The decade-long woes that have afflicted the University College of the North's midwifery program continued Tuesday — there will be no program this fall for 14 second-year students.

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The decade-long woes that have afflicted the University College of the North's midwifery program continued Tuesday — there will be no program this fall for 14 second-year students.

Education Minister Ian Wishart said Tuesday that the students have so far balked at an offer of being enrolled this fall in nursing at the University of Manitoba, while the province, UCN, and the U of M try to make their program work.

BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS files</p><p>Manitoba Education Minister Ian Wishart is ‘focused on getting the best value.’</p></p>

BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS files

Manitoba Education Minister Ian Wishart is ‘focused on getting the best value.’

"It's obviously struggled right from day one," Wishart later told reporters.

He had recently repeatedly assured the students there would be a program for them, but Wishart said that the College of Midwives of Manitoba was not prepared to approve the program as it stands.

In the legislature, Wishart lashed out at the NDP for having botched the implementation and management of the program over the past 10 years.

The province has so far funded midwifery since 2006 with $8.049 million, including the money budgeted for the 2016-2017 academic year, but there have been only nine graduates since 2006, one in 2013 and eight in 2014.

"The reality is, the existing program was so badly managed by the previous government... (the NDP) did not put it on a sustainable basis," Wishart said during question period.

The NDP accused Wishart of misleading the students: "The minister's actions led to the demise of the program," said education critic Wab Kinew.

The College of Midwives of Manitoba said Tuesday that it has not approved — it does not use the term 'accreditation' — the program for this fall, because that program has not come before the college.

CMM registrar Janice Erickson said that what the college had approved after a lengthy process was a joint program between UCN and the U of M that would have had an annual intake, permanent faculty in a permanent setting, and expansion to Thompson in 2020.

That's what the students expected when they enrolled in the fall of 2015. Former NDP premier Greg Selinger had promised an additional $844,000 a year to expand to the joint program this fall. The Conservatives did not include that additional funding in their first budget last month.

"The program that has been approved by the CMM, is the joint program," Erickson said in an interview. "However, it's our understanding that the joint program has not been funded."

Wishart said that he hoped to meet with the midwifery students later Tuesday.

Angry midwifery students sat in the public gallery Tuesday and then met with Kinew and the NDP's Nahanni Fontaine, clearly distraught that their program is not going ahead in barely two months."He (Wishart) kept saying the money is not withdrawn, so where's our program? We have lives, we have families," said midwifery student Jill Larner.

Fontaine told the students that it is "absolutely shameful that the government is not investing" in their education. "It's an assault on women's reproductive health in Manitoba."

Wishart told reporters that the money would have been there for the fall, but for the $859,000 the province has been paying annually, not the additional $844,000 for a joint program he has said it is premature to consider when so many problems exist with the program.

"What we're after in the long run is a sustainable, accreditable program," Wishart said.

Wishart said the province has spent $835,000 for each graduate so far, and said taxpayers should be asked, "Are you getting what you paid for?"

nick.martin@freepress.mb.ca