Advanced Education Minister Brian Wong refused multiple times to say on Thursday whether his government has seen a cost estimate for establishing a new medical school in Cape Breton.
"The key thing is that our government is committed to fixing health care," the minister told reporters following a cabinet meeting in Halifax.
Premier Tim Houston announced last week a partnership between Dalhousie University and Cape Breton University to establish the new medical school in Sydney, which is expected to open in the fall of 2025 and eventually graduate 30 doctors a year.
During a speech in Cape Breton last week, Houston the financial support is in place to make the project a reality.
Although Wong repeatedly said on Thursday that the government would be happy to share information as it becomes available, he would not directly answer whether his government saw a cost estimate before signing off on the plan.
The minister also would not say who would pay for the faculty required to make the school a reality. Some doctors in Cape Breton have questioned whether the region has the capacity to meet faculty requirements. The two universities are working out the details and the province has someone at the table for those discussions, said Wong.
"We're in constant negotiations and conversations with Cape Breton, with Dalhousie."
NDP Leader Claudia Chender said setting up a medical school is complicated and costly, and there should be serious concerns if the government didn't have an idea of what it will cost before signing off on the plan.
"It's not that cost is an issue, per se, but absolutely we need to understand how public finances are being spent and if they're being spent in the best way," she told reporters.
The Tories came to office as "champions of transparency" and "since they have been elected, we cannot get the most simple answers to the most basic questions about how decisions are made, how contracts are awarded and how money is spent, and that should be very troubling," said Chender.
Liberal MLA Kelly Regan was likewise concerned by Wong's unwillingness to answer direct questions.
"Either they know what the cost is and they don't want to say, or they don't know what the cost is — and both of those are problematic," she told reporters.
Regan said if the government doesn't have a ballpark on the cost it could easily get one by asking Dalhousie officials what it cost when the school established a medical school campus in Saint John, N.B.
"It's not rocket science," she said.
Dalhousie signed an agreement with the University of New Brunswick in 2008 to create the satellite school. Two years later the site in Saint John opened. It accepts 30 students per year.
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