A former premier of Manitoba, who is the husband of the province’s lieutenant governor, was shocked to discover his name is included on the nomination papers of a Winnipeg candidate for the People’s Party of Canada.
Gary Filmon said Wednesday he was duped into signing the nomination papers of Winnipeg Centre PPC candidate Yogi Henderson, who boasted about it with a photo of himself and Filmon on Facebook.
"I do not support that party and I do not support any of their policies," said Filmon, who served as Manitoba’s Progressive Conservative premier from 1988 to 1999.
Filmon has often been called the godfather of the province’s successful nominee program, which has paved the way for thousands of newcomers to Manitoba. It’s an approach that’s in stark contrast to PPC’s policy that openly opposes multiculturalism and wants to severely restrict immigration.
On Sept. 26, the PPC candidate — who lives in Calgary but moved to Winnipeg, where he grew up, to run for the party — wrote on Facebook: "I am confirmed and ready to go in my hometown of Winnipeg Centre. Had right-leaning former Manitoba premier and fellow civil engineer Gary Filmon as one of my 150 signatures to get me on the ballot. #classguy #bigtimerespect"
Henderson did not respond to a request for comment on Wednesday.
"I'm very angry and I'm very, very disappointed this happened," Filmon said in an interview at Government House where he's looking after his wife, Lt. Gov. Janice Filmon as she recovers from breast cancer surgery. He says there's no way he would have done anything to help a PPC candidate, or a communist one, for that matter, get on the ballot.
"I was sitting at the Salisbury House on Ellice Avenue with two friends having lunch, and this very enthusiastic gentleman came up to introduce himself to me and said that I was his inspiration and that many years ago, he decided to become a professional engineer because of me... He said he was here in his home province campaigning for someone... and he implied it was a Conservative." — Gary Filmon
"I was not aware that I had signed his nomination papers," said Filmon. "I was sitting at the Salisbury House on Ellice Avenue with two friends having lunch, and this very enthusiastic gentleman came up to introduce himself to me and said that I was his inspiration and that many years ago, he decided to become a professional engineer because of me. He gave me his card which says he's a professional engineer and consultant and that he lives in Calgary," Filmon recalled.
"He said he was here in his home province campaigning for someone... and he implied it was a Conservative and he wondered if I would sign the papers," said Filmon. "There are many times I have signed people's nomination papers, so I did it." When Henderson asked for a photo with Filmon, he agreed to it.
"I take photographs with people in all sorts of circumstances and all sorts of times." Last week, for instance, he said he was in The Pas and NDP MLA Amanda Lathlin asked to have a photo with him.
"It doesn't imply that I've become an NDP or that I believe in anything they stand for," said Filmon. He has a "cordial" relationship with MLAs and he and the lieutenant governor meet with members of the legislature at events a couple of times a year, he said.
Filmon said he had no idea that Henderson was a PPC candidate in Winnipeg Centre, and learned about his Facebook post and photo on Wednesday. He plans to take action.
"My father and my grandparents came here to this country. I apply all of my success or whatever I have to the fact that they were able to come here as immigrants." — Filmon
"I will try and get ahold of anyone I can at the campaign office to have it removed," said Filmon. "I don't want any implication that I'm a supporter of that party." When it comes to immigration, Filmon's views are far from those of Maxime Bernier's party.
"My father and my grandparents came here to this country," said Filmon, who is writing a book that will include their story. "I apply all of my success or whatever I have to the fact that they were able to come here as immigrants."
The photo of a former PC premier, who is the current lieutenant governor's spouse, with a PPC candidate is alarming, even if it wasn't intended to be an endorsement, said a retired professor who has studied hate crimes and neo-fascism.
"The right-wing drift in Canadian politics and shifting boundaries between more mainstream parties and the far right is something we're monitoring closely," said Helmut-Harry Loewen. He saw the PPC candidate's boast about Filmon shortly after it was posted.
"We know the lines between the Conservative party and far right-wing parties like the PPC have been blurred," said Loewen. "A picture with Mr. Filmon and Mr. Henderson just raises questions about the spectrum of right-wing support... and attempts by the far right to mainstream itself," said Loewen, a member of the anti-racism advocacy group Fascist Free Treaty 1.
Carol Sanders’ reporting on newcomers to Canada has made international headlines, earned national recognition but most importantly it’s shared the local stories of the growing diversity of people calling Manitoba home.