August 15, 2020

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Manitoba taxpayers gave WE $1 million

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>A crowd of students from schools across Manitoba attends the WE Day celebration held at the Burton Cummings Theatre in October, 2019.</p>

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

A crowd of students from schools across Manitoba attends the WE Day celebration held at the Burton Cummings Theatre in October, 2019.

The Manitoba government has provided more than $1 million to the WE organization over the past five years.

"Manitoba Education has provided WE Schools with $1.1 million in funding since 2015 to support and enhance programs and services to Manitoba schools, teachers and students," a spokesman for Education Minister Kelvin Goertzen said in an email late Friday.

"Included in this funding was $200,000 to support WE Day and WE Well-Being programs in 2019-20 in many school divisions, in order to promote mental health literacy in classrooms," he said.

The spokesman said funding to WE Schools is reviewed annually.

Goertzen was unavailable for comment.

At a press conference earlier on Friday, Finance Minister Scott Fielding said he had not discussed future WE organization funding with his cabinet colleagues in light of the federal ethics commissioner's probe into Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's potential conflict of interest in the awarding of a sole-source contract to WE.

"I haven't had any discussions on that," he said.

Speaking from personal experience, however, Fielding said he's found WE Day to be a "fabulous" event.

"I've been to a number of them with my children. I think they provide a great service for all youth," he said.

"WE Day experiences here have been fabulous. If you ask most students here, they would agree."

Asked for his views, NDP finance critic Mark Wasyliw, a former school board trustee, said society shouldn't use charities to fill in gaps in its social services.

He said he believes that "strong, fully funded public services" are needed to support vulnerable Manitobans.

"Charities are well-meaning, but often times they're just trying to plug the holes, and it's not a long-term strategy," Wasyliw said.

"There's a lot of good people that work for those charities, but we need to look as a province at something a little bit more holistic and systematic..."

larry.kusch@freepress.mb.ca

Larry Kusch

Larry Kusch
Legislature Reporter

Larry Kusch didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life until he attended a high school newspaper editor’s workshop in Regina in the summer of 1969 and listened to a university student speak glowingly about the journalism program at Carleton University in Ottawa.

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