Yukon government departments must develop better mega-project planning skills to avoid problems like those faced during the 2007 Canada Winter Games, according to a senior civil servant.
Risk-management planning is a government-wide responsibility, said Community Services deputy minister Marc Tremblay during a public accounts committee hearing.
He was asked how his department will mitigate overspending and improve planning policies.
The territory spent $43 million more on the Games than it planned, and auditor general Sheila Fraser recommended the government improve its mega-project planning to prepare for unexpected disasters.
“I wouldn’t say the department has something in place, but this is not something that is Community Service’s responsibility — it’s corporate responsibility,” he told committee members.
The department will improve its planning policies in 2008, said Tremblay.
The Standing Committee on Public Accounts met Tuesday morning in the legislative assembly to discuss the recently released auditor general’s report on the territory’s involvement in the winter games.
A report on the hearing will be tabled in the spring legislative session, said committee chair Liberal Leader Arthur Mitchell.
Also sitting on the committee Tuesday were Yukon Party MLAs Brad Cathers and Steve Nordick, NDP MLA Steve Edzerza and Liberal MLA Don Inverarity.
Most of the discussion focused on problems with the athletes’ village.
The host society underestimated the cost, couldn’t build it and then passed responsibility to government.
But the problem was made public too late to properly consider low-cost options, said Fraser.
“The challenge was underestimated to some extent, though it was identified,” said Tremblay.
“There isn’t a template (for running the Games).”
The village cost $31 million. The initial estimate was $2.4 million.
Was the host society given too much responsibility? asked Inverarity.
The society “somewhat lost” sight of the village’s importance and relied too much on the bid committee’s original estimates and plans, said Tremblay.
“There would have been value in following up on (the bid committee’s) work,” he added.
The public accounts committee, which met fives times in 2007, reviews government spending and makes recommendations.
All auditor general reports are referred to the committee, but they are not necessarily discussed.
Committee members have the power to call people, papers and records to support hearings.
Athletes now have more access to high-quality coaching and facilities, said Tremblay, reviewing the Games’ impact on the territory.
“We’ve shown that investment in sports does pay off,” he added.
Money promoted the Yukon as a place to live, work and invest, he said.
“The benefits for small communities go far beyond just the physical infrastructure of the games,” he said.
Now the Yukon is using its experience to assist Canada Winter Games officials and future host cities, said Tremblay.
Andrew Lennox, assistant auditor general responsible for the territories, gave a short statement at the hearing.
He mostly read verbatim from the last week’s auditor general report.