Question - F.H. Collins Secondary School reconstruction

Hansard November 5, 2013

Mr. Silver: I have a question for the Premier. When the government began the process of replacing F.H. Collins school, it went to the public to gather input from the school council, parents and students.

Here’s one of the main recommendations, and I quote: “Any new facility to replace F. H. Collins Secondary School be designed not as the traditional school ‘box’, but rather as a facility that responds to the latest understanding of student learning and related school design.” How has the government responded to this recommendation? It went to Alberta and bought an off-the-shelf box.

After telling Yukoners these plans were free, we found out this summer that it wasn’t the case, and the company from Alberta was given a $900,000 contract, with no competition, to make changes to those free plans. Why did the government try to pretend that these plans were free when it knew all along that expensive changes would have to be made?

Hon. Mr. Pasloski: I will take this opportunity again to thank the building advisory committee for all the work that they did putting together the thoughts and articulating everything that they gathered to provide input into the design that came out. As we have spoken and as I have said many times, when the lowest bid comes in almost $10 million over the budget before we’ve even turned a shovel, that is not responsible. As a government, we speak of ensuring that we use taxpayers’ money wisely, and in this case we felt that wasn’t the case — because I can do a lot of other things in terms of programs, services or creating infrastructure for Yukoners with that $10 million.

We did have the opportunity to obtain the design for a school out of Alberta that has been tried and tested and built effectively. In fact, there are other jurisdictions that have gone to Alberta to look for similar types of plans. We did take this plan and then we worked together. We incorporated input from the building advisory committee, we talked to the students, and we talked to the teachers and administrators. From that, we have made alterations to ensure that this school meets the needs of Yukoners and we look forward to building a brand new, beautiful F.H. Collins school shortly.

Mr. Silver: The Premier is so used to just deflecting these questions that he’s not even listening to the questions any more. The Yukon Party talks about being fiscally responsible. $5.5 million was spent on the design and site work that would have to be redone. That money is lost.

The public and the educational professionals were asked for their opinion on the new F.H. Collins. The advice they gave to the government was, don’t build a box. What has the government done? It built a box they got from Alberta.

Last week, the government issued a new tender for the school and said the construction budget remains at $38.6 million. It’s my understanding that the new school is going to be substantially smaller. Can the Premier confirm that the new school is 18-percent smaller than the scrapped design?

Hon. Mr. Pasloski: Again, I will get back to what the fundamental issue here is on this topic, and that is that the lowest bid on the design that came out was almost $10 million overbudget. I know the opposition, both the Liberals and the NDP, would probably have just gone ahead and built it anyway.

However, as I’ve said, we can do better and we will do better. We will have money to ensure we can continue to deliver programs and services to Yukoners, continue to have the money to invest in infrastructure, and continue to have the money to create jobs for Yukoners, which also creates opportunities for skilled training and for businesses. That is a priority. We will build F.H. Collins school. I know that the students, the teachers, the parents and the administrators will look forward to that day, as will we.

Mr. Silver: The Premier said the government had two estimates that told them they could build the school for $38.6 million, when in fact they had two estimates that told them the opposite, including one that put the price within 10 percent of the lowest bid. Instead of trying to reach a deal with the local contractors, the government scrapped the tender and threw out $5.5 million worth of work. They spent $5.5 million to save $4 million.

Then the Premier told Yukoners that they had a new, free plan from Alberta, when in fact those plans cost close to $1 million. Now we find that the new school will cost as much money but will be 18 percent smaller, and there is no one across the way who will take responsibility for this mismanagement. Instead, the government is looking to pat themselves on the back for a job well done.

What is fiscally responsible about spending $5.5 million to save $4 million?

Hon. Mr. Pasloski: Mr. Speaker, I will again review the timelines because the Member for Klondike continues to be confused about how this happened.

Management Board approved the construction budget in May of 2012. Subsequent to that, we received two independent estimates — professional estimators who both came in with estimates that were lower than the approved construction budget by Management Board Secretariat. We then went and issued the tender on November 7, 2012. Forty-one days later, we received a third estimate that the Management Board at that time did not consider. We continued to wait to open the bids to find that the lowest bid was almost $10 million overbudget.

That does not matter to the NDP or to the Liberals because the last time the NDP were in power, they left a mountain of debt. The Liberals followed them, and in fact, were mired in so much debt they had to borrow money to pay government employees. Yukoners deserve better than that.