Government won’t say if it has a cost estimate for new medical school in Cape Breton

Government won’t say if it has a cost estimate for new medical school in Cape Breton

Education Secretary Brian Wong repeatedly declined to say on Thursday whether his government had received a cost estimate to set up a new medical school in Cape Breton.

“The most important thing is that our government is committed to restoring health care,” the minister told reporters after a cabinet meeting in Halifax.

Premier Tim Houston last week announced a partnership between Dalhousie University and Cape Breton University to create the new Sydney medical school, which is expected to open in autumn 2025 and eventually graduate 30 doctors a year.

During a speech in Cape Breton, Houston last week, the financial backing is in place to make the project a reality.

Although Wong repeatedly said on Thursday that the government would like to share information as soon as it becomes available, he declined to directly answer whether his government saw a cost estimate before signing the plan.

“Constant Negotiations”

The minister also did not want to say who would pay for the faculty required to make the school a reality. Some Cape Breton physicians have questioned the region’s ability to support faculty requirements. The two universities are working out the details, and the province has someone at the table for those discussions, Wong said.

“We are in constant negotiations and discussions with Cape Breton, with Dalhousie.”

NDP Chair Claudia Chender said it would be worrying if the government approved a new Cape Breton medical school without at least a cost estimate. (CBC)

NDP leader Claudia Chender said setting up a medical school is complicated and costly and there should be serious concern if the government has no idea what it will cost before signing off on the plan.

“It’s not that cost per se is an issue, but it’s imperative that we understand how public finances are being spent and whether they’re being best spent,” she told reporters.

The Tories came into office as “proponents of transparency” and “since they were elected we have not been able to get the simplest answers to the most basic questions about how decisions are made, contracts awarded and money spent, and that should be very worrying.” said Chender.

Liberal MLA Kelly Regan was also concerned about Wong’s unwillingness to answer direct questions.

“Either they know the cost and don’t want to say it, or they don’t know what the cost is — and both are problematic,” she told reporters.

Liberal MLA Kelly Regan says cost estimates may have come from the process Dalhousie followed to set up a site in Saint John. (CBC)

Regan said if the government doesn’t have a cost estimate, it could easily get one by asking Dalhousie officials what it cost when the school set up a medical school campus in Saint John, NB

“It’s not rocket science,” she said.

Dalhousie signed an agreement with the University of New Brunswick in 2008 to establish the satellite school. Two years later, the Saint John location opened. It accepts 30 students per year.


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