Posted on Nov 12, 2020


CALGARY - Jason Kenney and the UCP are cutting corners on fire safety in the construction of the Calgary Cancer Centre, and Alberta’s NDP Official Opposition is calling on them to reverse decisions that threaten patient safety immediately.

“The Calgary Cancer Centre is one of the most complex and important public buildings we’ve ever constructed in Alberta, and it absolutely must be safe for patients, families and staff,” said Thomas Dang, NDP Official Opposition Critic for Infrastructure. “I’m shocked that this Government would compromise on fire safety. It’s simple, build the centre right and in a manner that will ensure patient safety.”

On Oct. 23, engineering and design firm Dialog informed subcontractors that the specification for the project had been changed. Specifically, the change deleted section, which required firestop contractors to have completed the Underwriters Laboratories of Canada (ULC) Qualified Firestop Contractor Program, and to “employ experienced applicators having experience with similar systems and complexity.”

The ULC is an independent, not-for-profit, product safety testing, certification and inspection organization. 

“Firestopping ensures that fire and smoke are contained as much as possible to the original point of ignition,” said Kevin Lecht, business manager for Heat and Frost Insulators Local 110. “This provides time for people to escape and it’s especially important in situations like this where people with reduced mobility will be located. The ULC standard is placed into the specification to ensure a proper installation of these lifesaving products.

“Specifications are regularly changed on projects to allow for changes in locations of equipment or the use of similar products when a named product is not available, but changing specifications to lower a safety standard in a public building should not be allowed for any reason,” Lecht added.

The ULC contractor qualifications have been written into project specifications since 2006, according to Bill McHugh, executive director of the US-based Firestop Contractors International Association. 

“Firestop products are sold publicly in the marketplace to anyone who wants to buy the product,” McHugh said. 

“As a result of quality problems from firestopping installations where listings were not followed and life safety was at risk, specifiers recognized the need for company qualifications in specifications ... we needed to provide purchasers a method to quantify the qualifications of contractor companies that understand firestop systems.”

Jason Kenney’s commitment to the Calgary Cancer Centre was questioned when UCP MLA Glenn van Dijken referred to it as “a fancy box” in December of 2017. Dr. Sunil Verma, the highly respected medical director for the project, resigned his position and left Alberta three months after the 2019 election.

MLA Dang asked UCP Infrastructure Minister Prasad Panda about the fire safety compromise in the legislature on Oct. 28. The following week, Panda wrote a letter reporting that he had spoken with the general contractor and the centre would meet “all applicable municipal and national codes and standards.”

“Meeting the building code is the bare minimum,” Dang said. “Albertans are paying for a world-class building and the general contractor signed a contract to build it for them. It’s unacceptable for Jason Kenney’s government to agree to use less-trained and less-skilled workers to install fire safety systems in the Calgary Cancer Centre. Prasad Panda must insist that the centre is built to the original standard.”