Question re: Whitehorse General Hospital renovations - April 8, 2014

Mr. Silver:   I have a question for the minister responsible for the Yukon Hospital Corporation. Last year the CEO of the corporation told the public that an upcoming expansion to the Whitehorse General Hospital would cost approximately $60- to $65 million. This is $10- to $15 million more than what Yukoners were told the project would cost just three years previously, in 2010. The minister contradicted the CEO and said that in fact no budget had actually been set. He later conceded that the CEO was probably referring to a preliminary estimate but that no final budget had been set. The minister went on to say that he would have a firmer estimate in the spring. Spring is here. What is the cost of the upcoming hospital expansion?

Hon. Mr. Graham:     We do not have a firm estimate because the complete extent of the renovations to the hospital emergency department is unknown at this time.

Mr. Silver:   When the Auditor General examines the way the Yukon Party went about building hospitals in Watson Lake and Dawson City they found a host of problems. We learned, for example, that the decision to proceed was simply based on a verbal instruction from the former Premier. The auditor recommended that, before beginning further future capital projects, the corporation should carry out a needs assessment, a risk assessment and an options analysis including how the project will be funded.

Last year, the chair of the hospital board said a needs assessment had already been done. The CEO said a needs assessment would be done, and the minister said he didn’t need one done. It is obvious that the same problems that resulted in huge cost overruns in the two rural hospitals have not been corrected.

So why is the government not following the advice from the Auditor General of Canada?

Hon. Mr. Graham:     I have to feel a certain amount of compassion for the member from Dawson City because his complete lack of understanding is exceeded only by his inability to grasp concepts.

The reason that we do not yet have a budget is because we have not yet set a plan. We are doing exactly as the Auditor General requested we do. We are, first of all, doing needs assessment. We are setting a plan. Once the plan, the needs assessment and the functional plan have been determined, we will have a budget.

For me to stand here and say now that this is all being completed and we have a budget of X number of dollars is exactly what the member opposite would do. We don’t have all of the necessary components in place yet. Until those components are in place, we won’t have a budget.

Mr. Silver:   Yukoners are understandably nervous when they see the Yukon Party beginning another major health-related capital project. The government’s track record is poor and it seems that they have learned nothing from their mistakes in the past. The Auditor General says to do a needs assessment. The minister says we don’t need to do one. The Auditor General also said to produce an options analysis so that people know how the project will be paid for. To date, there has been no indication whether the expansion will require borrowing new money or whether the government plans to pay up front.

The minister said that, to date, there has been no indication as to whether the expansion will require borrowing new money or whether the government plans to pay upfront. Last fall, the minister said that there were a number of documents being prepared by the Hospital Corporation or by his department — and I quote: “In due course we will release all of these assessments.”

When will the minister lift the veil of secrecy and allow Yukoners to see these documents?

Hon. Mr. Pasloski:     Mr. Speaker, what a great position this government is in where we can make that decision to pay upfront for a hospital expansion or to borrow the money. A lot of times there are good reasons to borrow money and there are bad reasons to borrow money. We only have to go back to the last NDP and Liberal governments to see bad reasons for borrowing money when they actually had to borrow money to pay for wages.

An investment in a hospital will benefit Yukoners for generations, so there can be a good argument to have that mortgaged over time and have that hospital paid for by all of the people who will benefit from it. But of course, because of our financial management, we will also have the option to decide whether we want to pay upfront for it — what a great position to be in in Yukon.