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WINN Frequently Asked Questions

The intake period for the Western Innovation Initiative is now closed.

Note: The FAQs are subject to change with each intake period.


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Program

P1.

Q. WHAT IS THE WESTERN INNOVATION INITIATIVE (WINN)?
A. The Western Innovation Initiative (WINN) is a five-year, $100 million federal funding initiative that offers repayable contributions to western Canadian businesses with less than 500 employees, to commercialize innovative technology-based products, processes or services. WINN is a concrete step towards addressing the commercialization gap in the Canadian innovation process.

P2.

Q. IS WINN A PERMANENT INITIATIVE?
A. WINN is a five-year Initiative.

P3.

Q. WHAT IS A SMALL- AND MEDIUM-SIZED ENTERPRISE (SME)?
A. A small- and medium-sized enterprise is defined by ISED as a for-profit entity that has less than five hundred employees.

P4.

Q. IS WINN A NATIONAL PROGRAM?
A. WINN is a Western Economic Diversification Canada (WD) initiative that is available to small-and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) with operating facilities in Western Canada. Similar technology commercialization programs are offered in other parts of the country through other Regional Development Agencies.

P5.

Q. WHAT ARE THE OBJECTIVES OF THE WINN INITIATIVE?
A. The WINN initiative aims to:

  • Commercialize innovative technology-based products, processes, and services;
  • Stimulate greater private sector investments in commercialization activities;
  • Increase the number of jobs for highly qualified personnel in Western Canada;
  • Enable company growth.

P6.

Q. WHO IS ADMINISTERING THE WINN INITIATIVE?
A. Western Economic Diversification Canada (WD) will administer the Initiative.

P7.

Q. WHY IS THE GOVERNMENT OF CANADA FUNDING BUSINESSES?
A. Through WINN, the Government of Canada is addressing a gap in private sector funding and a need to drive innovation, commercial success and economic prosperity in Western Canada.

P8.

Q. WHY HAS WD DEVELOPED THE WINN INITIATIVE?
A. Attracting early-stage capital for technology commercialization has been identified as a key challenge for SMEs in Western Canada. As demonstrated in Innovation Canada: A Call to Action, the expert panel review of federal support to R&D in Canada (the Jenkins Report), there is a need for government to be more focused on helping innovative firms to grow. The report stressed that more support is needed beyond the Research and Development phase to bring ideas through to commercially useful innovation.

By helping businesses access financing and private investment, as well as supporting technology commercialization, we are harnessing the entrepreneurial spirit of this region, nurturing great ideas, and strengthening Western Canada's economy.

P9.

Q. DOES THE WINN INITIATIVE DUPLICATE THE WORK OF OTHER FEDERAL PROGRAMS?
A. WINN complements other federal programs and is not intended to replace or duplicate other sources of financing that may be available. Western Canadian businesses have indicated that there is a lack of long-term risk capital for technology commercialization.

P10.

Q. WHO WILL BENEFIT FROM THE INITIATIVE?
A. This Initiative will help create an environment where businesses can thrive and compete in today's marketplace, ultimately strengthening Western Canada's economy for a stronger Canada.

P11.

Q. AS AN INVESTOR, HOW CAN I BENEFIT FROM WINN?
A. Investing in technology commercialization is intended to encourage partnerships between SMEs and the investor community. While there is no funding to support venture capital investors directly, venture capital investors working with western Canadian businesses will be able to leverage their investments in companies that receive WINN funding.

P12.

Q. WHY IS WD PROVIDING FINANCING TO FOR PROFIT ORGANIZATIONS UNDER THE WINN INITIATIVE?
A. The WINN Initiative is intended to address a financing gap, and to accelerate and expand the commercialization of technologies in Western Canada.

P13.

Q. WHAT IS THE ROLE OF CFS AND OTHER WESTERN CANADA BUSINESS NETWORK PARTNERS IN THIS?
A. It is expected that CFs and other members of the Western Canada Business Service Network, will support the dissemination of WINN program information to potential rural applicants, by directing clients to the WD website.

P14.

Q. IS THERE A PORTION OF FUNDS THAT WILL BE ALLOCATED TO THE FRANCOPHONE COMMUNITY?
A. No, there are no specific allocations for the Francophone community. Twenty percent of WINN funding will notionally be directed to small projects requesting $500,000 or less, while the remaining 80 percent will notionally be directed to large projects with requests of more than $500,000.

