The Alberta Cancer Foundation raised roughly $170,000 at its Bust A Move for Breast Health fundraiser at Calgary's Big Four Building this weekend.

Hundreds of people took part in six hours of exercise Saturday, and the final hour was taught by the original fitness guru himself — Richard Simmons


Richard Simmons taught the last hour of the Bust A Move cancer fundraiser Saturday. (CBC)

"I love to raise money for diseases we still don't know a lot about — and that would be cancer," said Simmons. "It's the 'C' word; it's the scary word."

Laurene Mitchell was surrounded by the crowd as she busted a move, but she was all alone 10 years ago when she heard a diagnosis that would change her life forever.

"He told me that, 'I'm sorry to say, but you have breast cancer,'" she said. 

Mitchell underwent a mastectomy and reconstructive surgery. She said taking part in the fundraiser for breast cancer research means the world to her.

"I've been so pumped about this," she said. "I'm having a blast."

The funds will go to research at the Tom Baker Cancer Center.

"We have to continue to support great care, and great research while it's happening now," said Myka Osinchuk, the CEO of the Alberta Cancer Foundation.

Funds sought for new cancer centre

The event comes one day after the province announced that a new $1.2 billion centre devoted to cancer research will be built at the Foothills Medical Centre in Calgary.

The new complex will include inpatient beds, cancer diagnostic and treatment technologies, an outpatient facility and dedicated space for research, the province said.

The Alberta government is teaming up with the Alberta Cancer Foundation, which has committed to raising $200 million for the project.

Alberta's Health Minister Fred Horne is hinting that the upcoming provincial budget on March 7 could see more money set aside for the new centre.

Horne says the province already set aside $181 million for the building.

Premier Alison Redford knows many are asking how the province can afford it when this year's tight budget promises tough decisions.

To cover some of the costs, the province is considering public-private partnerships (P3s).

"It is also, as we've said, an alternative financing project," said Horne. "So, we'll be working with the cancer foundation and other partners as well."

It's not clear yet who the "other partners" will be in the P3 project, but the proposal is raising concerns.

Critics unsure of P3 funding model

Derek Filderbrandt with the Canadian Taxpayers Federation says while he agrees this facility is desperately needed, he says the funding model for this project may not be the best option.

"The P3 model is sometimes a great way of doing things, but it should not simply be a way for you to play with the accounting of things and just move as much infrastructure as possible off the main books," he said.

Liberal MLA David Swann says if the P3 model is used, everyone should get to see the fine print.

"This government is in the habit of hiding the contractural relationships," he said. "If we go P3, this has to be made public. This is a huge investment. Albertans deserve to know what kind of a contract it is."

But the final cost of this new cancer centre will depend on how the province chooses to finance it and since it's still in the planning stages, the details of the financing approach will not be known for some time.