Nunavut MLAs delete additional funding for new correctional centre
“They’re going to have to cut some pretty serious corners over the next few years and I sincerely hope that they’re able to do that”
Nunavut’s MLAs denied a request for additional funding for the ongoing construction of the Qikiqtani Correctional Healing Centre during a committee of the whole meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 22.
The request comes as part of Bill 47, the supplementary appropriation act for 2020-2021, which covers special warrant spending already issued as a result of the pandemic and cancellation of the spring sitting of the assembly, as well as $2.3 million in new capital spending.
“The Department of Justice requires $1.5 million this year to address higher costs for its Qikiqtani Correctional Healing Centre,” said Finance Minister George Hickes.
“This in-year increase is part of a total $4 million increase to the project over three years.”
If the funds had been approved, the Government of Nunavut’s total contribution to the project would have been $27.8 million.
The Government of Canada is contributing the remaining $57 million.
John Main, MLA for Arviat North-Whale Cove, asked how much of the need for additional funding was caused by the pandemic.
Stephen Mansell, the deputy minister of justice, said that while the pandemic caused a delay in the construction schedule, the request for additional funds comes from design errors, code compliance issues and a small change of scope.
He offered the following breakdown:
- $55,000 for a redesign of bunk bed footholds, as the current design poses a danger and risk to inmates potentially harming themselves
- $70,000 for floor unit drains
- $35,000 to move an air duct from under the inmate’s dining area
- $135,000 to add key fob access to the medium-security unit
- $250,000 for the addition of snow fins on the roof that would mitigate the risk of a roof overload
- $250,000 for a body scanner, similar to those seen at airports
- $60,000 to equip all staff with personal protection devices that allow them to connect to the facility’s communication system
- $120,000 for heated metal carts purchased for the delivery of hot food to inmates
- $50,000 to strengthen the skirting under the new building
Mansell also listed the addition of a sewage macerator, more cameras and the relocation of the young offenders program shed as other expenses, but did not provide the cost for those items.
Main expressed concern over the pattern of overages in the territory’s capital projects, citing the “hard time” the committee gave Nunavut Arctic College’s Cambridge Bay supplementary budget requests.
“They were going to exceed the project budget and we instructed them to stay within the budget and they did find a way to do that,” said Main.
“Am I correct to infer that if this money is not approved, there are things that could be done to save money and make do without this additional $1.5 million?”
Mansell replied that those are all vital items needed at the facility.
“If we didn’t get these funds, we would have to look at the project and figure out how to scale back,” he said.
From there, Main’s line of questioning focused on project planning.
“We don’t want to skimp on safety, but I don’t quite understand why these wouldn’t have been identified from the beginning,” he said.
A similar question was also asked by Joelie Kaernerk, MLA for Amittuq.
“Sometimes when you get into the planning of these great, big projects, that the people who are going to be in there working aren’t engaged to that level, so it does create some challenges,” replied Hickes.
“Contingency funds would normally be able to cover these types of things.”
According to Hickes, rather than the typical five to seven per cent range, the contingency fund for this project was two per cent, which allowed the Government of Nunavut to come in under budget when working out the original funding split with the federal government.
Main made the motion to remove the $1.5 million from the bill.
“These issues that we are talking about in terms of capital planning and execution of contracts, especially on a major project like this, these are not new issues,” said Main.
“I believe that $90 million should be adequate to provide a safe working environment and a safe environment for the inmates.”
The motion was carried, with nine in favour and seven against.
On Wednesday, Sept. 23, committee members resumed their review of Bill 47, and although they expressed concern and questioned other expenditures, they didn’t remove any other funding.
In his concluding remarks on the bill, Hickes expressed his disappointment that the money for the correctional healing centre was removed.
“It’s going to put an extraordinary challenge on the Department of Justice to maintain the level of services that that building was intended to do,” he said.
“They’re going to have to cut some pretty serious corners over the next few years and I sincerely hope that they’re able to do that.”