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Eligibility

E1.

Q. WHO IS ELIGIBLE FOR FUNDING?
A. Repayable contributions will be available to SMEs that meet the following mandatory criteria:

  • SMEs (less than 500 employees) that are incorporated to do business in Canada, have been in business for at least one-year and have operating facilities in Western Canada (defined as British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, or Manitoba);
  • Have a viable plan to commercialize (i.e., generate revenues from sales) an innovative, technology-driven, new or improved product, process or service within three years of project commencement;
  • Have sufficient intellectual property rights to carry out the proposed project and to commercially exploit the results of the project;
  • Have provided a current business plan that details the investment opportunity and recent financial statements;
  • Have confirmed, at the time of application, funding from all other sources, including government and non-government (non-government funding must represent at least 50 percent of the proposed project costs).

E2.

Q. ARE THERE SPECIFIC SECTORS THAT ARE BEING TARGETED BY WINN?
A. WINN will not target specific sectors. WD expects to receive applications from the range of sectors in which western Canadian companies are innovating, including:

  • Clean Technology/Clean Energy;
  • Digital Economy/New Media/Information and Communication Technology;
  • Value-Added Natural Resources;
  • Health/Life Sciences;
  • Nanotechnology;
  • Value-Added Manufacturing;
  • Aerospace, Defence and Marine;
  • And others.

E3.

Q. HOW MUCH FUNDING IS AVAILABLE?
A. WINN is a $100 million, five-year federal funding initiative. SMEs in Western Canada may request up to $3.5 million per project to commercialize the development of their technology-based products, processes and services. There is a maximum funding limit of $7.5M per recipient over the five-year period.

E4.

Q. HOW MANY PROJECTS WILL WD FUND UNDER WINN?
A. It is expected that the requests for funding may exceed the amount of funding available. The total number of projects funded will depend on the amounts requested by the successful projects. Twenty percent of WINN funding will notionally be directed to small projects requesting $500,000 or less, while the remaining 80 percent will notionally be directed to large projects with requests of more than $500,000.

E5.

Q. WHAT IS THE LIKELIHOOD THAT I WILL RECEIVE FUNDING?
A. Only applications demonstrating the highest merit that fit with WINN objectives, will be considered for funding. Many good projects may not receive support under WINN.

E6.

Q. WHAT ARE THE ATTRIBUTES OF A STRONG PROPOSAL?
A. All eligible applications will be evaluated on their ability to achieve the objectives of the WINN Initiative and on their strengths in the areas of management, technology readiness, market potential, financial capacity and economic benefits.

Strong projects will demonstrate:

  • A complete and viable business plan;
  • Qualified, experienced and complete management team;
  • Technology readiness and sufficient IP;
  • Market potential (i.e strategic or supply chain partnerships in place, potential customers/investors identified, etc.);
  • Financial capacity to execute (e.i. non-WD funding in place, existing revenues from other product lines, etc.) and ability to repay; and,
  • Measurable economic benefits to Canada.

E7.

Q. WHAT KINDS OF ACTIVITIES ARE SUPPORTED BY WINN?

A. WINN supports activities in a variety of sectors; however, the Initiative is not targeted to any specific sector.

Examples of eligible activities include, but are not limited to:

  • Introduction of a new product, process or service to new or existing markets;
  • Improvement of products, processes or services;
  • Technology development/acceleration;
  • Product certifications;
  • Pilot projects (first user) and technology demonstration projects;
  • Validation of market potential and end-user acceptance; and
  • Support for marketing, human resources development, productivity, and process or quality improvement directly related to the commercialization of new opportunities.

E8.

Q. WHAT COSTS ARE ELIGIBLE?
A. WINN may provide repayable contributions of up to 50% of total eligible costs for each project, to a maximum of $3.5 million per project.

Costs eligible for reimbursement under WINN must be deemed incremental, essential, and directly related to the project. These may include items, such as:

  • Quantifiable design, engineering and other professional services;
  • Costs of prototype development materials consumed;
  • Costs of transportation of prototype to location of demonstration site;
  • Costs of third-party certification, testing, quality assurance, etc.;
  • Costs of specialized insurance while item is onsite for demonstration;
  • Material and supplies costs consumed in the product development and production stages;
  • Capital costs for machinery and equipment;
  • Labour costs; and
  • Procurement of project-related innovation services (independent of the applicant), including, for example, patenting costs.

