NDP asking province not to ‘compromise on fire safety’ at new Calgary Cancer Centre

An ambulance drives past the Calgary Cancer Centre (OMAR SHERIF/FOR LIVEWIRE CALGARY)

Alberta’s Official Opposition is calling on the provincial government to reverse a decision they say could threaten patient and staff safety for the Calgary Cancer Centre.

The $1.4 billion infrastructure project is slated for completion in 2023, according to the province’s website. Work began in 2017.

On Oct. 23, engineering and design firm Dialog told subcontractors that a specification for the project had been changed.

The change deleted section 1.7.2.4, which required firestop contractors to have completed the Underwriters Laboratories of Canada (ULC) Qualified Firestop Contractor Program.

“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,” said MLA Thomas Dang, the Official Opposition critic for Infrastructure.

The executive director of the Firestop Contractors International Association (FCIA) wrote in a support letter that not just anyone should implement and install this system.

“Just like plumbing, electrical and mechanical, wallboard, concrete block firestopping is its own construction discipline,” said Bill McHugh.

“Understanding Firestop Systems Listings, even for one construction discipline, cannot be taught in a 1-hour class.”

McHugh explained that as a result of quality problems from firestopping installations where listings were not followed and safety was at risk, specifiers recognized the need for company qualifications in specifications.

Firestopping is the process of sealing openings and joints in fire-rated walls to further prevent the spread of fire.

MLA Thomas Dang speaking outside of the new Calgary Cancer Centre, which is under construction (OMAR SHERIF/FOR LIVEWIRE CALGARY)

UCP responds

In a letter addressed to MLA Dang, Minister Prasad Panda, Alberta’s Minister of Infrastructure, stated that through a review, he can confirm that all standards are being met.

“The Calgary Cancer Centre General Contractor, PCL Construction (PCL), is in compliance and is following all applicable municipal and national codes and standards,” said Panda.

“These requirements are also mandatory for all of PCL’s subcontractors, including Fire Stopping subcontractors.”

His response was criticized by Dang, who said that this isn’t a matter of doing the bare minimum.

“The Calgary Cancer Centre is one of the most complex and important public buildings we’ve ever constructed in Alberta,” said Dang.

“It absolutely must be safe for patients, families and staff.”

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