This is page numbers 607 - 658 of the Hansard for the 19th Assembly, 2nd Session. The original version can be accessed on the Legislative Assembly's website or by contacting the Legislative Assembly Library. The word of the day was housing.

Topics

Motion 4-19(2): Request for Special Audit by the Auditor General of Canada on the Stanton Territorial Hospital Renewal Project, Carried
Motions(reversion)

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Kevin O'Reilly Frame Lake

Merci, Monsieur le President. The Stanton Territorial Hospital is in my riding of Frame Lake, and I did second the motion. This motion, though, is modelled after a similar motion that called for the Auditor General to carry out a special audit of the Deh Cho Bridge. That is the format that this generally reflects, that previous work.

I raised concerns around the Stanton Territorial Hospital, particularly the P3 arrangement, in the last Assembly. I want to make it clear, though, that there has been full financial recording under generally accepted accounting principles of the day in the public accounts of the Northwest Territories, so there is no question about the public reporting of the financing of this arrangement. It's clear, it's transparent, it's passed through the Auditor General, but this audit is really to focus on matters around the actual project costs versus the predicted costs, long-term financial implications, compliance with the Financial Administration Acts and financial policies. It's more of a performance audit, and I certainly support that.

We've heard concerns, as well, around the performance of the building and the contractors. We had a special briefing earlier this year around those matters, and I've heard from members of the public with concerns about those issues. I also want to make it clear that there is no obligation on the part of the Office of the Auditor General to actually carry out the audit. This is a request. The Auditor General will decide, ultimately, whether to carry out this audit. The Auditor General could decide to carry out an audit even in the absence of this motion, but this is clearly a request that I think a number of Regular MLAs are going to support. I think it's really important that we do a lessons-learned, retrospective look at that, of the largest project ever for the Northwest Territories. That's what this motion is really about.

This government is committed to further P3 projects, whether it's the Tlicho all-season road, don't know what the financial arrangements for the proposed Slave Geological Province road are going to be, but I think there are a lot of lessons that we need to learn from the Stanton Territorial Hospital. Mr. Speaker, I'll be voting in support of this motion. I request a recorded vote. Mahsi, Mr. Speaker.

Motion 4-19(2): Request for Special Audit by the Auditor General of Canada on the Stanton Territorial Hospital Renewal Project, Carried
Motions(reversion)

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The Speaker (Hon. Frederick Blake Jr) Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member for Frame Lake. To the motion. Minister of Finance.

Motion 4-19(2): Request for Special Audit by the Auditor General of Canada on the Stanton Territorial Hospital Renewal Project, Carried
Motions(reversion)

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Caroline Wawzonek Yellowknife South

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Accountability and transparency in all public dealings, in all public accounting, is fundamental. It's critical. I share the Member's view entirely on that. This particular project has gone through quite tremendous financial reporting. I acknowledge the comments of the Member just now, and I appreciate the faith that's being placed in the Department of Finance and in all the GNWT to always do our best to be transparent and accountable. In addition to the lengthy briefing that was done, I just wanted to make a few comments, Mr. Speaker, with respect to some of that financial accounting and reporting that has gone on to date on this particular project.

Mr. Speaker, back in 2016 when preparing the public accounts, the decision was made to report the then-arrangements as being a public-private partnership. By doing so, it would then trigger an involvement of the Auditor General's office, and, indeed, ultimately the Auditor General's office agreed that that was the prudent course of action and in fact at that time also agreed with the GNWT costing of this project. Since that time, Mr. Speaker, for the years ending 2016, 2017, 2018, every year, the accumulated costs as the project was going on were being reported, and they were being audited, and they were being found every year by the Auditor General's office as being accurate. When the final project costs rolled in, they had been again reported in the March 2019 public accounts, which were tabled in this House in December and which will be reviewed by standing committee in April of this year. That briefing and that review, Mr. Speaker, is done with the Comptroller General's office, the Auditor General's office, and standing committee. It's done confidentially, and it's done with fulsomeness. I'm confident that it will have a very thorough review and that many questions will be asked, as they should be, and they'll be answered. To date, the Auditor General's office has been involved and been providing only positive reviews of all the financial aspects of the project. Speaking more specifically to that, this was a $350-million capital project. It was roughly $1,000 over its budget estimate. That is a very positive return in terms of the capital costing of the project.

Mr. Speaker, I acknowledge, of course, that there has been much discussion in this House around the functioning of the building. That said, there has been action taken immediately by the GNWT to ensure that we have remained active and involved on the unfolding of the project, on the unfolding of the hospital as it has opened. We have already addressed more than once here the work that's been done on a GNWT level, at a senior management level, to be engaged, to take action, to ensure that the partners in the project are taking responsible action and, if necessary, to take action under the contract in order to have the service delivered as was provided for. It is a complex contract, but it is actively being monitored, Mr. Speaker.

My one last note, as I've spoken to before, is that property taxes were not considered as part of the capital cost. Property tax is considered part of the operations of any building, and, in the course of a building that is owned by the GNWT, those property taxes are not in fact property taxes; they're paid as a grant. That is something that is separate and apart from the capital cost or from the operating costs that's been factored into the contract here, and it's something that, at this point, has been factored into MACA's budget and will continue to be going forward. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Motion 4-19(2): Request for Special Audit by the Auditor General of Canada on the Stanton Territorial Hospital Renewal Project, Carried
Motions(reversion)

Page 617

The Speaker (Hon. Frederick Blake Jr) Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Minister. To the motion. Member for Yellowknife North.

