Question re: F.H. Collins Secondary School reconstruction - November 24, 2015

Mr. Silver: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. This week I have been asking some questions about infrastructure projects that this government has had 13 years or so to address but has failed to do so. We know that the next new hydro project and the paving of the Dawson City runway and also the project to fix our Internet service are all going to be resolved by the next government, not this one. One project this government has tackled is the rebuilding of F.H. Collins.

It was promised last election, restarted and should be ready if the tech ed wing comes in on time by the next election. In the spring the minister said that the cost for this project to date was $46 million.

The question to the minister is: Does this figure include $5 million spent on the scrapped design for F.H. Collins 1.0?

Hon. Mr. Kent: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. During departmental debate in Highways and Public Works, I believe the Member for Klondike asked a similar question. What I committed to at that time was that once we find out the final costs for some of the work that has yet to be completed, such as the tech ed wing, as well as the demolition of the existing school, we’ll be in a better position to outline what the final costs are. I guess the one thing that is important to note is that on construction alone, the bids for the initial F.H. Collins design came in at $48 million. The bids for the subsequent design and the new school that is on-site came in at approximately $34 million. That gave us some flexibility. That $48 million was approximately $10 million over what the construction budget was.

I think it is also important to note that students and staff and parents and all of those in the F.H. Collins school community will have a fantastic facility to learn in, a very modern facility, and they should be very proud of that. We look forward to the opening of that facility in the new year.

Mr. Silver: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I am talking about money that has already been spent. We just want to know if the numbers that they are using involve that $5 million from the project that was scrapped. If we add that $5 million that was already scrapped and $3.5 million to fix the tech ed wing, Yukon taxpayers are going to be paying just about the same amount of money as for that first original scrapped design. Of course, we are getting a much smaller school and we are getting it years behind schedule.

Recently the minister confirmed another problem with this project. Students are scheduled to move out of the old F.H. Collins in January. Unfortunately, the government will have to heat the entire building for the rest of the winter because the tender to fix the tech ed wing is so behind schedule. This could have been avoided if the project had been properly managed, and the tech ed wing tender had been ready when it was supposed to be.

How much extra cost is this adding to an already overbudget project? We must have some numbers.

Hon. Mr. Kent: Thank you very  much, Mr. Speaker. I didn’t think it was that long ago that we talked about Highways and Public Works in departmental debate, but clearly the member opposite has forgotten some of the answers that I provided to him at that time.

Again, with respect to the tech ed wing, there are some delays. We originally anticipated it being ready for move-in with the new school in the new year. The process that we chose to follow was a design/build bid, so we had to wait for the design to be completed before we could get bids and tenders. The tender has closed and we have yet to award it, but the numbers are in with respect to the tech ed wing upgrades.

When it comes to another aspect that the member opposite has forgotten — when it comes to heating of the tech ed wing in the meantime, we will be closing off parts of the existing F.H. Collins school so that we can minimize the amount of the new school that will have to be heated.

This is just an opportunity for me to remind the member opposite of what was said during departmental debate with respect to this project. I should repeat — an exciting project, an exciting new addition not only to Riverdale but for all Yukoners to take advantage of, and a new, modern learning facility for students both now and many years into the future.

Mr. Silver: If the minister wants to be forthright, he could tell us if that $5 million was included in that $46 million number.

We know that, at the end of the day, this project will be overbudget or cost just as much money as the design for the original scrapped design. The idea that this is going to save us any money — that’s a Yukon Party myth.

We know that this project is years behind schedule. We know that millions were spent on a design that was never going to be used. We know that millions of dollars flowed out of the territory when the government proactively decided to award the contract to a construction company outside the Yukon. We know that the Yukon Party has a proven track record of being unable to manage these larger projects. Two rural hospitals, the new LNG facility and the Dawson waste-water treatment facility — all examples of projects that were millions of dollars overbudget and plagued by project management issues.

The process has been repeated time and time again. Why do we have the same problems every time this government tries to accomplish a larger asset build?

Hon. Mr. Kent: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. Again, when the project is complete — the numbers are in place for the demolition of the old school as well as upgrades to the tech ed wing — we will be in a position to an apples-to-apples comparison of what the original design would have cost, given that $10 million that we were over on construction, versus what we’re getting with our new school. Of course, the sunk cost of the original design will be included in that comparison at that time.

I do find it interesting that the Member for Klondike — when the $48-million bid first came in, the member issued a press release showing how outraged he was, calling on the government to either redesign the school or move the school, or to slow it down. I think it was last week when one of my colleagues mentioned that the only thing consistent about the Member for Klondike and the Liberal Party is their inconsistency.

Let’s just take a look at the Dawson runway and his big rush to get that project done without all of the information in place. As I mentioned  last week during debate on the Dawson City runway, the Member for Klondike really wants us to move forward without all the information — go ahead — but he would be the first to criticize if it were overbudget.

Again, we’ll continue to do the hard work and the homework, and the member opposite can continue to criticize — but only on a case-by-case basis with different criticisms for each project.