The Opposition NDP were quick to slam the populist announcement, made in a garden setting on the third floor of the hospital, describing it as electioneering and similar in tune to what the Liberals have been singing for the past decade.
As Clark prepared to address the crowd, NDP critic Spencer Chandra-Herbert handed out an NDP press release, which noted that the Liberals have been in possession of a St. Paul’s concept plan, drafted in December 2010, since February of last year.
But Clark said the government has never before offered a hard commitment to overhaul the 118-year-old facility that is desperate need of upgrades. And as proof her intentions, she said that costs associated with the plan had been written into next year’s budget.
“When government say they are going to do something, you really only can be assured that it is going to happen when the money is set aside in the budget,” Clark said. “We’ve budgeted for it in budget 2012, and that’s better than the cheque is in the mail. It means the cheque has arrived on the doorstep.”
The amount of money specifically earmarked for redevelopment, however, was not entirely clear.
Clark said $500 million had been “set aside for this” in the 2012 budget, but Health Minister Mike de Jong later clarified actually costs accounted for in 2012 will be more like $8 million.
Those costs, de Jong said would be for finalizing the concept plan and putting together the business plan, both of which are expected to be completed by 2014. Actual construction, meantime, could be as far away as 2016.
De Jong did note, however, that there is enough funding in the government’s capital budget to accommodate the total cost of redevelopment, which has been pegged at about $500 million.
“What we are talking about next year is finalization of business designs and plans and the preparation of the procurement documents and you measure those in millions of dollars, as opposed to tens or hundreds of millions,” said de Jong. “The rest of the money will be available down the road.”
Construction plans are expected to include a new outpatient care tower, essential site infrastructure upgrades and seismic upgrades.
Chandra-Herbert said the announcement was “a big fail” for Vancouver.
“It was clearly a political announcement, an attempt to regain popularity with people who don’t trust the government,” he said. “But by trying to spin numbers and make up claims, I think you only lead to more distrust about the government, not more trust.”
Click here to link to the article