Moorcroft forces government to admit they don't know cost of running Whistle Bend continuing care facility

Yukon NDP Highways and Public Works Critic asked the Yukon Party government the following question on April 20th 2016:

Moorcroft (Copperbelt South): This government budgets $41.4 million in 2016-17 for continuing care operation and maintenance. The $41 million is split between program management, extended and complex care, and intermediate and community care. $41 million in O&M covers the current 190 care beds available. This government has embarked on the construction of a new 150-bed facility in Whistle Bend that will add to the current inventory.

Mr. Speaker, can the minister give the House a clear answer — what are the estimated costs for the annual operation and maintenance of the new 150-bed facility in Whistle Bend?

Health and Social Services minister Mike Nixon (Porter Creek South): I certainly extend my thanks to the member opposite for bringing this question to the floor of the Legislature. Speaking about jobs and continuing care is something that we’re very proud to take on. We know a number of people in the health sector in the territory and in other provinces have already been calling to find out when they can apply to work at the new continuing care facility. We’re kind of excited about that buzz. We’re excited about the construction of the Whistle Bend continuing care facility, and we know that it will have a great impact on our wait-lists. At any given time, there can be 60 to 90 people waiting for a bed. Those are Yukoners; those are our neighbours, our friends and our family.

Mr. Speaker, with respect to jobs at the continuing care facility and the O&M costs — is something that this government is proud to take on and we’re proud to be able to provide those new opportunities for our professionals here in the territory.

Moorcroft: We know the capital costs for the Whistle Bend facility are estimated at about $146 million. What we continue to request are the operation and maintenance costs. By refusing to answer, is the minister telling Yukoners that this government is building a $146‑million facility without knowing how much it would cost to operate it? This would be a new low in fiscal management, even for this government.

Mr. Speaker, either the minister doesn’t know the O&M costs or he refuses to tell Yukoners — neither is acceptable.

Would the minister tell us — does he now know the O&M costs of the new continuing care facility, or is he refusing to reveal what the costs are?

Nixon: I thank the member opposite for bringing this to the floor of the Legislature. It gives me the opportunity to highlight not only the good work that we foresee in the future when the Whistle Bend continuing care facility is open, but it also gives me an opportunity to highlight some of the work and jobs that are offered currently in our current continuing care facilities.

I’ve been to all the facilities, Mr. Speaker, and I can tell you that people are very appreciative of the work that they have. As I mentioned in my first response, we’re getting phone calls from people living in the territory and people from other provinces seeking employment in this new continuing care facility, one that will be one of a kind in Canada in the service delivery.

As the department moves forward with working on the O&M costs of the continuing care facility and tightening up those numbers, we don’t have an answer for the member opposite today, but I can tell the member opposite and assure Yukoners that the department is working very diligently on the programming that will be offered in the continuing care facility and the dollars that are needed on a more definitive basis to provide those services.

We’re proud of the staff and the management that provide the care on a daily basis currently and, as I mentioned in my first response, we’re very eager and are looking forward to opening the doors as a renewed government in two years.

Moorcroft: In 2014-15, the Department of Highways and Public Works contracted Partnerships BC to conduct a procurement options analysis of the Whistle Bend facility at a cost of $45,000. Last year, the department once again contracted Partnerships BC for design/build procurement services for a cost of $830,000. I will quote from the Highways and Public Works minister’s response letter to my questions about the Partnerships BC contract regarding the Whistle Bend facility — and I quote: “During the planning and procurement stages, YG was focused on achieving strong value for money outcomes, especially on a project of this size.” Value for money not only includes construction cost but it also would include life cycle costs, which reveal what the O&M are.

Mr. Speaker, will this government provide Yukoners the operating costs of this facility so we can get a clear idea of the total actual cost?

Premier Darrell Pasloski: What we actually have heard again is what we have heard many times — that the opposition would cancel this project.

Mr. Speaker, this government will continue to stand up for what is necessary and what is needed for Yukoners. We have focused on health care. We know there’s a large demand for this continuing care facility. We have a long waiting list.

We are working with Partnerships BC to ensure that we do this in a manner that we get the best value for every dollar.

What the opposition failed to understand is that we have produced not only a budget for this year, but ongoing for multiple years that shows this government will be building this facility; we’ll continue to have modest surpluses and we’ll continue to have money in the bank.

Mr. Speaker, that is the difference between the Yukon Party and the NDP and the Liberals who would tax and spend Yukoners right back into where we were with the previous NDP and Liberal governments — a mass exodus of people and double-digit unemployment. 


Photo: biomedical_scraps/flickr. Used under a CC-BY 2.0 licence.