WD reserves the right to make the final determination on the value of contributions and to exclude expenditures deemed to be ineligible or outside the scope of the Initiative.

E9.

Q. WHAT TYPES OF ACTIVTIES AND COSTS ARE INELIGIBLE?
A. WINN will not cover costs that can be typically financed through conventional sources, such as land and buildings. Other non-eligible costs include: losses, amortization or depreciation of assets, fines, and penalties. Additionally, costs associated with certain activities, such as basic or applied research and lobbying, will not be covered.

Any costs incurred prior to project approval are not eligible and will not be considered as part of the overall scope of the project. For example, if an applicant incurs a cost (e.g. purchases a piece of equipment) prior to the date of the project being approved then not only is that cost ineligible for WD funding reimbursement but it also cannot be considered as part of the project. This means the funding that paid for that equipment cannot be applied to the at least 50 percent of the required and confirmed funding to be provided by non-government sources.

Please refer to the Applicant Guide to obtain more information about eligible and ineligible costs.

E10.

Q. IS THERE A LIMIT TO THE NUMBER OF APPLICATIONS THAT I MAY SUBMIT IN EACH INTAKE?
A. Yes. Companies can only submit one application per intake period. In addition, there is a maximum funding limit of $3.5 million per project and $7.5 million per recipient over the life of the initiative.

E11.

Q. IF I HAVE BEEN REJECTED BY THE BDC, CAN I STILL APPLY TO THIS GOVERNMENT LOAN PROGRAM?
A. Yes. This Initiative is not affiliated with the Business Development Bank of Canada.

E12.

Q. DOES MY BUSINESS HAVE TO BE INCORPORATED FOR AT LEAST A YEAR?
A. No. The eligibility requirements are that you must have been in operation for at least a year and you must be incorporated.

E13.

Q. WHAT IF THE PARENT AND SUBSIDIARY COMBINED HAVE MORE THAN 500 FTES – WOULD THE SUBSIDIARY (WITH LESS THAN 500) BE ELIGIBLE?
A. No. If both the parent and subsidiary have more than 500 FTEs, than WD would not consider the subsidiary as eligible under WINN. On a related note should there be a controlling interest by an investment firm, such as a venture capitalist, only the FTE count for company applying will be considered for eligibility purposes and not the FTE count of the venture capitalist.

E14.

Q. IS RENT AN ELIGIBLE EXPENSE?
A. Yes. Rent is an eligible expense.

E15.

Q. IF THERE IS A COMPANY FROM ANOTHER PART OF CANADA THAT WANTED TO START A COMPANY IN WESTERN CANADA COULD THEY APPLY?
A. No. The company must have operating facilities in Western Canada at the time of their application.

E16.

Q. CAN MONEY ALREADY INVESTED IN THE COMPANY BE CONSIDERED PART/ALL OF THE 50% NON-GOVERNMENT FUNDING?
A. A company can use its existing cash or investments only if applied to new project activities & costs – i.e. costs that are incurred after the project start date. Any costs incurred prior to an approval will be deemed ineligible.

E17.

Q. WHAT DO YOU REQUIRE AS PROOF OR EVIDENCE OF CONFIRMED NON-WD FUNDING? IS A LETTER OF INTENT SUFFICIENT? ARE PROJECTED REVENUES FROM FUTURE SALES ACCEPTABLE?
A. Written proof, confirmed or conditional upon other sources of funding, will be considered acceptable. Examples of written proof include current bank statements detailing existing cash balances or the unused portion of lines of credit. If third parties (e.g. Angels or VCs) are included in project funding, letters of intent or funding agreements from third parties, may be acceptable. These documents will be reviewed in greater detail as part of Stage 2.

WD does not consider the following as sources of confirmed funding:

  • Forecasted revenues from future activities;
  • Accounts receivable;
  • Commitments to raise equity;
  • Commitments to obtain future bank financing; and
  • Scientific Research & Experimental Design (SR&ED) credit receivables.

E18.

