New hospital still a top priority for P.A., premier says

New hospital takes priority over a second bridge, and province hasn't had discussions with the city about a potential toll for the Diefenbaker Bridge, Moe adds

Premier Scott Moe speaks at a Prince Albert and District Chamber of Commerce breakfast on June 18, 2018. (Peter Lozinski/Daily Herald)

The province remains focused on building a new hospital for Prince Albert and hasn’t had any discussions about the possibility of a toll on the Diefenbaker Bridge, Premier Scott Moe said Thursday.

Moe, along with the rest of the Saskatchewan Party caucus, is in Prince Albert this week for the annual caucus retreat. Moe spoke with reporters about a wide range of topics Thursday afternoon.

“Absolutely, there will be a new hospital here in Prince Albert and it will be funded 100 per cent by the Government of Saskatchewan,” Moe said.

“We will be making every effort to ensure that the facility matches to not only the services that are required today but … into the future.”

Moe said the province is still working through the steps of a needs assessment and whether to build a completely new facility (a greenfield project) or improve and adapt the current facility ( a brownfield project).

The province’s examination of both options has led to some criticism from the provincial NDP.

The Premier was chosen as leader of his party on a promise of a new hospital,” health critic Vicki Mowat said last September.

“The people of Prince Albert and area deserve some clarification as to what they are actually getting.”

The province has said it is examining both options to see what makes the most sense for the project.

“The Request for Proposal (RFP) will assist the SHA and Ministry of Health in developing options for how to move forward,” the Saskatchewan Health Authority said in a statement last September.

“This may include redeveloping the existing site or building a new hospital. How we move forward will depend on which option provides the best possible care for the people of Prince Albert and the surrounding area.”

Moe wouldn’t give a firm timeline on when construction would begin or whether the project will be built through a P3 partnership.

“With respect to what is the best way to move forward, the provincial auditor helps us (analyze) value for money on those projects. It would be like any other construction projects we go through,” Moe said.

“We look at if there are savings and the best way forward on behalf of the people of the province.”

The hospital wasn’t the only local infrastructure project Moe spoke about Thursday. He also addressed the discussions Prince Albert city council has been having about the Diefenbaker Bridge. City council has been contemplating requesting a toll be put in place to help pay for a second bridge in the city.

The city doesn’t have authority to impose the toll itself, as the bridge and highway belong to the provincial government. Over the past few years, though, the two governments have disagreed about the extent of work needed to maintain the bridge, leading the city to pay for some work the province didn’t deem necessary.

“We have not to a large degree had (the toll bridge) conversation with the City of Prince Albert,” Moe said.

“I know there has been some discussion around the council table with respect to that. We have been focused on … ensuring its safety over the course of the last number of years. We have had discussions in years gone by on the potential for another bridge crossing where the province had put forward their commitment to funding their portion of such a project.”

A second bridge, though, is not the province’s top priority in the area.

“As we move forward through the next number of years, the focus, and what we’re hearing not only from the people in Prince Albert but the people in the surrounding areas, is health care,” Moe said.

‘The priority is access to a health care facility and an improved health care facility. Right now, the priority is to move forward on a Prince Albert hospital.”