What does the Yukon Party government have to hide on Whitehorse airport maintenance?

On Thursday, November 26th Yukon NDP Highways and Public Works Critic Lois Moorcroft asked the following question about ongoing repairs to the Erik Nielsen International Airport:

Lois Moorcroft (MLA for Copperbelt South): Mr. Speaker, in today’s modern world, we Yukoners increasingly take our travel to the skies, and while we appreciate a wild Yukon adventure, we want the maintenance of our airfields to be predictably on time and on budget. In 2013, the Canadian and Yukon governments allocated millions to rehabilitate the runway apron panels at the Erik Nielsen airport in Whitehorse, and support the seamless operation of the airfield.

Since the 2014 contract work was done, 13 panels have already been replaced. Can the minister confirm that one-quarter of the new airport runway concrete apron panels already had to be replaced and that further work is needed, and will he tell the House what the total cost will be for correcting deficiencies?

Minister of Highways and Public Works Scott Kent: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. The member opposite is correct. There was work done to improve the apron panels at the Erik Nielsen Whitehorse International Airport. There were over 200 large, concrete apron panels that were replaced in 2014 under a joint federal and YG airport safety project. There were some deficiencies, as the member noted. The company that installed them will be responsible for replacing those. We’re in negotiations with them right now. I don’t have any firm numbers that the member opposite is looking for at this point, but, again, officials within Highways and Public Works are working with the contractor to address the situation and find a remedy to fix the deficiencies that are associated with the work that was undertaken.

Moorcroft: The Yukon government is unquestionably responsible for the quality of airfield upgrades, maintenance and repairs at Yukon airports. In the 2013 announcement of the concrete airport panel repairs, it was made clear that over $1 million of Yukon’s public money was going to be invested in the project, but here we are — money in the budget for next year but not the work done and completed.

This same Yukon Party story has been repeated so many times that it is becoming the stuff of legend. Inadequate contract management leads to repeated delays and do-overs. The minister has acknowledged concrete deficiencies for the Whitehorse airport runway apron panels.

Can the minister tell the House what the latest Transport Canada report says about the recent work at the Erik Nielsen airport?

Kent: Again, Mr. Speaker, as I mentioned, there were some deficiencies that the Transportation Engineering branch detected with the work that the contractor has undertaken. We’re working with the contractor right now to come up with a solution to replace those. Obviously we feel that the contractor is responsible for those deficiencies, but work continues with them to develop a workplan and get the necessary repairs done to the apron panels. I don’t have any additional information to share with the House at this time but, as information becomes more available, I’ll certainly be in a better position to talk about the specifics.

Again, there’s discussion back and forth with the contractor at this point, and we’ll look forward to a resolution and the repair of those apron panels.

Moorcroft: When the rehabilitation plan for the concrete airport apron was announced in 2013, the former minister said his government was — and I quote: “… committed to enabling an efficient and well-functioning airport …” Surely he doesn’t consider efficiency to mean doing the same work twice over, time and again.

Another concern is that monitoring wells drilled into the ground underneath the airport, which are used to check for and help to mitigate any potential underground hydrocarbon pollution in the airfield, were accidentally paved over during the apron repairs. New wells had to be drilled.

Again, will the minister table the Transport Canada reports on this airports capital assistance program’s assisted project at the Whitehorse airport?

Kent: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. Again, this was an opportunity for us as a government to work with a local contractor to perform a project. The project value was in the range of $3 million to $4 million initially — again, a partnership between the Yukon government and the federal government.

As I mentioned, we’re working with the contractor and the bonding company for the contractor to find a solution that is mutually acceptable to address this problem. Obviously sometimes there are deficiencies when contracts are undertaken.

The Transportation Engineering branch does a good job of inspecting these projects and ensuring that we get value for our dollar and that the projects are delivered in a manner that is acceptable and safe. We are working with the contractor and the bonding company to come up with a solution that is acceptable for the repair work that is required for the apron panels at the Whitehorse International Airport.


Photo: brettmcd / flickr. Used under a Creative Commons BY 2.0 licence.