Question re: Continuing care facilities - December 1, 2015

Mr. Silver: With little to no public consultation, the Yukon Party decided midway through its term in office to build a 300-bed continuing care facility. Shortly after it was announced, the government backed away from that commitment and said it was really going to be a 150-bed facility.

The project is now in the middle of being tendered. It is my understanding that the facility is being designed with an expansion to 300 beds still in mind. The heating system, for example, will be designed that way — the kitchen and even the parking. The decision to proceed this way means extra costs and it also ties the hands of future governments when it comes to where any new beds will be built.

Can the minister confirm that the building is being designed so that it can be expanded to 300 beds?

Hon. Mr. Pasloski: What I can confirm is that either the NDP or Liberals would cancel this project. I can confirm that a project that has been described by health care professionals — by nurses and doctors — as desperately needed; a project that will create many, many jobs for Yukoners at a time when the economy is not performing at its best and great opportunities for young tradespeople to gain apprenticeship hours. This is an important project for Yukoners. Those two parties would simply cancel this project. We’re moving ahead with this project.

Mr. Silver: Mr. Speaker, the Premier failed to answer the question. The Yukon Party decision to build a warehouse in Whitehorse means that all continuing care beds in the foreseeable future will be in this one facility. The design of this new facility guarantees that. Now this is very disappointing to watch this government make all the big decisions before talking to the public about what it wants.

Fortunately, there is still time to fix this misstep. Just this week, the Province of Alberta made a decision to move a new continuing care facility being built in Alberta. The situation is very similar to ours. The previous government decided to put it out of town, and seniors and residents wanted to be consulted before that decision was made. The government listened. Our project is not as advanced as the one in Fort McMurray — no construction contracts have been signed.

Will the government consult with the public about what type of facility and what location our continuing care facility will be?

Hon. Mr. Pasloski: Maybe the leader of the Liberal Party has not been to Whistle Bend. I don’t think Whistle Bend is out of town, Mr. Speaker.

Again, what we do know is that the Liberals and the NDP would cancel this project — a project that we have heard doctors and nurses say is desperately needed. I have had seniors tell me that those people on the other side of the House should get down off of their pulpit and maybe go help some of those family members and caregivers who are struggling to look after people now in their homes, waiting for a facility like this to be built. The need is there; the assessment has been done. We will build this because it is important to Yukoners.

Mr. Silver: The crux of the conversation here is that the Government of Alberta listened to what the public was saying. The Yukon Party government should try doing that as well instead of continuing with the “father knows best” approach. When it comes to making decisions, the government has an opportunity to address concerns being raised. I am urging them to take this opportunity, but it sounds like they’re not interested.

I’ll move on. I have asked for some time what the price tag for this project will be. The government repeatedly refused to put that number on the public record. At a briefing this spring, the officials from the department confirmed the estimate for 150 beds at $159 million. Can the minister confirm that this is indeed the price tag that the government is working with?

Hon. Mr. Pasloski: Mr. Speaker, after four years the Leader of the Liberal Party still doesn’t understand how the contracting will work. We will soon be announcing who the successful bidder will be. At that time, the plans will move forward.

Mr. Speaker, again, this is a party that looks at the long-term vision for this territory, as we are with the hospital, by creating additional space for future hospital beds, as well as the Emergency expansion. We will do the same with the long-term care facility — a home for people who require an extensive amount of nursing care.

Sadly, the opposition still doesn’t understand that this is not a seniors residence; this is a health facility that is a home for people who require a high level of care or specialized care. We will continue to move forward with this project that is desperately needed. It’s an opportunity for people who work right now in long-term care for advancement in their careers by opening this facility as well.

This is important for seniors who need the care. This is important for jobs in our local economy and this is important for career advancement for people who work now as government employees, as health care professionals in our facilities that we have.

I take offence to the word “warehouse” and the public record will know that both leaders have called it a warehouse. They are comparing Copper Ridge Place, Thomson Centre and Macaulay Lodge to warehouses. We disagree.