levels — especially with the government opting to remove the rent cap — many are questioning how New Brunswick can accommodate all the new people.
Premier Blaine Higgs, though, has explained that many of these people will take up residence in jail. Construction of a new provincial jail in the industrial park area of Fredericton is expected to begin in 2023-24, much to the dismay of residents in surrounding areas.
“Right now, for obvious reasons, we have lots of homeless people on the streets, high on drugs or dealing them,” said Premier Higgs. “Why not help them out by getting them inside a nice warm jail? And the excessive number of university and college graduates we churn out can apply for work at the jail. It’s going to solve a lot of problems at once.”
Job creation is one of the benefits touted by those in support of the jail.
“I’ve been one of the main people touting the job creation potential of a Fredericton jail,” said Mayor Kate Rogers. “I can’t really think of any other way to create jobs besides a jail, and I’m too busy mayoring to try.
“New Brunswick is seeing huge numbers of newcomers, and, unfortunately, many of them are not especially wealthy,” Rogers went on. “The ones who are financially well-off have quickly snatched up all the expensive apartments, condos and houses, leaving poorer people either on the street or in run-down apartments they can barely afford.
“As Higgs has said, the jail will sort of catch the overflow of people who have nowhere else to go. Our police already have lots of practice in arresting people for petty drug crime, and uprooting tent cities to force those experiencing homelessness to shuffle off somewhere else. Needless to say, our boys in blue are ready to hit the ground running as soon as the jail opens!”
Martin Estey of Lincoln Heights said there are a few reasons he thinks a jail is a bad call on the province’s part.
“What’s it costing — $32 million?” he exclaimed. “Couldn’t that money be better spent on universal basic income, building more affordable housing, addictions and mental health services? You know, things that prevent the kind of crime that will land people in jail?”
Higgs claims Estey and other bleeding hearts like him are missing the point.
“There are still simply too many people,” said the flippant premier. “I mean, not all of them are going to expire in emergency rooms, so where else are we supposed to keep them?”