Question re: Continuing care facilities - April 3, 2014

Mr. Silver:   All this week, I’ve been asking questions of this government’s poor planning on capital projects. Continuing with that theme, I have question for the Minister of Highways and Public Works about an RFP issued by his department earlier this year for a business case analysis and pre-concept planning for a new continuing care facility.

The consultant who won the bid is still compiling this report, so the government has yet to receive it. However, in the Premier’s budget speech, funding of $6.9 million was announced for a phase 1 design of this facility with an initial 150 beds.

So I have a very simple question, Mr. Speaker. If an RFP for a business case analysis was to support decision-making and planning for a 300-bed facility with an immediate construction of up to 150 beds, then why has the government already announced that the facility will be 150 beds when it hasn’t even seen the consultant’s report yet?

Hon. Mr. Cathers:      Again, we hear the inaccurate rhetoric coming from the Leader of the Liberal Party. Earlier this week he admitted that he doesn’t write the words he speaks and apparently takes no responsibility for them. But in fact we are following appropriate procurement processes. In terms of planning, the information that we’ve received to date is that a phased approach is the most cost-effective and that a 150-bed facility with a second phase that would add additional 150 beds has some efficiencies of scale and looks at this point to be the most appropriate, cost-effective and effective program delivery option for the Yukon government.

Mr. Silver:   I didn’t want to hear from the minister who is responsible for the poor planning for the hospitals. I wanted to hear from the minister responsible for this particular RFP.

Mr. Speaker, the government currently has a consultant work on the project to make a business case for a new 150-bed continuing care facility, yet they’ve already announced a project to go ahead with those 150 beds. Now isn’t that a little bit premature? What’s the point of having a study if the decisions have already been made?

The Yukon Party’s approach on this issue has raised a number of questions, and here’s one: Has the government learned anything from the Auditor General’s report on the Watson Lake and Dawson City hospitals? It doesn’t seem so. We are getting the same scattered approach to planning that results in major cost overruns and poorly planned facilities.

The Minister of Health and Social Services has described this as one of the biggest construction projects in the Yukon Territory’s history. If a new continuing care facility is such a priority, then why didn’t we see it in their election platform and why wasn’t it in the minister’s mandate letters?

Hon. Mr. Cathers:      That’s quite interesting rhetoric coming from the Leader of the Liberal Party. In fact, we are continuing with moving forward with the planning for the next continuing care facility. Based on the information we have to date, it appears the most effective model of doing that is a phased approach, beginning with 150 beds, followed by a second 150 beds. I would encourage the member to actually read what it says in the budget instead of just reading what the backroom boys write for him.

Mr. Silver:   By the way, I also have backroom girls in my caucus talks, for the record. It’s interesting that such a priority item is only now finding its way through the budget process. If this was such a priority to this government, then why has it taken it so long to bring it to the table? The lion’s share of the $126-million price tag will have to be paid by the next government.

The RFP is also supposed to consider the future of both Macaulay Lodge and the Thomson Centre. The report hasn’t even been received yet and the minister has already said publicly that these facilities will be closed.

If the study is supposed to look at the future of both Macaulay Lodge and the Thomson Centre, then why is this minister already saying that the new facilities will replace these beds, when the consultant has yet to put in his report?

Hon. Mr. Istchenko:           I thank the member opposite for the question. I don’t know if the member opposite understands, but we are currently in the planning stages. A project of this magnitude — it is important that we have detailed evaluation and the analyst’s report. When it comes to RFPs, Mr. Speaker — it was in the media this morning, talking about procurement within the government.

 We are leaps and bounds ahead when it comes to procurement with our new procurement support centre. We heard that from the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce this morning. They are happy to see that is moving forward. We’re happy to see that this Whitehorse continuing care is moving forward. We are also happy to see that the St. Elias group home is moving forward; that we’re working and moving forward on Sarah Steele; McDonald Lodge, in the member opposite’s riding; the Beaver Creek fire hall; and our Alexander Street seniors complex — stuff we’ve committed to Yukoners that the member opposite is definitely going to be voting against, unless he changes his mind.