Yukon Party accuses Liberal government of hiding review of hospital finances

The Yukon Party is accusing the governing Yukon Liberal Party of shielding an independent report on the Yukon Hospital Corporation’s finances.

The Official Opposition is demanding the territorial government immediately release the results of a $300,000 urgent sole-source contract that was pursued against the recommendation of the procurement support centre to review the hospital corporation’s financial management.

Through an access-to-information request, the Yukon Party had sought briefing notes, background documents and correspondence surrounding the contract, as well as a copy of the report, if the review had been completed.

The Yukon Party provided reporters with the final response from the access-to-information office and the full package released under access-to-information laws. The letter from the access-to-information office is dated Oct. 26.

The 98-page package contains documents, emails and slides. It does not contain the report.

A memo from deputy minister Justin Ferbey to Premier Ranj Pillai is contained in the package.

“Please sign the attached value-driven, direct award contract that is above the direct award tendering threshold,” reads the May 17 memo.

“We are engaging with Ernst and Young Orenda Corporation to review the financial management of the Yukon Hospital Corporation and provide an analysis and opinion on whether capital, project and operational funding is utilized efficiently and effectively to achieve their intended objectives.”

The memo highlights the “urgency” in finalizing the contract because the work performed under the contract needed to be done by Aug. 1.

The premier signed off on it.

The Yukon Party MLA for Lake Laberge Brad Cathers is suggesting the premier is withholding the independent report because the results are humiliating. Cathers has mentioned on at least a couple of occasions in the house that the hospital corporation’s own records show its total expenses of $114 million exceed its revenue of $112 million.

On the floor of the legislature on Nov. 7, Cathers asked the Liberals to release the independent report.

Pillai acknowledged the call. He said he would work with the hospital corporation, confer with public servants and the health minister and get back to the house upon a decision being made.

Cathers pressed on: “Will the government agree to release this report that looked at the financing of the Yukon Hospital Corporation, and if not, what are they hiding?”

Pillai responded again.

“I certainly didn’t say that we weren’t going to release the document,” he said.

“Nobody over here is hiding anything. All we are doing is making sure that we ask the tough questions, that we get the expertise that we need and that we get the best value for money. We have done that already and we will continue to do that.”

When speaking with reporters in the lobby of the legislative building following the question period, Cathers alleged Pillai has violated access-to-information law.

“We believe that it is simply a case of the fact that the premier personally made the decision to launch this independent review of the hospital corporation financial management and, having received the result, that the contents are in some way, shape or form embarrassing,” Cathers said.

“I do question whether the premier has followed the law in this case, because I believe that he has not.”

The premier was not available following the question period on Nov. 7.

Health and Social Services Minister Tracy-Anne McPhee told reporters in the cabinet office that the Yukon government only received the report eight days ago.

McPhee was given a chance to respond to the process and Cathers’ allegation that the report hasn’t been publicly released because the information contained in the report could be unflattering to the government.

“We need to do our due diligence,” she said, noting the government and the hospital corporation need time to review the report before it goes public.

“Sole-source contracts over $250,000 need to be determined by a minister, and that’s what happened.”

McPhee, who is a former information and privacy commissioner, declined to elaborate on the report’s contents and recommendations, although she did have a message for Yukoners.

“I constantly say to the public, if you are interested in something, you should ask for it,” she said.

“Our government, at least, has had the point of view that transparency is incredibly important.”

McPhee tabled both the hospital corporation’s 2022-23 financial statements and its year-in-review report in the Yukon Legislative Assembly on Oct. 24.

Cabinet communications said by email the independent report from Ernst and Young Orenda Corporation came in on Oct. 30.

When asked by reporters if the premier will litigate the opposition’s allegation, cabinet communications responded that Cathers is “all bark, no bite.”

Cathers proposed a motion in the legislative assembly on Nov. 9 calling for the release of the report.

The News reached out to Ernst and Young Orenda Corporation to ask when the report was submitted to the government but did not get a response by publication.

Contact Dana Hatherly at [email protected]