Manitoba will open door, wallet for Ukrainian newcomers: finance minister

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The Progressive Conservatives will spare no expense to bring Ukrainians fleeing war to Manitoba, Finance Minister Cameron Friesen says.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 11/04/2022 (234 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The Progressive Conservatives will spare no expense to bring Ukrainians fleeing war to Manitoba, Finance Minister Cameron Friesen says.

However, he offered no specifics for the immigration sector Monday, ahead of the Stefanson government’s first budget.

“We are preparing for the arrival of thousands of Ukrainians here in Manitoba. We will care for them, we will provide them with a full range of provincial support services,” Friesen said during a pre-budget event at the Ukrainian National Federation in Winnipeg.

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Finance Minister Cameron Friesen: “We will take as many Ukrainians seeking safe refuge as possible.”

“We will take as many Ukrainians seeking safe refuge as possible,” he said. “Whatever that number is on our books that we must expend to see to the arrival and the settlement and the support of Ukrainians, we will invest that money.”

Friesen delivered the remarks to roughly a dozen newcomer families assembled at the Point Douglas-area community hall (on invitation of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress Manitoba) to take in the long-standing tradition whereby finance ministers buy new shoes before the budget.

The families had recently landed in Winnipeg after having their applications to the Manitoba Provincial Nominee Program expedited in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Friesen said.

However, the minister opted to stick with his brown Oxfords — and forgo his government’s recent practice of giving a pair of shoes to a deserving Manitoban — to instead provide shoe boxes full of hygiene products to the congress for Ukriainans expected to land in the province in the upcoming weeks.

“It’s a cause that we all can, have and will get behind,” Friesen said.

Last year, then-finance minister Scott Fielding presented an employee of Cadham Provincial Laboratory with a pair of Blundstones to recognize the work of staff in the province’s COVID-19 response.

“While the shoeboxes of hygiene products being presented today are largely symbolic in nature, they demonstrate that Ukraine does not stand alone,” UCC Manitoba president Joanne Lewandoski said. “They confirm that decency and human kindness have no borders.”

To date, Friesen said no Ukrainians have arrived in Manitoba through the federal government’s emergency visa program, though 30,000 applications have been approved and 14,000 people have already made the journey overseas.

“We’re working in partnership with the Canadian government and, of course, within the province to get ready because we know that there will be Ukrainians coming to Manitoba,” he said.

Friesen said the province has an idea of how many people it could accept, but has not yet determined the minimum number of Ukrainians immigration and settlement services could handle in the short term.

“What we’ve said is: as many people who will raise their hand and say they want to resettle in Manitoba, we will take that number,” Friesen said. “So, we’re running estimates, of course, of how many that could be. We’re looking back at previous iterations of similar types of situations, like Syria, and we’re doing some planning on the basis of those numbers.”

The provincial government is focusing its efforts on getting housing, daycare, translation and settlement services in place for newcomers, while also dialing in its capacity to respond to the refugee crisis, Friesen said.

He declined to answer reporters’ questions about how much additional funding immigration and settlement service providers could see in the upcoming budget, set to be introduced Tuesday afternoon.

“Stay tuned tomorrow for the budget,” Friesen said.

Welcoming thousands additional newcomers to Manitoba should not derail the Progressive Conservative government’s plans to eliminate the deficit by 2028, Friesen said.

“Right now, Manitobans know that what really counts is making sure that our government and our province is responding in an unconditional way to welcome Ukrainians — and that’s just what we’re going to do.”

danielle.dasilva@freepress.mb.ca

Danielle Da Silva

Danielle Da Silva
Reporter

Danielle Da Silva is a general assignment reporter.

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