Question re: Continuing care facilities cost - April 23, 2015

Mr. Silver: Yesterday I asked the Minister of Health and Social Services a question in Question Period about the cost of the 300-bed continuing care facility this government is planning in Whistle Bend. We also had a long debate in the afternoon as well about the facility. I believe three of the members opposite got up to speak.

During Question Period and in the debate that followed, the minister had plenty of opportunities to answer the simple question that I had asked and that is: What is the cost of this new facility? Now he refused to answer the question. We have heard and seen some estimates anywhere between $268 million and $330 million, and we are looking for a confirmation. Surely the minister knows what the number is or the government would not barge ahead with the construction.

The question is simply again: What is the cost estimate for the new seniors facility?

Hon. Mr. Nixon: First off, I would like to start by expressing my disappointment that the members opposite clearly demonstrated that they are not in support of this government providing care to seniors in a new seniors facility by their words that they chose yesterday in this Legislative Assembly.

This government will continue on with a 150-bed facility; a facility that will be expandable in the future when the need is there to 300 beds.

This government believes in providing that level of care to our friends, our neighbours and Yukoners who can no longer care for themselves in their own homes. This government will put its money where its mouth is and continue down that path to providing those services to Yukoners.

Mr. Silver: Whether it’s 300 beds or 150 beds — 300 beds was said a couple of months ago; 150 beds is said now — Yukoners deserve to know how much this is going to cost. I don’t know if the minister or any of the Premier’s staff play poker, but it’s always a good idea to know how much money is on the table before you sit down.

There is $26 million set aside in this budget that will move ahead for this year. The government has refused, however, to tell Yukoners how much that total cost will be. Having watched this government go overbudget on many capital projects, Yukoners deserve to know how much of their money is going toward this project. It’s a simple question, Mr. Speaker: What is the cost estimate for the first 100 beds the government is planning?

Hon. Mr. Nixon: The lower figure that was produced last fall was an estimate for both phases of the facility in today’s dollars, so for example, if construction had begun immediately. The higher figure is an estimate that includes an escalator factor that includes longer timelines, since the construction is expected to begin a year from now, and not be completed until 2018. In addition, it’s important to note that cost estimates at this stage will undergo refinement as the planning continues.

The money set aside in this year’s budget for the continuing care facility is for a number of things, including the schematic design. So we’ll have a better idea of cost after that schematic design is completed, and we look forward to 2018, when this government can provide that level of care to Yukoners who can no longer live in their homes.

Mr. Silver: To continue the analogy, when you play poker, you lose a lot of money. I’ve actually seen it cost people their jobs in the past. The point is that a poor game plan by this government will lose taxpayers’ money due to cost overruns. A business case analysis was done by a private contractor on the Government of Yukon’s new continuing care facility, and they did list a price, and it was $330 million. Last fall, the government did its own analysis of the potential cost of the new facility, and it said that cost would be $268 million for a 300-bed facility, again, but it’s a full $60 million less than the independent consultant.

Either way, the public deserves to know how much money is at stake, whether it be a cost estimate or not. You don’t start building a house and then wait until the end to decide how much money you’re going to spend. This work needs to be done, and it happens on the front end to avoid the kind of cost overruns that we’re starting to get used to with this government.

So what is the cost estimate now, today, for the new facility?

Hon. Mr. Pasloski: What is obvious is that the member opposite, the Leader of the Liberal Party, who would like to be Premier, has absolutely no clue how this contracting works. The good news is that, after 12 years of Yukon Party government, 12 years of strong financial management, we can afford to build this nursing home to provide health care for Yukon seniors and all those people who need long-term care. We’re in a position financially where we can afford to do it.