The Winnipeg Jets and the NDP teamed up Friday morning to help at-risk high school students in the province.
The partnership was part of a campaign promise by a campaigning Premier Greg Selinger and True North Sports and Entertainment's Mark Chipman.
The new program, co-sponsored by the province and the new Winnipeg Jets True North Foundation, is based on Chicago's After School Matters program.
Its aim is to give job training and mentorship opportunities to high school students during school hours.
The After School Program will bring business, community organizations and professionals to teach kids in five areas: sports, science, technology, performing arts and communications.
The Winnipeg Jets True North Foundation replaces the Manitoba Moose Yearling Foundation, Chipman said.
Dwayne Green, seconded from the St. James School Division, has been hired as its new director.
Selinger said the After School Matters will start in Winnipeg's inner city and spread throughout the province as it grows.
He said the announcement of new program had nothing to with his fortunes for re-election Oct. 4.
"We’re very pleased that the Jets are back in Winnipeg. We’re very pleased that they’re expanding the foundation, and that gives us a platform upon which we can do more things for families and children and that this is what this is all about," Selinger said.
Critics say provincial legislation does not allow a governing party to use their advantage to announce a new program during an election campaign.
The Elections Finances Act says: No government department or Crown agency shall publish or advertise any information about its programs or activities in the last 90 days before polling day, and on polling day, in the case of a fixed date election, or during the election period for any other general election.
Selinger said the After School Matters program was announced by the province Sept. 9 as part of its plan for safer communities.
"The Jets got involved through our discussions very early on," Selinger said.
Chipman said the program fits into what the Manitoba Moose started in 1996 with its Manitoba Moose Yearling Foundation. It raised about $2.5 million to disburse to children's charities including Special Olympics and Child Find Manitoba.
"I’m not a political guy," Chipman. "This isn’t something that was just dreamt up last week. This is the culmination of many, many conversations over many months. It just fits with what we’ve been trying to do quietly and we think we can do on greater scale going forward."
Chipman also said he doesn’t belong to a political party, and that the announcement of the program coincides more with the start of the school year and the start of the Jets' season than it does the provincial election campaign.
"To be able to engage this program at the start of the school year just made perfect sense to us," he said.
Chipman also made it clear the program is a continuation of True North’s work with government to build the MTS Centre and bring the Jets back to Winnipeg.
"We were very pleased to work with Greg and his government when we built this facility and through our process in bringing the NHL back to Winnipeg," Chipman said. "We are equally excited to carry that partnership forward on initiatives that are really the by-product of our previous work together."
The Jets first pre-season game is Tuesday against the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Chipman said he will miss it to attend an NHL board of governor’s meeting.
The Free Press was not able to livestream the event Friday morning, as previously indicated.