Thursday, March 1, 2018

Budget money for prison farms

Tuesday's federal budget earmarked $4.3 million over five years to reopen two shuttered prison farms that operated near Kingston, Ont. before their closure in 2010.

The Joyceville and Collins Bay farms were among six that were shut down when the then-Conservative government concluded they were unprofitable and ineffective.

But prisoners who worked at the farms said they were helped to reform.

And a group of people formed a co-operative to keep the dairy herd going.

"It's been nine-plus years of lobbying, campaigning, driving the country," said Jeff Peters, chairman of the Pen Farm Herd Co-Op. "Finally, we're getting close. We're only on third base, this has been a long, long game, but we're heading for home."

Peters was an early crusader for the farms, which had operated in Canada since the 1880s until they were axed during Stephen Harper's tenure as prime minister.

At that time, the Conservative government argued the farms consumed more money than they made while conferring minimal benefit on the prisoners.

Advocates said they hope the newly announced funds from today's government will allow for a more comprehensive program that includes research as well as farming.

Peters said that while the land at the Collins Bay and Joyceville farms is still in good condition, the animals would benefit from more spacious, modern barns that will allow for more movement and provide safer shelter.

"The cows have become bigger in the genetics and so on," he said. "There's just better ways to keep animals happy."