Question re: F.H. Collins Secondary School reconstruction

Mr. Silver:   Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Premier. On March 11, 2013, the government told Yukoners a new design for F.H. Collins was being chosen and an old design was being scrapped. The decision was announced by the Premier and a news release said, and I quote: “The approved construction budget, as detailed by two separate independent estimators, was $38.6 million.”

Since that announcement, I have asked repeatedly for copies of the estimates. The Premier, the Minister of Education and the Minister of Highways and Public Works all refused to provide them, and now we know why.

There were actually three estimates and two of them were higher. In fact, at $43.7 million, one was much higher than the government said it was.

Why did the Premier tell the public that two estimates told them that they could build the new school for $38.6 million when that was not in fact what the estimates said?

Hon. Mr. Pasloski:     I guess we can scoop the Liberals into the same pot as we did with the NDP. Quite honestly, Mr. Speaker, as I have already said, this government committed $38.6 million to the construction of a new F.H. Collins School. The lowest bid came in almost $10 million above what we had budgeted. I used the analogy of a family that doesn’t have the budget to purchase or to construct a new home and that home comes in with bids sizably larger.

I made the assumption that the NDP would just go ahead and do it, and now it appears it would be the same case for the Liberals as well. It doesn’t matter, we’ll throw financial prudence to the wind and we will do what it takes. We’ll just spend the money. I guess we know that because, the last time the Liberals were in government, they did such a fantastic job of creating debt that they had to borrow money just to pay the wages.

Mr. Silver:   I think we’re going to throw accountability to the wind too, Mr. Speaker.

There were three estimates — not two — that the Premier told Yukoners, and one of the estimates told the government before the tender closed that the project would cost $43.7 million, not $38.6 million.

Last fall, I asked the Minister of Highways and Public Works to put on the record that the estimates in both of these documents were in fact less than $38.6 million. Here’s what he said in response to my question, and I quote: “The minister will not speak to these documents at all.” Now we know why the minister pled the fifth.

To the Premier, who made these statements in the first place: why did he say that the two estimates for $38.6-million when in fact they were not?

Hon. Mr. Pasloski:     It is the responsibility of this government to manage Yukoners’ tax dollars — to spend them, to ensure that there is a maximum benefit in terms of delivering of services and programs to Yukon people. We continue to focus on building a strong private sector economy, to create jobs and training opportunities — as we talked about in the announcement and this government’s investment in the Centre for Northern Innovation in Mining just yesterday — and for creating wealth.

Do you know what happens when that happens? This government then creates more revenues because we create revenues from businesses paying corporate taxes; we create revenues from more individuals paying personal income taxes; we create revenues from licences and fees. What do we do? It’s not just about the economy. Why are we growing the economy? Because then we can provide those hospital beds to people. We can provide those schools for our children and those teachers. We can provide the money to build those roads and Internet connections that we need. We can look after those people who need help in our society, which is important, as well.

We’re focused on being financially responsible. Going forward with a project that is already $10 million overbudget before we even start is not how this government will operate.

Mr. Silver:   That’s a great writing team. I want the Premier to answer the question. The government did its best to keep these documents out of the public eye. Now we know why. They contradict the Premier’s statements. They prove the government knew before it even tendered the project that it was going to be more than the $38.6 million and, for some reason, they went ahead anyway. This raises many questions, and I’ll be asking all of them.

Let’s start with this one: why did the Premier tell Yukoners that he had two estimates that said the school could be built for $38.6 million when he had two estimates that told him the exact opposite?

Hon. Mr. Pasloski:     I have answered the question; I’ll answer it again. We are not going to go forward with a project that was $10 million overbudget before we even start.

As I’ve said, Standard & Poor’s — and we all know who Standard & Poor’s are — says, “In our view, the territory demonstrates good financial management, which positively affects its credit profile.

 “Its annual financial reports are comprehensive and detailed and are independently audited. Yukon provides three-year financial forecasts and a five-year capital plan … We believe the territory has achieved a track record of strong economic performances.”

What we have to muse is if this was an NDP government or a Liberal government, would we hear Standard and Poor’s saying the very same thing to their government?