Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Water-bottle rejection leaves sour taste for MP

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They were only meant as a reward for speaking French.

That's the reason St. Boniface Conservative MP Shelly Glover offered -- in a letter to Louis Riel School Division -- free environmentally friendly water bottles for students, the rookie politician said Friday.

But the division turned down Glover's offer when trustees learned the bottles would bear the Conservatives' logo and Glover's name.

Glover accused the Free Press of blowing the matter out of proportion in a story published in Friday's newspaper, a story she described as a "media tragedy."

"It's really disappointing to see a media outlet exploit that and turn it into a story where it wasn't a positive story, but it should have been a positive story," she said. "I'm still going to work with the school division to try to make sure that we give those kids incentives and rewards when they speak French."

Glover said she made the offer several weeks ago to recognize the efforts made by students in the division's immersion schools to speak French in their community.

"I want them to get the jobs that are available through the federal government," she said. "We have 5,000 of them that we cannot fill because our bilingual students are not able to meet the standard."

But the division rejected the offer because it would go against a policy that bans any political materials in classrooms that promote a single individual or party, Louis Riel school board chairwoman Marilyn Seguire said Thursday.

"I was not aware of any policy," Glover said. "Whether or not the Conservative logo is on paraphernalia or not, I believe the issue should be that we are encouraging our children to do better."

She also said she is trying to speak with someone in the division about what else she can do as the area's MP. She found out about the division's decision on the water bottles from the Free Press.

"I actually tried to phone the school board today and they refused to take my call," she said.

She also took a shot against the riding's former MP, Liberal Ray Simard, whom she beat in last year's election.

"I do not think he did anything to come up with any proactive activities to help these kids who are struggling with their French," she said. "If he had perhaps they wouldn't be in the situation that they are in where they are embarrassed to speak the language."

bruce.owen@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 14, 2009 A5

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