Province refusing to release cost estimate for new Halifax hospital buildings
Government departments reviewing detailed draft plan before seeking cabinet approval this spring
Senior bureaucrats involved in the project to replace two aging hospital buildings in downtown Halifax spent two hours Wednesday answering questions from members of a legislature committee, but key questions remain unanswered —including what the project will cost and whether the province will pay for it or partner with a private company.
The plan to replace the Victoria and Centennial buildings at the Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Centre still isn't ready for cabinet approval.
Paul LaFleche, deputy minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal, said until cabinet signs off, details of the plan and the potential cost of the project will remain secret.
That's despite the fact that John O'Connor, the bureaucrat in charge of the project for the department, told committee members he has been keeping a running total of those costs and the design work is complete.
LaFleche said there were still options associated with the plan, as well as practical reasons for keeping the figures under wraps.
"We don't want to tip our hand to any potential construction bidders as to what we might be looking for," he told reporters following the two-hour meeting.
'It's frustrating for Nova Scotians'
Progressive Conservative committee member Tim Houston was unimpressed with the lack of transparency.
Gary Porter, executive director of corporate initiatives for the Transportation Department, told the committee the accounting firm Deloitte was almost ready to deliver its $500,000 report into whether the project should be done by the province alone or in partnership with a private company.
"Their recommendation will be based on what's in the best interests of the taxpayer in the province," he told reporters after the meeting.
That evaluation should be ready by May, according to Porter.
Former NDP health minister Dave Wilson said the province should reject any proposal that includes partnering with a private company.