Q. CAN THE NON-WD SOURCES OF FUNDING BE CHANGED AFTER THE INITIAL APPLICATION?
A. No changes can be made in Stage 1 of the intake process. Under Stage 2, any changes to funding sources would have to be considered on a case by case basis. Generally speaking as long as the proposed project continues to be capitalized sufficiently (meeting mandatory eligibility requirements) WD will continue to assess the project as part of Stage 2.

E19.

Q. IF A SME'S COMMERCIALIZATION PLAN IS TO UNDERTAKE A SERIES OF ACTIVITIES THAT WILL ENABLE IT TO LICENSE ITS PRODUCT TO A LARGE COMPANY, WITHIN THREE YEARS, FOR A FEE (REVENUE) IS ITS PROJECT ELIGIBLE FOR WINN?
A. Yes. Provided that the SME has sufficient IP rights to carry out the proposed project and to commercially exploit the results within 3 years, the project would be eligible.

E20.

Q. HOW CAN COMPANIES THAT ARE PRIMARILY LABOUR BASED (E.G. SOFTWARE DEVELOPMENT) DEMONSTRATE INCREMENTALITY? THAT IS, DO THEY HAVE TO HIRE NEW WORKERS TO WORK ON A COMMERCIALIZATION PROJECT OR CAN THEY USE EXISTING WORKERS THAT WILL BE REDIRECTED/REPURPOSED TOWARD THE NEW COMMERCIALIZATION PROJECT?
A. Yes. The costs (i.e. labour) associated with incremental activities will be deemed eligible for the purposes of WINN. For example, a software company has 3 existing employees working on a project that has just been completed, and only requires 1 of those employees to provide ongoing support. The company has submitted a WINN application and have indicated that the other 2 employees (who worked on the project that is now complete) would be used to work on the new software development project. The salaries of the employees working on that new project would be considered incremental and therefore eligible under WINN.

E21.

Q. WHAT IS A "VIABLE BUSINESS PLAN"?
A. It is recommended that you consult the Canada Business Network website to access a variety of business plan tools from the BDC and Canada's major banks to ensure that your plan is complete and contains sufficient information to be assessed as a viable business plan. Generally, a business plan should include:

  • A description of the business and new product, process, or service being commercialized;
  • An analysis of the marketplace (including industry factors, competition, and customers);
  • A detailed sales and marketing strategy;
  • A description of the management team and corporate governance structure;
  • Operating/execution plan for commercializing the new product;
  • Forecasted income statements, cashflow for the duration of the project, plus an additional 2 years (pro-forma statements), and include all rationale/assumptions on which they are based.

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Application

A1.

Q. HOW DO I APPLY?
A. Applicants are strongly encouraged to use WD's online application system. A guide is available to help applicants with the process. Only those applicants with the strongest applications will be invited to participate in the 2nd stage review for further consideration.

A2.

Q. WHAT ARE THE APPLICATION DEADLINES?
A. The application deadline for WINN is identified through a departmental announcement. There may be up to two calls for applications per year. For the third WINN intake, applications will be accepted online starting March 14, 2016, until April 13, 2016.

A3.

Q. WHY ARE THERE MULTIPLE CALLS?
A. There are multiple calls to ensure potential applicants have the opportunity to compete for funding as their business cycle positions them closer to commercialization. When dates for additional application intake periods are known, they will be added to WD's website.

A4.

Q. CAN I REVIEW MY APPLICATION WITH YOU BEFORE SUBMITTING IT?
A. As WINN funding is competitive and in the spirit of fairness, WD staff will not be assisting applicants to prepare applications or reviewing applications prior to their submission. Applicants are encouraged to use available resources, including the WINN Applicant Guide to complete their application.

A5.

Q. HOW DO I KNOW IF MY APPLICATION WAS RECEIVED?
A. All applicants will receive an acknowledgement notification, confirming that their application has been received.

A6.

Q. HOW WILL PROPOSED PROJECTS BE ASSESSED?
A. All project proposals will be assessed in two stages:

The first stage will consist of an initial project assessment to determine if project proposals meet the mandatory criteria under the WINN Initiative. During this stage, projects will also be assessed to determine how strongly they align with the goals of the Initiative, whether they demonstrate a high likelihood of success and whether they have non-WD funding secured.

