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New hospital won’t affect northern allowance

NOTE: Graham Construction disputes that the province ended its contract, saying it ended the contract on August 17, 2018.

People living in Grande Prairie will still be eligible for the Northern Residents Deduction after the Grande Prairie Regional Hospital opens. Since construction on the new hospital was suspended, rumours to the contrary have circulated on social media.

The northern living allowance gives people living in northern and isolated parts of the country a tax deduction for living costs and travel benefits. The Canada Revenue Agency explains it’s meant to help residents deal with a higher cost of living, a harsher environment, and limited access to services.

Since 1991, it’s been based on a system of zones. An official with Finance Canada tells 2day FM that when the facility eventually opens, Grande Prairie residents can still get the deduction.

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“Grande Prairie, Alberta lies within the prescribed intermediate zone for the purpose of the Northern Residents Deduction. Under the zonal system, the particular characteristics of a community – such as the opening of a hospital – do not impact eligibility for the deduction.”

The Alberta government recently fired Graham Construction as construction manager for the hospital project, and is now looking for a new one. Before that, it was expected that the hospital would be done by the end of 2019 and would open to the public in 2020.

That timeline is now up in the air, but Alberta Health Services says it shouldn’t mean any issues with equipment already in the building. It says rumours that pieces will be too old by the time the hospital opens are also unfounded.

“Equipment currently in the new Grande Prairie Regional Hospital includes boilers, ventilation and electrical systems. None will be outdated when the hospital opens. We continue to work on clinical and operational planning to ensure we are ready for this new facility when it opens.”

Minister of Infrastructure Sandra Jansen reports the exterior shell, the base building, and the mechanical and electrical work is about 98 per cent done, but interior construction is only about 70 per cent complete and landscaping about 65 per cent done. The primary wall framing is completed, and the secondary wall framing is nearing completion.

The province has said it hopes to have a new construction manager in place by late October. If that happens, the plan is to start up construction again in November.

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