PC byelection candidate insists his 2016 work in Caribbean wasn’t tied to Nygard

Progressive Conservative byelection candidate Kevin Klein says his work with a medical research organization in the Caribbean in 2016 has no connection with disgraced fashion mogul Peter Nygard, despite NDP allegations he isn’t telling the truth.

On Monday, the NDP cited news articles and court documents to challenge the timeline Klein has established regarding his work relationship with Nygard, the former head of a multimillion-dollar clothing company who has since been accused of sexual assault.

Klein, a former Winnipeg city councillor and recent mayoral candidate, previously said he worked briefly for Nygard at two different points: for four weeks in 2012, and for just under four months in 2014.

While Klein said he never saw anything untoward when he made two visits to Nygard’s estate in the Bahamas, the Winnipeg politician said he quit working for Nygard because he did not like the way he conducted business.

“I left because my integrity wouldn’t allow me to work for somebody like that,” Klein said in a CBC News interview on Friday.

Klein listed as ‘private-sector partner’

But the NDP alleges Klein didn’t step away from his business dealings with Nygard in 2014 as he acknowledged. Klein disputes that, saying he had no relationship with Nygard while working with the St. Kitts Biomedical Research Foundation.

A 2016 news article in the small island nation of Saint Kitts and Nevis lists Klein as a “private-sector partner” for a regenerative medical project in the same country. The article also lists the St. Kitts Biomedical Research Foundation as a partner. 

Regenerative medicine, and particularly stem cell therapy, was an area of significant interest for Nygard. He made the bold claims that stem cell treatments were making him look and feel younger.

In 2015, Nygard was said to be working on a stem cell research and treatment centre in Saint Kitts and Nevis, according to an intergovernmental organization of Caribbean countries. A press conference held to discuss this work was organized by the St. Kitts Biomedical Research Foundation, the organization said.

Kevin Klein says he played poker with Peter Nygard twice, but doesn’t remember where this game was played. (The Fifth Estate/CBC )

As well, documents from a 2019 court judgment — which do not involve Klein — ordered the disclosure of a “public relations campaign package” put together for the “new venture as per the commitment given by Mr. Kevin Klein and or St. Kitts Institute for Regenerative Medicine Ltd.” 

The NDP alleged a connection between Klein and Nygard, house leader Nahanni Fontaine told question period on Monday. She accused him of “lying.”

“Does the premier think it’s OK for Kevin Klein to mislead Manitobans about when he worked with Peter Nygard?”

However, Klein argued the NDP is making a link that doesn’t exist. 

“I do not believe Nygard Biotech or Nygard had any interest in the internationally-recognized medical research organization, The St. Kitts Biomedical Research Foundation. Certainly not with any work I was involved in,” Klein wrote in an email.

He said he met with many biotech executives, foundations and medical researchers during his four months with Nygard’s biotech firm in 2014.

“After I had ended my employment with that company, I was approached by an organization in 2016 to assist in their communication efforts for the launch of clinical trials associated with Parkinson’s research in St. Kitts and Nevis,” his email read.

Connection questioned again

Klein has had to answer for his connection to Nygard numerous times — as a city councillor, mayoral candidate and now aspiring MLA — since sexual assault allegations against the fashion executive drew international attention following a class-action lawsuit in early 2020.

Nygard has been in custody since December 2020, when he was arrested at a Winnipeg home after he was charged with nine sex-related counts in New York. He faces extradition to the United States on those charges.

He is also now accused of 11 counts of sexual assault and three counts of forcible confinement in Toronto, related to allegations from the late 1980s and mid-2000s, and has been charged with one count each of sexual assault and forcible confinement in Quebec.

The accusations have not been proven in court.

Kevin Klein, background, is seen in a dated video in the Bamahas, where he was with Peter Nygard. (The Fifth Estate/CBC)

Nygard spent much of the 2010s advocating for stem cell technology, which he seemed to treat as a fountain of youth. 

“Look at my before and after pictures,” he said in a video. “I’ve gone from anti-aging to reverse aging.”

Stem cell therapy, also known as regenerative medicine, is designed to repair damaged cells within the body, but its effectiveness remains in question. Researchers have warned the safety and efficacy of some treatments have not been proven. 

‘Witch hunt’ against Klein

On Monday, Klein alleged the NDP — and the Liberals a few days earlier — are involved in a “desperate attempt … to discredit me in hopes of gaining any kind of traction in the Kirkfield Park byelection,” which will fill the seat left vacant after Scott Fielding resigned in June.

“The NDP and Liberal witch hunt clearly indicates they are afraid of my political record and the work that I achieved when serving much of Kirkfield Park as the city councillor,” Klein continued.

The PCs have held the riding for much of its 30-plus years in existence, except for a period from 2007 to 2016 when the NDP held it.

Four candidates — Klein, the NDP’s Logan Oxenham, Liberal candidate Rhonda Nichol and the Green Party’s Dennis Bayomi — are vying for the seat. The vote will take place on Dec. 13.