The second stage will involve a more detailed assessment, including an analysis of the technology, the firm's overall business capabilities and management capacity, financial viability, commercialization plans, proposed timelines, etc. Please refer to the Applicant Guide to obtain more information about the assessment process.

WD will engage the technical services of the National Research Council's Industrial Research Assistance Program (IRAP) to conduct the technical assessment of proposals. IRAP will use its network of Industrial Technology Advisors for this purpose.

WD will also establish a Ministerial Advisory Council comprised of experts in the field of technology commercialization, entrepreneurs, and others in related fields that will provide strategic advice on the suite of projects under consideration by the department. Members of this Council will be required to sign a confidentiality agreement and a conflict of interest agreement with WD.

A7.

Q. WHEN WILL I FIND OUT IF MY PROJECT HAS BEEN APPROVED?
A. WD's service standard is to provide a funding decision to a client within 90 business days (90% of the time) of receiving a complete funding proposal.

Under WINN, for the first stage of the application process, we hope to notify applicants of their status (decline or proceed to Stage Two) about 6 weeks from the application deadline (NOTE: Application volumes may impact timelines). Applicants who are invited to Stage Two will be given five business days to provide any outstanding information required to complete a full assessment. WD will provide a funding decision within 90 business days (90% of the time) from the time the Department has received all of the requested information.

A8.

Q. IF MY PROJECT IS NOT FUNDED IN THE FIRST CALL, DO I NEED TO RE-APPLY OR WILL YOU AUTOMATICALLY CONSIDER MY APPLICATION IN THE NEXT CALL?
A. In order to maintain the competitive nature of the assessment process, applicants that are not successfully funded in the first call may consider resubmitting their application in another call.

A9.

Q. ARE THERE ANY FEES TO APPLY OR TO GO THROUGH THE ASSESSMENT?
A. There are no fees associated with the application or assessment process. An applicant can, however, expect that during the detailed assessment period, they may be required to respond quickly to additional questions that arise.

A10.

Q. CAN YOU ASSURE ME THAT ANY CONFIDENTIAL COMMERCIAL INFORMATION I SUBMIT WILL BE PROTECTED?
A. Assessment of the applications will be undertaken by WD and NRC-IRAP. All submitted information will be kept in strict confidence in accordance with established Government of Canada guidelines regarding commercial information. Confidential commercial information will not be shared without the applicant's consent.

A11.

Q. WILL WD ASK FOR MISSING INFORMATION AND IF I AM NOT SUCCESSFUL, WILL I BE INFORMED WHY SO I CAN ADDRESS ANY WEAKNESSES IN MY APPLICATION FOR A FUTURE CALL?

A. WD officers may follow-up with clarification questions but will not be asking for the provision of new information. WD will not be providing individualized support for any applicant. However, we can tell you that previous successful projects clearly demonstrated the ability to bring innovative ideas from the later stages of research and development to a commercialized product, process, or service.

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Contribution

C1.

Q. WILL YOU PROVIDE ADVANCES? HOW ARE DISBURSEMENTS MADE?
A. WD will not normally provide advances. If you are successful in obtaining WINN funding for your project, WD will normally provide the repayable funding in periodic reimbursements, based on the submission of claims for reimbursement. These reimbursements will be released to recipients for the approved portion (i.e. up to 50%) of eligible projects costs that have been incurred and paid. Recipients will need to plan project cash flows accordingly based on the timing of the claims and the period to process the reimbursement. WD will provide an orientation to this process to all those who are approved for WINN funding.

Potential funding recipients are expected to have secured all non-WD requested project financing (minimum 50%) before applying.

C2.

Q. WHAT KIND OF REPORTING IS REQUIRED DURING THE PROJECT?
A. All successful applicants will sign a standard Contribution Agreement with WD. The Agreement outlines the obligations of the funding recipient, including the submission of claims information and periodic progress reports (minimum 2 per year).

C3.

Q. WHEN MUST PROJECTS BE COMPLETED?
A. Projects may vary in duration, ranging from a few months to multiple years; however, projects must demonstrate plans to commercialize a new technology within three years of the Project Funding Start Date.

C4.

