Kirkfield Park vote kicks off with controversy
Tory candidate can’t lose Nygard baggage, hard as he tries
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Manitoba’s Liberal leader challenged the governing Tories to defend Kirkfield Park byelection candidate Kevin Klein’s employment with disgraced fashion mogul Peter Nygard, as the aspiring MLA was forced to once again distance himself from his former boss.
On Friday, St. Boniface MLA Dougald Lamont questioned whether anyone within the Progressive Conservative party thought to “do a background check” on Klein, who was an executive with Nygard Biotech for a four-month period in 2012 and was again employed by Nygard for a two-week period in 2014.
Klein, a former Winnipeg city councillor, is running for the Tories in the Dec. 13 byelection. The vacancy was created by the resignation of former cabinet minister Scott Fielding on June 17.
In question period, Lamont tried to draw a connection between Klein’s role as a “government relations” executive with Nygard Biotech — a company launched in the Bahamas; Nygard claimed he was “reverse aging” because of its research — and allegations Nygard paid a Bahamian politician thousands of dollars in exchange for a political favour around 2012.
Nygard maintained a sprawling seaside estate in the Bahamas, known as Nygard Cay. A documentary by the CBC’s The Fifth Estate, which aired last year, includes an image of Klein at the property.
“When can Manitobans expect an explanation of exactly what kind of work Kevin Klein did for Nygard, and why the PCs have no problem with it?” Lamont said.
He tabled a series of documents — including articles from Bahamas news outlets, a CBC Manitoba article and a class-action lawsuit filed against Nygard in the United States federal court — to reinforce the timeline.
In the class action, 57 women have accused Nygard of rape and sexual misconduct over a period spanning five decades and three continents. The accusations have not been proven in court, and Nygard, speaking through attorneys, has maintained his innocence.
Klein would not have passed the Manitoba Liberal party’s candidate selection process given his employment history, Lamont told reporters later.
“Everybody should be concerned about the fact that there’s a candidate in the election who worked for Peter Nygard under extremely serious circumstances and has never explained what he actually did,” Lamont said. “This demands explanation.”
Klein called Lamont’s remarks false and “slanderous.”
“I would think that we have more important things in the province of Manitoba to worry about than trying to make up silly schoolyard stories,” Klein said.
“I have been very upfront about my employment history with Nygard since being a city councillor, and every politician who is afraid of me continues to want to bring up work for a gentleman that I quit very quickly.”
Klein was acclaimed as the Tory candidate in Kirkfield Park on Monday. He represented the ward of Charleswood-Tuxedo-Westwood on city council from 2018 to 2022 before launching a failed mayoral bid in the summer.
In March 2020, former mayor Brian Bowman also raised Klein’s employment history and questioned whether legal challenges could distract Klein from his role as Winnipeg Police Board chair.
During the recent civic election, Klein was again pressed on his connection to Nygard, who has been charged with sex assaults against several women in Canada and the United States. Images of Klein and Nygard circulated widely on social media, prompting the candidate to call it “inappropriate” for people to continue to associate the two men.
On Friday, Klein again declined to provide details of his employment with Nygard, saying the information is already a matter of public record. However, he disputed holding a government relations position with the biotechnology company, despite being quoted by CBC Manitoba as being in that role.
“My job was very different. I don’t know why everyone’s making up new positions,” he said.
Klein said he had no knowledge of “anything that Nygard had done in his personal life or what money he may have given other people,” but quickly discovered he could not work for the man.
“I worked for him for four months. I could not work for him. Morally I could not work for him,” Klein said.
NDP house leader and justice critic Nahanni Fontaine said people could expect the Tories to find a candidate who does not have a history “with one of Manitoba’s most prolific abusers of women and children.”
“It really does kind of give a glimpse into where the PCs are right now and what they deem important, and things that they’re willing to turn a blind eye to, things that they’re willing to excuse,” Fontaine said.
Lakeside MLA and PC candidate selection committee member Ralph Eichler defended Klein, saying the Liberals are espousing “erroneous claims from baseless conspiracies.”
“Mr. Klein went through a vigorous vetting process when becoming chair of the Winnipeg Police (Board), and again, more recently, went through our internal vetting process before becoming our PC candidate,” Eichler said.
“Kevin has demonstrated a passion to improve health care and help reduce crime, domestic violence and make communities safer.”
— with files from Carol Sanders
Danielle Da Silva
Danielle Da Silva is a general assignment reporter.