Question re: Nisutlin River bridge - April 17, 2014

Mr. Silver:   I also have a question for the minister responsible for Highways and Public Works. Last Friday, the minister managed to cancel a $14.5-million tender in the community of Teslin. This money was obviously set aside for the community’s main bridge. This is no small feat for this government. The budget hasn’t even been passed by this House and already one of the largest capital projects has been cancelled and thrown into Nisutlin Bay.

Can the minister explain to us: How did we get to this point?

Hon. Mr. Istchenko:           I listened to the member opposite obviously not understanding how contracting goes. The government has an undisputed strong history of good financial management. This year we do have one of the largest budgets in history and, as you can see, we did cancel a tender because we’d like to work with the community and the local First Nations on some of their concerns.

Second, you just have to look at our capital project management process. We work to meet a vast range of needs across the territory while also managing our budget. This isn’t elementary school math. Capital projects have large budgets. They are complex to plan and often need to be adjusted in various ways through the planning process. Budgets can and should shift to meet the identified needs or concerns of a community. Despite this, we do a good job.

Mr. Silver:   One of the implications of the cancellation of this $14.5 million is the fate of the $6.75 million in Building Canada money that was also a part of this. According to the minister’s own department, this funding is time-limited and must be spent now before it disappears.

The government is now scrambling to find other projects that meet the criteria for using this money. The government likes to talk about how fiscally responsible they are, yet here is another example of this myth being exposed.

Can the minister explain how cancelling a $14.5-million contract at the last minute — and then scrambling to find a way to spend the money on something else — is an example of good fiscal management?

Hon. Mr. Pasloski:     What this is a good example of is yet another flip-flop by the Leader of the Liberal Party. Either the Liberal leader will demand that we go forward with a project, or then he would criticize us if the community is not happy.

This is very simple. There were still concerns that arose from the First Nation and from the community. We are not going to go forward with a project of this size unless we have support of the community. We have already discussed the YESAA, and I have already articulated that, in fact, in almost all bridge modifications — when we are rebuilding these bridges — there has been no requirement for YESAA.

Mr. Speaker, what a wonderful thing that this government is in. We have the largest capital budget in the history of this territory, and we won’t be scrambling to find projects because of the due diligence and great work that is being done in departments like the Department of Highways and Public Works and the Department of Community Services. In fact, across the territory there are projects that are available.

We will look at what is out there. We do have an agreement. We understand what is going on with Building Canada and we will ensure — as we have committed and spent approximately $250 million of Building Canada money over the last seven years, ensuring good, clean drinking water for Yukoners, ensuring disposition of waste waters —

Speaker:       The member’s time has elapsed.

Mr. Silver:   The Premier can turn it around and talk about the Liberals, but this is an example of mismanagement on a capital level. This Legislature hasn’t even passed the budget yet, and already one of the largest capital projects has been shelved. This is another example of poor planning. It’s another example of poor fiscal management by this Yukon Party government, and they’re getting very well-known for it.

Once again, contractors in the private sector have spent thousands of dollars preparing bids for major jobs just to see the government pull the rug out from underneath them. This government can bring in all the procurement experts they want and they can buy contractors breakfasts for every day of the week, but they need to stop doing what they’re doing. They need to operate in a different fashion. Contractors are fed up with this government’s inability to properly address public concerns.

When is this government going to start doing a better job of managing contracts?

Hon. Mr. Pasloski:     The member opposite — the Leader of the Liberal Party — has and will oppose every capital project that we have put forward and find an excuse.

I challenge the member opposite to name a project that he has supported on the record, because the answer is zero. He voted against the hospital in his community, and I know that he will vote against the expansion and the rebuilding of the McDonald Lodge. As well, he has voted against such projects as Betty’s Haven. I challenge the leader opposite to name a project that he has supported on the record.