Question re: Emergency medical services building - November 27, 2014

Mr. Silver:   Just over a year ago, the government cut a ribbon on the ambulance station at the top of Two Mile Hill. A year later, the space intended to be an integrated dispatch centre for ambulance services, still sits empty. Calls still go through the station in Riverdale. The reason the space is empty — and the minister admitted this himself — is because the government had no agreement in place with the RCMP to move in when the construction was started and no agreement when construction had ended. When I asked about this empty space last spring, the minister said negotiations with the RCMP to be a tenant were ongoing.

Mr. Speaker, it has been six months and the space is still empty. Can the minister please explain why?

Hon. Mr. Cathers:      First of all, I would have to remind the member that it is not only a relatively small part of the station, but that room is being used for other purposes and right now it is being put to good use. The space was included in the design with the intention of allowing the RCMP and potentially EMS — if integration ever occurred — to occupy that space.

Right now we are currently proceeding with the plan to have the RCMP move their call centre to that location. At this point we have done a final assessment of costs. Those costs have been submitted to the RCMP and I think right now we are waiting on approval from Ottawa for their portion of those costs. Again, final costs of fitting it out with new equipment for the RCMP — those being the new computer systems and so on — to modernize their equipment — have been determined and we are waiting on the financial approvals.

Mr. Silver:   Its current use is not — absolutely — its intended use.

The RCMP confirmed recently that they remain in discussions with the government about possibly moving into the space, but details have not been worked out. One of those details is potential renovations. This is a brand new building, but it was not constructed to actually accommodate the RCMP’s needs. This is poor planning and I think the taxpayers deserve a little bit better from their government.

What renovations and extra funding will be required if the RCMP were to move in?

Hon. Mr. Cathers:      We know the Liberal member, the Member for Klondike, voted against the investment in the emergency response system. It’s unfortunate he doesn’t recognize how valuable this building has been in upgrading — not only the equipment that is there for emergency responders — providing a modern facility and one that improves response times to areas both within and outside the city.

In fact, the member’s continuous fixation on this room of the building and the suggestion that it was somehow poor planning on the part of government officials is really unfortunate. The room was deliberately designed to accommodate the potential operations centre. Right now it is currently being used for purposes including training.

The costs have been determined for final fit-up of the building and the majority of those costs, contrary to the member’s assertions, are computer equipment and cables related to that. The RCMP also wants to upgrade its current hardware that it is using in the system with more modern computer terminals and equipment. We are waiting on financial approvals right now.

Mr. Silver:   It is disappointing to see the minister once again go on the attack because he is unable to defend his own actions. What I voted against is Yukon Party mismanagement of capital projects and taxpayers’ money. When the Yukon Party built the new hospitals in rural Yukon, they were criticized heavily by the Auditor General of Canada for barging ahead without knowing what was going to go in them. The same mistake has been repeated with the ambulance station that was built. A year later, the ambulance dispatch centre sits empty while the government decides what to do with that space.

Now there is a simple planning solution to this problem, and it is called a needs assessment. Before something is built, you need to decide what is going to go in it. Was there a needs assessment done and, if not, why not? If there was one done, can the minister at least provide a copy of it?

Hon. Mr. Cathers:      Again, this is absolutely bizarre to see this coming from the Leader of the Liberal Party. Determining that there was a need for a second ambulance station was work that followed many years of work by department officials, both within Health and Social Services and Community Services. There is a commitment that we made to help improve response times.

I know the member has no interest in the response, but if the member paid any attention to national standards around response times, the member would understand that improving response times for ambulances saves lives. That is a proven fact across the country, because in cases such as stroke and heart attack, every minute counts. We committed to putting in the emergency response centre to centralize the ability to provide ambulances there.

I know the Leader of the Liberal Party voted against that investment and continues to criticize staff. We see this as a great success and commend staff for the excellent work done in the planning and design of the facility. We look forward to seeing the next stage occur. We are waiting on financial approvals for a final fit-up and we hope to see a final agreement concluded very soon for the RCMP to move in and occupy that space.