Question re: F.H. Collins Secondary School reconstruction – March 25, 2013

Mr. Silver: I have a question for the Minister of Education in regard to the reconstruction of F.H. Collins school. In regard to the handling of this project, there has been a great deal of well-deserved criticism directed at the government. After spending at least $6 million on this project, the Yukon Party decided just weeks ago to start all over again.

There is an opportunity to get it right this time. There is an opportunity to build a school that fits a community’s needs as opposed to one that fits an existing footprint. I believe the government made the wrong decision the first time around when it decided not to rebuild the tech and trades wing at the school. The government has essentially given itself a do-over.

Will the minister consider including a new tech and trades wing in the new F.H. Collins Secondary School?

Hon. Mr. Kent: I guess the short answer to the member’s questions is yes. We’ll look at options under the designs that we are looking at from other jurisdictions. If those do, in fact, contain shops or tech and trades facilities within them, we will be able to include them in the new school. Of course the commitment by the government is to fiscal responsibility. Those bids did come in $10 million over, but the existing tech and trades facility that is on-site at F.H. Collins offers a number of different programs, so we want to make sure that we are able to transfer all those programs over to a new school. Otherwise, it will perhaps become part of our campus model that we have talked about.

Mr. Silver: The transferring of existing programs is great. We are talking about an academic emphasis. The Liberal caucus would like the government to examine the potential of building a tech and trades wing in the school now that the project has been scrapped. The recently completed feasibility study for a centre for northern innovation in mining at Yukon College has demonstrated a strong need for something more. The demand is on the rise in Canada and in the Yukon, and it makes sense to examine these possibilities. The Minister of Education himself has spoken about the need for more training of this type. I know that the government wants to see the building completed before the next election, and maybe that’s driving this timetable, unfortunately.

We need to focus more on educating students and less on having the school ready for another pre-election ribbon-cutting. $27 million has been set aside in this year’s budget to start again on a new F.H. Collins school. My question: What is the total budget for this new school?

Hon. Mr. Kent: Mr. Speaker, the total budget for the school that we’ve appropriated or asked for so far is in and around the $56-million mark. When it comes to the tech and trades issues that were brought forward by the Member for Klondike, he rightfully mentioned the centre for northern innovation in mining. We’re excited about the opportunities that exist there. The Minister of Economic Development and I attended the graduation for the introduction to mining class that occurred on Friday. We have ordered a new trades trailer that will offer that type of training around the Yukon. There are tremendous opportunities, I think, that exist for us in expanding the role of trades and technology. It is about the programming; it isn’t necessarily about the bricks and mortar and we look forward to building that programming, working on dual credit welding as early as this fall in the member’s home community of Dawson City. So I think there is a tremendous number of things we can do with respect to trades training, and it’s something that I remain committed to as minister and indeed, our government is committed to on this side of the House.

Mr. Silver: I appreciate the minister’s answers. The Government of Yukon should take the time necessary to plan properly for this new F.H. Collins building. When we are talking about an expansion of the tech and trades wing, I mean academically it should include CAD training, robotics and other trades that are in high demand locally.

When the Premier announced he was pulling the plug on the old design of F.H. Collins Secondary School, he said the approved construction budget — as detailed by two separate independent estimators — was $38.6 million. So far the government has refused to release these two independent estimates. The more information the public has, the better. Perhaps these documents will shed some light on why the government was so far off on their cost estimates.

Will the Premier release these estimates so the public can see whether or not they actually do match up with the construction budget?

Hon. Mr. Kent: When it comes to the F.H. Collins school replacement project we are certainly committed to the principles of fiscal responsibility, and we won’t be proceeding as mentioned with the design concept. We’re able to use the work of the building advisory committee. They put a substantial amount of time and effort into coming up with programming options for the new school, and we hope to incorporate all of those into the new design that will be based on something that has already been constructed successfully and economically in other jurisdictions and will incorporate other elements from the previous consultation process.

I had the opportunity last week to attend the F.H. Collins school council meeting and had a very good dialogue.

The Member for Riverdale South was in attendance, and we look forward to coming to that school community — the school council and the administration and staff at F.H. Collins — and seeking what their must-haves are, as far as educational programming at the new school. I’m sure some of the ideas that were brought up by the Member for Klondike will also be incorporated into their list, as far as tech and trades and some of the other high-demand skills that are required in the territory right now.