Question re: Capital project expenditures - November 25, 2013

Hansard November 25, 2013

Mr. Silver:  In February of this year, the Auditor General of Canada had some very strong criticisms for the Yukon Party and its mismanagement of capital projects. He was referring, of course, to the overbudget and behind-schedule hospitals in Watson Lake and in Dawson City. Fast-forwarding to today the Hospital Corporation is once again embarking on a major capital project — the expansion of the Whitehorse Hospital.

The corporation recently said that the new project will cost $60 million to $65 million to complete. It was only three short years ago that Yukoners were assured that the project would cost $50 million. Why has the cost of the project gone up $10 million to $15 million before a shovel has hit the ground?

Hon. Mr. Graham:     I have not heard the $65 million except through the news media. We are in cooperation with the Yukon Hospital Corporation, only now developing plans and a methodology to complete construction at the hospital and we expect that we will have cost estimates to bring back to management committee sometime within the next few months.

Mr. Silver:   The $60 million to $65 million comes directly from the Hospital Corporation. We now know what the Premier did with that $10 million that the said he was saving from F.H. Collins. He gave it to the Hospital Corporation to cover the $10 million increase on this project before it has even started.

The government’s track record on building capital projects is poor: F.H. Collins; the new arrest processing unit; the cancelled Beaver Creek fire hall, and the list goes on and on. The last time the Yukon Party government embarked on a major, health-related capital expenditure — two hospitals and a new residence — it borrowed the money. The Auditor General criticized that decision in his report and said, and I quote, “The Corporation could not provide us with any explanation regarding why the loans were secured through banks rather than from the Government of Yukon.”

There is already $15 million of debt on the books. How is the $60-million to $65-million hospital expansion being financed?

Speaker:       Order please. The member’s time has elapsed.

Hon. Mr. Graham:     The member opposite seems to conveniently forget a number of issues. The first is that in my answer I indicated that a budget has not yet been set for the modifications to the existing hospital and that construction project. We still haven’t determined exactly the scope of that project, nor have we determined which ancillary services will be included. Until the scope of the project has been determined, everything else is up in the air. We have not yet got a budget to take to Management Board so I don’t know why the member opposite seems to believe that everything is overbudget at the present time. He’s dealing in that fantasy world again, and it’s unfortunate,  because we have realities that we deal with here on a daily basis.

Mr. Silver:   It seems like the only reality is that there is confusion between the department and the Hospital Corporation. The Hospital Corporation is where I am getting my numbers from, not from any fantasy land.

I’ll move on. One of the main criticisms of the Auditor General’s report on the Dawson and Watson Lake hospitals was that there were no needs assessments done prior to the decisions to build these facilities. There was simply verbal instruction from the Premier to start building.

When the chair of the hospital board appeared last spring in this House, he said — and I quote: “Don’t worry, a needs assessment has been done.” Yet in an interview a couple of weeks ago, the president of the corporation contradicted this and said that next year would be spent, “creating a functional plan and a full needs assessment.”

So which one is it? Has a needs assessment been completed and, if so, will the minister make it public?

Hon. Mr. Graham:     As I’ve said with a number of documents being prepared by the Hospital Corporation or my department, in due course we’ll release all of those assessments. At this point, I’m not prepared to release any documents that have been produced by either the Hospital Corporation or the department with respect to construction or modification of the existing facility.