Construction on Edmonton superlab halted with new UCP government

The United Conservative Party’s win in last week’s election means construction on the so-called Edmonton “super lab,” which started last month, has been put on hold

Premier-designate Jason Kenney vowed during the campaign to cancel the $590-million project

Construction on Edmonton's "super lab" at the University of Alberta South Campus has been halted. (Trevor Wilson/CBC)

The United Conservative Party's win in last week's election means construction on the so-called Edmonton "super lab," which started last month, has been put on hold.

"To minimize costs incurred before a new government has the opportunity to review the lab-hub project, a decision has been made to pause construction," Jessica Johnson, director of communications for Alberta infrastructure, said in an email Monday.

UCP leader Jason Kenney vowed to cancel the lab project if his party formed government. The UCP won 63 of 87 seats in the April 16 election and will be sworn in at the end of the month.

The $590-million project, announced by the outgoing NDP government in 2016, would have consolidated lab services for Edmonton under a single roof and put it under the control of Alberta Health Services.

Construction on the site near the South Campus LRT station started in March. The lab was slated to be completed by 2022.

The government also planned to pay Dynalife, the current service provider, $50 million when its contract ended on March 31, 2022. 

Kenney vowed to reverse that payment. He said a UCP government would talk to AHS, independent experts and the public service about how to provide lab services while keeping costs low. 

Kenney said money slated for the project could be better used on patient care and hospitals. He told reporters the plan to put all lab services under AHS control was an ideological move by the NDP.

Outgoing health minister Sarah Hoffman said her government followed a report by the Health Quality Council of Alberta, which in 2016 recommended a consolidation of lab services under a "single public-sector platform."

"When we made decisions, we looked at evidence," Hoffman said Monday. "It seems like Mr. Kenney is really focused on his ideology and pushing his agenda for privatization."

Hoffman said she hopes the halt to work at the site is short-term. She and her 23 caucus colleagues will form Alberta's official opposition in the next legislature. 

She said the NDP members will make sure Kenney hears about why the evidence shows the super lab is in the public interest.