Question re: FH Collins - $6 million - April 2, 2014

Mr. Silver:   I have a question for the Minister of Public Works. All this week I’ve been asking about this government’s inability to manage capital projects and the resulting public money that is wasted when this occurs.

At the top of the list of poorly managed projects is the new F.H. Collins. Last week, for the first time, Yukoners were finally given the full cost of the newly-redesigned school. It is interesting that it was never actually mentioned in the Premier’s one-hour and 47-minute budget speech, but it was contained in the background information released by this government.

Will the minister confirm for the public record that the complete budget for the newly-redesigned F.H. Collins School is now $51 million?

Hon. Mr. Istchenko:           I thank the member opposite for the question. What I will confirm is that this government’s primary objective was to build a new school for Yukoners and we’re doing that. This government is pleased to be moving forward with the F.H. Collins replacement project — an affordably designed, modern facility that meets the LEED silver energy-efficient standards. It reduces the energy consumption and environmental impacts of our infrastructure, assets and operations, which reduce the cost of supporting our climate change objectives.

Although the footprint has been moved from what was first proposed, the space-efficiency design still incorporates features and learning spaces requested by the school council building advisory committee and the Department of Education.

I know the member opposite is not in support of a new school, but we are on this side.

Mr. Silver:   On the contrary. I’m just wondering about a number here.

Mr. Speaker, this government likes to present itself as good financial managers. We all remember the Premier and the former Minister of Education, with their golden shovels, out before the last election to mark the beginning of construction for a new school. Two and a half years later, construction has not even started and the contract for building the school has been awarded to a company from Alberta.

While the government has tried to convince Yukoners that the cost of the building of the school is only going to be $31 million, the true costs were finally revealed in the back pages of the budget document released last week. Taxpayers will be on the hook for $51 million when the dust settles for this project.

Why did the government go out of its way to avoid mentioning the $51-million price tag in this budget speech?

Hon. Mr. Istchenko:           I do thank the member opposite for the question.

I’ll reiterate again that our secondary objective was to ensure that the school was built well and built in a timely and fiscally responsible manner. I want to correct the member opposite. This government has a great ability to manage projects and we definitely thank our staff for their hard work. We are confident that we will build a world-class facility and meet the current and long-term needs of our school community in a fiscally responsible manner. A decision was made in the spring of 2013 to adapt a proven and cost-effective school design from Alberta. This design has been built in a number of Alberta communities. A few of us members have had the opportunity to see it and it was shared with the Yukon government by the Government of Alberta at no cost.

So during the bidding process that the member opposite spoke of earlier, all bids came in under our approved budget for this project. Clark Builders was the successful bidder on this construction contract. They submitted the low bid on construction of the school and we’re going to start this thing right away here. I think fences will be going up any day now to get this project rolling.

Mr. Silver:   There are a lot of things that we do know. The Yukon Party seems to think that awarding one of the biggest construction projects of the year to a company from Alberta is good financial management. The government seems to think that tendering a project that puts Yukon companies at a disadvantage is good fiscal management. The government also seems to think that if it buries the final $51-million price tag in the back of the budget documents, no one will notice.

Mr. Speaker, one of the reasons why this project is so expensive is because the government spent three years pursuing a separate design and then scrapped it.

Can the minister confirm that $6 million out of the new $51-million budget for this project was spent on the now-scrapped design of the school that will never be built or is that money on top of the $51-million figure?

Hon. Mr. Istchenko:           I would like to thank the member opposite again for the question, and I’d like to let Yukoners know that maybe the member opposite maybe doesn’t believe in contracting rules and regulations.

The final objective here was to tender a project that would create local jobs and promote economic activity. Clark Builders has a solid reputation — I’ve said this in this House before. It just finished having a job fair where they were looking for superintendents and managers. Over the next several months, Clark Builders will be working with the local contractors to identify how they can participate in this significant construction project. We are pleased to see that Clark Builders have recently advertised local project management jobs and stuff, unlike the member opposite.

Some of the other infrastructure projects that you’re going to see this year: Whitehorse continuing care, the St. Elias group home, Sarah Steele replacement, the McDonald Lodge — in his riding — the Beaver Creek fire hall and Alexander Street. This is infrastructure Yukoners need that this government has provided in this budget. We support it on this side. Unfortunately, I’ll let Yukoners know the member on the opposite will not be supporting any of these projects.