Question re: F.H. Collins Secondary School reconstruction - December 17, 2014

Mr. Silver:  I have a question for the Minister of Highways and Public Works about the long-delayed and overbudget F.H. Collins.

The government is ever-sensitive about the ever-escalating costs of this project, and it should be. Spending $6 million on a plan for a new school and then scrapping that design is expensive. Pretending that the plans for the new school are free and then paying a company from Alberta almost $1 million to change is also expensive.

The government is now trying to claim that renovations to the tech and trade wing are a separate project and that these costs shouldn’t be considered in replacing the school. The government knew that the tech and trade wing had to be upgraded, because the heat for the building comes from the existing F.H. Collins building which will be torn down. When you take away a building’s heating source, replacing it is part of the cost of finishing a project.

Will the minister admit that the renovations to the tech and trade wing should be considered part of the cost for rebuilding F.H. Collins school?

Hon. Mr. Istchenko:  I just want to read something from February 28 about the member opposite: “F.H. Numbers Alarming,” says the member. The member says “he is open to several options to get the project down to a more reasonable number, including delaying the project, redesigning it, and considering a new location.”

He also says on another occasion — on March 12 — it says “he would like the government to examine the potential of rebuilding the trade wing at the school now that the old project has been scrapped.”

These are some of the things that we are doing, Mr. Speaker. The trade wing is separate. We are just compiling the numbers from working with the key stakeholders so we can move forward on doing upgrades to that.

This government is committed to providing job and opportunities for Yukoners and their families. We’re working to ensure that Yukoners have the opportunity to benefit from our infrastructure projects — which will be the trade wing and which will be F.H. Collins. That is one of the reasons that this year’s fall capital budget — which not many members opposite are talking about — it was the largest in Yukon history.

Regarding F.H. Collins — things are coming along great. I said that earlier in one of my responses. It’s an affordable design for a modern facility that meets LEED silver standard and our efficiency standards. Construction is well underway. I said that it is on track for a fall completion in 2015 — lots of Yukoners working.

Mr. Silver:  The member opposite should wait until I am in government to ask me the questions, but right now I will ask the minister questions about the F.H. Collins build. It is clear that the government wants to exclude the cost of fixing the tech wing from their bill to replace F.H. Collins Secondary School — that is clear. When you take away a source of heat from a building and replace that source, the heat should be included in the final price. This morning, Yukoners got an idea of what that final price will be. The government released its plan to upgrade the tech and trade wing and has already set aside a budget of $3 million to do so. We learned also today that the government already had two estimates that tell them that the cost of renovations would be higher. It would cost about $5 million according to one estimate. Yukoners have seen this movie before at F.H. with the government burying estimates.

Why has the government set aside only $3 million when it has already been told that the cost will be above that number?

Hon. Mr. Istchenko:  It is a little disappointing to hear the numbers from the member opposite. There are Yukoners working there and focused on managing our capital projects responsibly. Planning government space efficiently and maintaining our buildings adequately — managing and maintaining our buildings and budgets are priorities for this government. It’s a balancing act. I know the member opposite has a long, long wish list of what he would like, and on this side we are responsible for making sure that we use available funds in a most effective way and as responsible a way as possible. Sometimes this means making difficult decisions that the member opposite might not like.

We have 12 capital projects underway in various stages right now. Yukoners are working. We have promoted economic activity here, kept our local suppliers and contractors busy and created local jobs. We have much to be proud of on this side with our capital project tendering. We are proud of it on this side.

Mr. Silver:  Yukoners remember the Premier and a former Minister of Education holding a photo opportunity prior to the 2011 election promising a new school would be opened in August of 2013. Since that time, the Yukon Party government has gone through two more Education ministers and the cost of the school has continued to grow. That we know. The government’s own budget documents put the price tag at $51 million, and when you add in the new information released today, the figure jumps up to at least $54 million.

For the record, what is the final cost of the project, including the renovations to the tech and trade wing, released this morning?

Hon. Mr. Pasloski:  This is not the first time that we have had the Leader of the Liberal Party get up and quote numbers that absolutely he has no clue what he is talking about. What this government did is, after tendering the first design and the lowest bid came in almost $10 million overbudget, having not even put a shovel in the ground, we redesigned that school. We went back out to tender. We saved the taxpayers millions of dollars, which we reinvested in other capital and we have reinvested in paying for teachers and doctors and building hospitals. What we will have is a beautiful school that the students and the teachers and the community will be very proud of, and we look forward to that school opening very shortly.