WINNIPEG -- A Conservative MLA's public criticism of a proposed universal breakfast program for Manitoba students is causing backlash online, after calling it a "bad idea."

But many are saying the program is needed in a province with soaring poverty rates.

The program proposed by the Manitoba NDP would cost $30 million annually to bring over-arching funding to Manitoba schools allowing them to provide breakfast.

"What we're proposing is to do a province-wide, universal breakfast program that would provide a healthy meal to every kid in the province who needs it," said Wab Kinew, leader of the NDP.

The NDP said a nutritious breakfast will lead to success in the classroom.

Kinew said the multi-million dollar price tag was estimated based on similar programs in Alberta, as well as accounting for the higher rates of child poverty.

Kinew said there may be a higher need for the program in some areas of the province.

A national report card on child and family poverty in Canada found Manitoba has the highest rates (27.9 per cent) of child poverty in the country.


James Teitsma, Conservative MLA for Radisson, took to Twitter to share his criticism of the proposed breakfast program, calling it a bad idea.

"Don't get me wrong – kids need breakfast," Teitsma said on Twitter. "But they need to eat breakfast IN THEIR HOME even more."

In a longer post on his website, Teitsma said the breakfast program does not address the root issues in the home.

"We need to understand why the children are not getting breakfast at home and take steps to ensure that they do," Teitsma wrote. "A universal school breakfast program doesn't do that."

Teitsma went on to say, providing a universal breakfast program could discourage and remove the responsibility from parents.

CTV News reached out to Teitsma for further comment, but have not heard back.


The tory MLA's opinion sparked a backlash on social media, though James Bedford, president of the Manitoba Teachers' Society said he was glad politicians are talking about it.

"I would agree that the ideal solution is that every child receives a breakfast in their own home, but the reality of this province is that we have parents and homes that simply cannot afford due to poverty," Bedford told CTV News.

Bedford said current breakfast programs in place at schools across Manitoba are helpful, but it is a "patchwork system."

He said he hopes a conversation can be started about where and how to implement a universal breakfast program for schools in Manitoba.

Bedford said Manitoba has been talking about dealing with child poverty for years. He said it's time for action.

"I'm simply tired of waiting," Bedford said. "I want something to happen, and I want it to happen now."

Education Minister, Kelvin Goertzen said in a statement to CTV News, that the government knows kids need to have breakfast.

“Our government knows that children do better in all aspects of their life when they are not hungry because they cannot access food. Manitoba Education, school divisions and local schools, together with generous community partners, served 4.8 million snacks and meals in the 2018/2019 school year to students," Goertzen said in the statement.

"While the best breakfast is one that can be provided at home, we will continue to work with our partners to provide food within the school system for those students who are not able, for whatever reason, to access food in a home environment.”