It's hard to fathom why the province was so reluctant last week to release key details about a plan for such a large and long-awaited project - a new Thunder Bay district jail and correctional centre.

When it announced the 325-bed facility - which is to put a combined jail and correctional centre at the same site - the province said it was "approved."

But that was it. We don't know where it will go, how much it will cost or when it will be built. So we looked to some interested parties, like the union representing the correctional workers, which believe the new facility will be built at the site of the existing Thunder Bay Correctional Centre on Highway 61.

Mayor Keith Hobbs also weighed in, saying he hopes that will indeed be the site the province ultimately chooses.

As union officials pointed out, the Highway 61 location has plenty of room and is already zoned for a correctional facility. There's likely enough room to expand a facility, after it's built, beyond 325 beds, which is slightly more than the combined capacity of the existing correctional centre and district jail. The union argues the combined capacity should be closer to 400.

A Community Safety and Correctional Services spokesman said while there is no specific line in the 2017 budget for the new jail, he insisted "we will build it."

The question is, when? When pressed for financial details, the province said the money for the project is contained, somewhere, in the $190 billion supposedly set aside for various infrastructure projects over the next 13 years. (Yes, you read that right - 13 years.)

In the wake of this past week's Sapers report, which called on the province to take measures to reduce overcrowding in its 26 correctional facilities - a serious problem that has festered for several years on the government's watch - the Liberals need to be seen to be taking action.

Thunder Bay inmate Adam Capay spent an unfathomable four years in segregation. The Liberals don't want any more stories like that.

And yet one can be forgiven for fearing that last week's announcement, noticeably lacking in specifics, is little more than lip service with a provincial election just a year away.

When the word came, Correctional Services Minister Marie-France Lalonde didn't come to Thunder Bay to deliver it. Not a good omen.

Union officials are hopeful that the province will begin preparing ground on the facility sometime this summer. We hope they're right.

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