Motion 4-19(2): Request for Special Audit by the Auditor General of Canada on the Stanton Territorial Hospital Renewal Project, Carried
Motions(reversion)

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Rylund Johnson Yellowknife North

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Ultimately, I will be supporting this motion. I just wanted to speak to a few things. I think we have to limit expectations of what the role of the Auditor General is. The Auditor General does not make political decisions. They ultimately review financials, and they have been involved with this project extensively and may review compliance with policies. I think there is a larger question here, and it's ultimately a political one, and it's one we're stuck with. If I were in charge back when this decision was being made, I would not have built this hospital, Mr. Speaker. I would have hired nurses and doctors instead because people heal the sick, not buildings. Here we stand in this Assembly, and the hospital is constructed. We're left with it, Mr. Speaker. There is not much to be done about that.

Secondly, to the process of the Auditor General, they just completed the education audit. I believe their other one is starting or currently ongoing. Usually, those audits take about 18 months. If they choose to do this, and they have complete control over what they audit, I expect it to be a number of years, Mr. Speaker. I question what we're really going to get out of this in a couple of years, when we receive this audit. Ultimately, like I said, I wouldn't have built the hospital, but I have been convinced that this project probably actually came in on budget. In fact, I think there are some concerns with Dexterra that they are not able to make a profit because they didn't really consider the realities of getting northern labour. I guess the benefit of this audit to me, Mr. Speaker, is that we have a number of very large P3 infrastructure projects that are on the books or that are really coming forward, and the more information we can get regarding P3s, the better. I have a number of concerns with P3s, whether it be the requirements to not have enough northern labour; I think, on the hospital, we saw too many southern contractors. I also question some of the use of non-unionized labour in P3s, but those are political decisions, Mr. Speaker, and they are political decisions we in this House must decide. Ultimately, they are not the decisions of the Auditor General, and the Auditor General is not a political body. They can't provide us with direction on those questions.

So I look forward to continuing having these conversations. I hope, in time, if we do get this audit, that it provides more information, but ultimately we have to have some serious conversations about infrastructure such as hospitals when we could be hiring staff and the future of P3 projects, Mr. Speaker.

Motion 4-19(2): Request for Special Audit by the Auditor General of Canada on the Stanton Territorial Hospital Renewal Project, Carried
Motions(reversion)

Page 617

The Speaker (Hon. Frederick Blake Jr) Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member for Yellowknife North. To the motion.

Motion 4-19(2): Request for Special Audit by the Auditor General of Canada on the Stanton Territorial Hospital Renewal Project, Carried
Motions(reversion)

Page 617

Some Hon. Members

Question.

Motion 4-19(2): Request for Special Audit by the Auditor General of Canada on the Stanton Territorial Hospital Renewal Project, Carried
Motions(reversion)

Page 617

The Speaker (Hon. Frederick Blake Jr) Frederick Blake Jr.

Question has been called, and a recorded vote has been requested. All those in favour, please rise.

Recorded Vote
Motions(reversion)

March 11th, 2020

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Clerk Of The House Mr. Tim Mercer

The Member for Thebacha, the Member for Nunakput, the Member for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh, the Member for Frame Lake, the Member for Kam Lake, the Member for Yellowknife North, the Member for Inuvik Twin Lakes, the Member for Yellowknife Centre, the Member for Hay River South.

Recorded Vote
Motions(reversion)

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The Speaker (Hon. Frederick Blake Jr) Frederick Blake Jr.

All those abstaining, please rise. Sorry, all those opposed, please rise.

Recorded Vote
Motions(reversion)

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Clerk Of The House Mr. Tim Mercer

The Member for Nahendeh, the Member for Hay River North, the Member for Yellowknife South, the Member for Sahtu.

Recorded Vote
Motions(reversion)

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The Speaker (Hon. Frederick Blake Jr) Frederick Blake Jr.

All those abstaining, please rise. The results of the recorded vote: nine in favour; four opposed; zero abstentions. The motion is carried.

---Carried

Motions. Item 17, notices of motion for first reading of bills. Item 18, first reading of bills. Item 19, second reading of bills. Item 20, consideration in Committee of the Whole of bills and other matters: Tabled Document 30-19(2), Main Estimates 2020-2021; Tabled Document 43-19(2), Supplementary Estimates (Infrastructure Expenditures), No. 1, 2020-2021. By the authority given to me as Speaker by Motion 1-19(2), I hereby authorize the House to sit beyond the daily hours of adjournment to consider the business before the House, with the Member for Inuvik Twin Lakes in the chair.

Consideration Of Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters
Consideration Of Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

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The Chair Lesa Semmler

I call Committee of the Whole to order. What is the wish of committee? Member for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh.

Consideration Of Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters
Consideration Of Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

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Steve Norn Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh

Marsi cho, Madam Chair. Committee wishes to consider Tabled Document 30-19(2), 2020-2021 Main Estimates, for the NWT Housing Corporation. Marsi.

Consideration Of Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters
Consideration Of Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

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The Chair Lesa Semmler

Does the committee agree?