Klein says he’s victim of ‘American-style’ politics

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Progressive Conservative candidate Kevin Klein has accused the NDP of dirty “American-style” politics over allegations involving his employment with disgraced fashion mogul Peter Nygard.

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Progressive Conservative candidate Kevin Klein has accused the NDP of dirty “American-style” politics over allegations involving his employment with disgraced fashion mogul Peter Nygard.

If elected, Klein promises to fight the use of privilege that legally protects Manitoba members’ speech in the legislative chamber.

For the third question period in a row, the NDP or the Liberals asked about Klein’s time as an employee of Nygard and his suitability to serve as MLA if elected in the Dec. 13 Kirkfield Park byelection.

For the third question period in a row, the NDP or the Liberals asked about Kevin Klein’s time as an employee of Peter Nygard and his suitability to serve as MLA if elected in the Dec. 13 Kirkfield Park byelection. (Mike Deal / Winnipeg Free Press file)

“I’m not going to allow individuals that I don’t even know to continue to find things and bring out new things to try and take me off the work that I want to do, which is represent the people of Kirkfield Park,” Klein told reporters at a hastily called news conference at his campaign headquarters on Portage Avenue.

Before taking aim at political opposition and the media, Klein comforted his wife, who was in tears.

“If they want to talk about my policies, my track record as a politician — I’m all for it. But if they’re going to continue to drag my name through the mud and cause stress for my wife — my kids can read it, my grandkids have access to it (and) it’s on social media — I will not let this childish behaviour continue.”

Since successfully running for Winnipeg city council four years ago, Klein said he’s been “very patient” when opponents try to “paint me with a brush.”

Nygard, 81, faces criminal charges for sex offences in New York, Toronto and Quebec.

Klein has stated repeatedly he worked for Nygard twice: in 2012, for four months, and in 2014, for two weeks, and quit because Nygard was abusive and berated him in front of other people.

“Sometimes, it becomes incredibly frustrating,” Klein said. “I cannot continue to allow politicians that feel they’re safe because they’re under the veil of the chamber to make false allegations and lies.”

During question period Tuesday, NDP house leader Nahanni Fontaine challenged the veracity of Klein’s credentials and accused the Tory candidate of padding his resumé. On Monday, in the same setting, Fontaine accused Klein of “lying” about when he worked for Nygard.

On Nov. 18, in question period, Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont asked the PCs if Klein — who served one term as Charleswood-Tuxedo-Westwood councillor before an unsuccessful mayoral bid last month — had been properly vetted. He tried to link Klein’s role with Nygard Biotech and allegations Nygard paid a Bahamian politician thousands of dollars in exchange for political favour around 2012.

“This is only being done because they’re protected and allowed to lie and make false accusations in the chamber,” Klein said Tuesday. “They’ve earned that privilege by being elected.

“I will fight back on that because it’s unacceptable, it’s unprofessional and unbecoming of an elected official in this country.”

Klein said his critics never mention he passed a rigorous background check in order to serve on the Winnipeg Police Board.

He added he doubts all members of the NDP caucus could pass that test.

“I’ll tell you one thing: if I’m fortunate enough, I’m going to be fighting that rule and changing it so every politician has to stand up and be held accountable for what they say, where they say and when they say it and they will not have privilege in the legislature,” Klein said, pounding on the table for emphasis. “That is going to be my No. 1 objective.”

The democratic principle of parliamentary privilege intended to allow elected officials to speak truth to power isn’t likely to be changed or, Klein conceded, to receive unanimous support. “I’m sure maybe some of my colleagues in the Conservative party wouldn’t like it… (But) politicians shouldn’t have privilege to say and do what they want without being held accountable.”

The NDP and Tories didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Carol Sanders

Carol Sanders
Legislature reporter

After 20 years of reporting on the growing diversity of people calling Manitoba home, Carol moved to the legislature bureau in early 2020.

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