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”

Part of the additional $1.5 million dollars requested for the construction of the Qikiqtani Correctional Healing Centre was slated to go towards items such as a body scanner, similar to those seen at airports, heated metal carts for the delivery of hot food to inmates and snow fins for the roof that would mitigate the risk of a roof overload. (Photo by Dustin Patar)

By Dustin Patar

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.”

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(19) Comments:

  1. Posted by Out to lunch on

    “$120,000 for heated metal carts purchased for the delivery of hot food to inmates”
    You guys really need to shop around, where did that crazy price come from? You could get what you need here for a fraction of that cost.

    • Posted by UNGAVA on

      These are made by the same company that makes microwave ovens for the International space station , that why they are so expensive.

  2. Posted by Christine on

    Inmates will be better treated than the homeless. Ridiculous. GN get your priorities straight for once!!!

    • Posted by Nunavik Inuk on

      I met a homeless guy at Bordeaux prison once , he told me , he would commet crime in the fall , so that he would spend the winter in comfort .

  3. Posted by Carl on

    This was a very good response from John Main. If project mgr knew about scope changes and they cdn’t be managed within existing budget then change orders should have been executed a long time ago. This is a Xmas list of items! As for contingency funds… they are a cop-out. A good project mgr does not include them ever. I like John Main. This guy is smart & not much gets by him!

  4. Posted by I hope you don’t work in Project Management on

    A project manger Is not a magician and does not magically know of scope changes. A project manager can assume there will be changes as change is inevitable and should plan for said changes and continue to revisit said plan as the project proceeds. This is what your contingency is for. A 2% contingency on a project that came in under budget at the initial stages was ridiculous to begin with.

    Contingency funds are not a cop out, they are meant to cover known unknowns. What contingency funds may not cover are unknown unknowns.

  5. Posted by We’ll see… on

    “I believe that $90 million should be adequate to provide a safe working environment and a safe environment for the inmates.”
    Is Mr. Main going to try working in the prison system to prove his point while cutting costs going to items enhancing safety for inmates and workers, and ensuring the new prison doesn’t end up as dilapidated and rotten and moldy as the current one?
    The GN is currently throwing much more money at the airlines to (not) provide a subpar service this year alone (having given about 25% of the total prison project cost by June), but are stingy with fixed costs to infrastructure that will be in use for decades to come… everyone knows nothing can go wrong if you cut corners on a prison project when replacing one of the worst in Canada.
    Aimless spending, aimless cuts…. Sadly a common feature of governance in Nunavut

  6. Posted by An Iqaluit resident on

    At least, I hope they will be held accountable if their decision leads to a disaster down the road. A 2% contingency on such alarme project? This is ridiculous. No wonder they are asking for more.

    • Posted by An Iqaluit resident on

      *a large project

  7. Posted by Iqaluit voter on

    Penny wise and pound foolish. We can put the money in now and get it right or we can keep paying for a generation for the shortsighted decisions of our politicans today.

  8. Posted by Short-Sighted on

    This wasn’t the place to save a dollar.

  9. Posted by HAHAHA on

    Heated carts, special beds, is this a prison or a 5 star hotel???

    • Posted by “Special” Beds on

      So it’s a 5 star luxury to try and suicide proof the bunks that’ll be used for decades by a hundreds of inuit prisoners for less than the cost of a pickup truck?

      How is that a laughing matter in your eyes? No wonder there’s hardly any funds for mental health related causes in the territory if this sort of safety is something that people make fun of as unnecessary.

    • Posted by Not too frugal on

      There’s nothing wrong with heated carts, the question is why did they choose the most expensive possible cart on the market? It boggles the mind really…

  10. Posted by Iqaluit voter on

    They deleted funding for a body scanner. You wouldn’t allow an airport to operate without a scanner. Why does this government think they can run a jail without a scanner?

  11. Posted by CB on

    It was only 2 years ago that BCC had a full-on riot over poor living conditions. The riot cost the government over half a million dollars and its still incurring costs for it to this day. If the inmates aren’t treated reasonably, history will repeat itself. Save a penny, lose a dollar.

  12. Posted by Tulugak on

    Qikiqtani Correctional Healing Centre… Doesn’t it sound weird ? A Correctional Healing Centre ! What an oxymoron. A prison is anything but a healing centre and it’s quite offensive to pretend the contrary, particularly for Indigenous people for whom punishment is generally meaningless except for those who survived Residential Schools. Money would be better spent in community justice and restoring Inuit legal traditions than creating so-called Correctional-Healing Centres!

    • Posted by Redacted and reacted on

      You’re always on about this, Tulugak. I would be interested to hear more about “Inuit legal traditions.” Your views sound idealistic and a bit detached from reality.

  13. Posted by hide behind me on

    costs overruns, equipment? Is this a way to get extra bucks for some nefarious people, i surprised they had this list maybe its one that they have been building over the project so they can then put this list out and get payment

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