After thieves made off with a snowmachine and TVs meant for the Yukon Hospital Foundation fundraiser, Premier Dennis Fentie quickly rounded up a $75,000 government grant for the cause.
“They heard about (the theft) over at the government building and, in order to cheer us up, Premier Fentie came to the BAH Humbug with a cheque for $75,000,” said Keith Byram, president of the Yukon Hospital Foundation.
Hours before the cheque presentation, police arrested five individuals in connection with the theft and recovered all the stolen goods.
A relatively small amount, the spontaneous grant could have been plucked from some line item in the health budget, to be approved by a vote at a later date.
“When you look at the Department of Health budget, there’s funding referred to as ‘health programming’ and things like that, that the money could just be taken from,” said Liberal Leader Arthur Mitchell.
“A lot of programs that they announce never get developed or moved forward, and that becomes lapsed … so money like that comes free,” said NDP Leader Todd Hardy.
The purpose of the Yukon Hospital Foundation is to enhance services “beyond the basic level that the government is able to fund.”
The foundation’s Northwestel Festival of Trees, from which the goods were stolen, is aimed at financing an upgraded CT scanner for the Whitehorse General Hospital.
“If the government, on such short notice, is providing funding to help buy a CT scanner, then why aren’t they simply providing that funding to begin with?” said Mitchell.
“I think (the government) has the money to buy the machine itself,” said Hardy.
“We have a lot of money forwarded to us by the federal government to ensure that we have the equipment necessary for the health of the people of the territory,” he said.
“(Fentie’s) just pulling this out of the hat, I hope it’s not indicative of how he spends money on a regular basis,” said Hardy.
Both Hardy and Mitchell expressed strong support for the work of the Yukon Hospital Foundation.
Fentie was “in transit” between Whitehorse and Watson Lake and could not be reached before press time.
Contact Tristin Hopper at firstname.lastname@example.org