Question re: F.H. Collins Secondary School reconstruction - December 15, 2014

Mr. Silver:   I have a question for the Minister of Highways and Public Works. The government has been claiming, with a straight face, that the F.H. Collins project is on time and on budget. The Yukon Party government of the day promised the school would be open in August of 2013, and the original budget was supposed to be $25 million. That budget is now well over $50 million and the minister admitted last week that it is going to be even higher with changes coming to the tech and trades wing.

In 2013, I asked the government to consider putting the trades and tech wing in the new school. The minister said he was open to that idea at the time and that it was worth considering. A government that does good planning would have looked at it and would have looked at what the cost would have been to upgrade the trades wing and compared it to the cost of building it right into the new school. On Thursday, the minister admitted that the government doesn’t have any cost figures at all, and in fact we are only now assessing what work needs to be done to upgrade the trades wing.

Why was this work not done before the decision was made not to include the trades wing in the new construction?

Hon. Mr. Istchenko:           I did tell the member opposite last week that the trades and tech wing is not part of the F.H. Collins construction project. It is going to require some upgrades. I said that and the member opposite heard me. As well, it is going to need a new stand-alone heating plant. We are working with Energy Solutions Centre on moving forward with that.

We are committed to providing jobs and opportunities for Yukoners and their families. We work to ensure Yukoners have every opportunity to benefit from our infrastructure projects. Regarding F.H. Collins, coming from the members opposite — I can’t remember which one said that it wasn’t going to be built to code. We are building — this is an affordable design with modern facilities that meet the LEED silver standard and our efficiency standards. I know the member opposite is not happy to see that there are Yukoners working and that there is construction going on, but on this side, we are. We look forward to the completion of it and we look forward to seeing the fact that Yukoners are working and the students who are coming up the ranks are going to be going to brand new, fancy, nice-looking school.

Mr. Silver:   The minister should be careful trying to put words into my mouth that I did not say. I will quote him, though. He said: “We do not have any cost figures. We are assessing it right now.” That is a direct quote from the minister.

In March 2013, I asked the government to consider putting the trades wing in the new school. The Minister of Education said at the time, “We’ll look at it and we’re certainly committing to the principles of fiscal responsibility.” It is clear the idea was never really considered and the government just went ahead and built the school as is. Only after the fact is the government now looking at what it will cost to upgrade the tech and trade wing.

If the government was committed to being fiscally responsible, it would have compared the costs of the two options before it went into construction. Why was this not done?

Hon. Mr. Istchenko:   I did tell the member opposite last week that this project is not part of the F.H. Collins construction project and that we are working on costs. I told the members opposite that. Mr. Speaker, the member opposite did bring to me in debate before, I believe, that he would like to see us combine that project with F.H. Collins, but they are stand-alone separate projects and we’re working on costing that out and bringing it forward.

Mr. Silver:   We know that the government spent $6 million on a design that was scrapped. We know that an Alberta company was given almost a $1-million contract with no competition to redesign the so-called “free” plan the government received. We know the government designed the tender for construction so local companies could not win it. We also know that they promised to consider putting the trade wing into the new school, but never really considered it. We know that the government made the decision without even considering the cost of upgrading the tech wing, because the minister told us so on Thursday. The government knew that the trade wing would have to be upgraded because the heat from the building comes from the existing F.H. Collins building and that will be torn down.

What is the government looking at spending — how much — to upgrade the tech and trade wing at F.H. Collins school?

Hon. Mr. Istchenko:   I think the Liberal Leader continues to be wrong. There are so many opportunities for Yukon and Yukon companies — just on the F.H. Collins site alone — and I am not going to list all the companies, but these companies themselves each represent multiple local Yukon employees providing for their families. This project is providing direct benefits to the Yukon companies and workers.

I said to the member opposite earlier: the tech wing is not part of this project. The tech wing will be stand-alone. Yes, the tech wing will require some upgrades and yes, we’re working with Energy Solutions to develop the tools and various heating sources to ensure appropriate primary and secondary heat sources so that we can re-do that when the time comes.