Q. HOW LONG DO FUNDING RECIPIENTS HAVE TO REPAY WD'S INVESTMENT?
A. Funding recipients will receive a one-year grace period, starting from the date the project is completed, before repayment begins. Recipients will be required to make equal monthly payments over the five years following the expiry of the grace period. In total, the funding recipient will have a maximum of six years to repay WD's total contribution amount.

C5.

Q. WHAT TYPE OF LOAN ARE YOU PROVIDING IN THIS INITIATIVE?
A. Through this initiative WD will provide a 'repayable contribution'. This is different from a 'normal' loan in that the funds will only be reimbursed for a specific set of expenditures that support the technology commercialization activities identified in the application. As long as the WINN recipient is in good standing, interest will not be applied to the repayment of the funds.

C6.

Q. DO YOU OFFER GRANTS OR SUBSIDIES UNDER THE WINN INITIATIVE?
A. No, grants and subsidies are not provided under the WINN Initiative. WINN recipients will receive funding that they are responsible to repay (a repayable contribution). The funding provided to WINN recipients is a reimbursement of specific expenses and activities related to the commercialization of a product, process or service. The recipient will be required to report on these expenses along with project progress. These funds are to be repaid in equal monthly instalments over the five years following the expiry of the grace period.

C7.

Q. WHAT HAPPENS IF THE LOAN ISN'T REPAID?
A. WD expects that contributions will be repaid. If funds are not repaid, WD will take appropriate measures to collect the amount owing.

C8.

Q. WHAT CONTROL DOES THE GOVERNMENT WANT OVER MY BUSINESS IF I ACCEPT THIS LOAN?
A. Neither WD nor the Government of Canada will take a role in the operation of your business. Further, WD will not be taking any equity positions in businesses that receive funding under this Initiative.

C9.

Q.IF I AM SUCCESSFUL CAN I PAY BACK THE LOAN EARLY? IS THERE A PENALTY?
A. There is no penalty for early repayment.

C10.

Q. WILL YOU PROVIDE LOAN GUARANTEES?
A. No, loan guarantees will not be offered under the WINN initiative. A repayable contribution will be approved based on a set of planned expenses. The intention is NOT to provide a guarantee to another lender.

C11.

Q. DO YOU ISSUE LETTERS OF CREDIT?
A. No. We recommend you contact your financial institution for this service. If you are an exporter, contact Export Development Canada.

C12.

Q. WILL YOU OFFER A LINE OF CREDIT FOR GROWING BUSINESSES?
A. Applicants will not be offered a line of credit under the WINN initiative.

C13.

Q. DO YOU PROVIDE ASSET-BASED FINANCING?
A. WD will not provide a repayable contribution based solely upon the assets you have in your business. We base our decisions on a variety of factors that will include: market potential, management strength, technology readiness, and financial capacity.

C14.

Q. WILL YOU PROVIDE FINANCING BASED UPON FUTURE PROJECTIONS FOR A NEWLY INVENTED TECHNOLOGICAL PRODUCT?
A. Yes, an applicant does not have to have existing revenues to be eligible for the Initiative. It is required that the business have operated for at least one calendar year and have secured all other sources of non-WD funding at the time of application.

C15.

Q. WHAT ARE THE TAX IMPLICATIONS OF A WINN REPAYABLE CONTRIBUTION?
A. Although WINN is fully repayable, CRA considers WINN funding as taxable income and there are potential SR&ED implications as well. It is recommended that you seek independent professional tax and accounting advice to assess and determine the full tax implications of receiving a WINN repayable contribution.

C16.

Q. ARE TAX CREDITS CONSIDERED A GOVERNMENT CONTRIBUTION?
A. WD is required to consider tax credits received for project expenditures, as government assistance. An example of a federal tax credit that may be applicable to a WINN project is the Scientific Research and Experimental Development (SR&ED) program administered by the CRA. For more information please visit the SR&ED website (http://www.cra-arc.gc.ca/txcrdt/sred-rsde). It is also recommended that you seek independent professional tax and accounting advice to assess and determine what costs and activities of your project might be eligible for federal or provincial tax credits.

C17.

Q. WHO CAN I CONTACT FOR MORE INFORMATION?
A. Consult the WINN Applicant Guide for additional information on eligibility criteria and application processes.

For additional WINN information contact us directly: info@wd-deo.gc.ca.