Question re: Capital project expenditures - April 18, 2016

Mr. Silver: I have a question for the Premier. One of the defining features of this Yukon Party government has been its inability to bring in projects on time and on budget. The new LNG facility was $6 million overbudget. The two rural hospitals were both millions of dollars more than originally advertised as well.

Buried in the back of the Premier’s budget documents was a financial update on the cost of the F.H. Collins school project. Can the Premier confirm that the cost of this construction job has now reached $55.3 million?

Hon. Mr. Graham: Mr. Speaker, what I can confirm for the member opposite is that the actual construction cost of the new F.H. Collins school came in, in fact, under the $34-million anticipated budget. That is the construction cost alone, Mr. Speaker. There have been several other projects associated with the F.H. Collins school but those are budgeted separately from the actual construction of the building itself.

Mr. Silver: Mr. Speaker, the high number should come as no surprise to anybody who has watched the Yukon Party’s involvement in this project since 2010, involving a scrapped design of $6 million.

The Premier’s budget speech referenced the F.H. Collins project but neglected to mention that, between last year’s and this year’s budget, an additional $4.3 million has been added. Therefore, the grand total does sit at $55.3 million. On top of that, the contract to build the school was awarded to a company from Alberta. The government has been doing damage control on procurement with local contractors since then. After insisting that the project was on budget, Yukoners now know that this is not the case. Mr. Speaker, why hasn’t the Premier been up front with Yukoners about the ever-rising costs of this project?

Hon. Mr. Kent: Mr. Speaker, what the member opposite fails to reference with respect to the F.H. Collins contract is that the project averaged 75-percent local labour participation over the course of construction. I’ve mentioned a number of times on the floor of this Legislature all of the local subtrades that were active on that project as well. The project was delivered on time. We have a great school that opened up in January of this year and it will service the needs, not only of the students who are there now, but students going forward.

Again, as I mentioned — I believe in the fall when I was on my feet on the floor of this Legislature — it’s interesting to note that the Member for Klondike put out two contradictory press releases with respect to the F.H. Collins project. The first one was when that initial bid came in at $48 million. He was outraged at that price and asked us to consider redesigning it, moving it, and perhaps retendering it. Of course, we did retender it and it came in approximately $14-million to $16-million less than that $48 million. Now he is mad because we redesigned it, retendered it, and moved the school.

It’s very difficult to nail the member opposite down. It’s often like trying to nail Jell-O to the wall.

Mr. Silver: Mr. Speaker, two ministers, and I didn’t get an answer yet to my questions — talk about nailing people down.

We know that Yukon contractors are not happy with this government. We hear it every time that we meet with local business owners, including the two I met with just last week. They described as “window dressing” the government’s belated attempt to ensure that local companies get a fair chance to win government contracts.

F.H. Collins is millions of dollars overbudget and the tech wing addition is well behind schedule. The Yukon Party repeatedly assured Yukoners that this project was going to be on budget and then quietly added $4.3 million to the price tag and didn’t even mention it in the budget speech. This is not an open and accountable use of taxpayers’ dollars.

Is this the final school project’s costs, or can Yukoners expect more bills to be slipped under the door by this government?

Hon. Mr. Kent: Mr. Speaker, with respect to the final costs of the F.H. Collins project, there is still one important aspect that needs to be done. That’s the demolition and remediation of the old school. There are some hazardous materials in there. Once that work is complete, then we will have a better idea of what the final cost of the project will be and we will be in a better position to compare it to the design that we had moved away from — again, something that the member opposite in his first iteration, in his first press release, asked us to do.

Let me talk a little bit about local contracting for a second. Obviously there has been quite a lot accomplished on the procurement side of things. The previous Minister of Highways and Public Works set up the Procurement Support Centre. We’ve hosted two very well-attended and successful procurement industry conferences. I know the Member for Klondike was at the most recent one that we had here in February. There is a procurement advisory panel that has been set up. The Premier, the Minister of Economic Development and I have hosted two roundtables with local contractors and suppliers to talk about what they would like to see as far as procurement goes.

Just a reminder that 14 of the last 15 major capital projects awarded between 2010-11 and 2014-15 went to Yukon-based companies. Yukon-based companies are doing a good job of competing for these projects and winning those opportunities for their staff.