Winnipeg mayoral candidate Klein calls trolling over Nygard connection ‘inappropriate’

Winnipeg mayoral candidate Kevin Klein expressed frustration this week about online trolling over his former employment by Peter Nygard, the former fashion mogul now accused of sexual assault.

The outgoing city councillior for Charleswood-Tuxedo-Westwood briefly worked for Nygard at two different points: for four weeks in 2012, and for just under four months in 2014. Klein handled communications and worked in a government-relations role for a biotech company partially owned by Nygard.

After sexual assault allegations against Nygard surfaced in a class-action lawsuit in early 2020, Klein complained Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman attempted to exaggerate his connection to Nygard for political gain.

Since Klein entered this year’s mayoral race, pictures of him with Nygard — some genuine and some he describes as doctored — have continued to circulate on social media.

When asked about the trolling on Thursday, Klein suggested other mayoral campaigns might be to blame.

“I think it’s inappropriate,” he said during a news briefing at his campaign office. “I think that when people are a threat to others, they tend to try and pull them down. They tend to throw bricks at them.”

Klein said many politicians have rubbed shoulders with Nygard. In 2018, both Bowman and now Manitoba Premier Heather Stefanson attended a 50th anniversary gala for Nygard International.

“I would question all the photos of other civic leaders and provincial leaders and federal leaders in Canada that have taken pictures with him as well. So if we’re going to call one photo into question, let’s bring them all out,” Klein said.

“I mean, the list goes on and on. There was an ego there that wanted pictures with everybody, for goodness sakes.”

This image of Kevin Klein playing poker with Peter Nygard is genuine, the candidate has said. He said he played poker with Nygard twice but does not recall where this image was taken. (The Fifth Estate/CBC )

Nygard, the former head of a multimillion-dollar clothing company, 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.

Klein has previously described the allegations against Nygard as grotesque and said they angered him when he learned of them.

But he has said he saw nothing untoward when he made two visits to Nygard’s estate in the Bahamas, both times with his wife. 

Klein said he quit working for Nygard because he did not like the way he conducted business.

“I could not work for him,” Klein said on Thursday. “I would not suggest to any human being to ever work for him.

“But if you’re going to criticize, or people want to keep bringing it up, there are thousands and thousands of people that had to work there. Think about them.”

Klein is one of 11 candidates running to replace Bowman as mayor. Idris Adelakun, Rana Bokhari, Chris Clacio, Scott Gillingham, Shaun Loney, Jenny Motkaluk, Glen Murray, Robert-Falcon Ouellette, Rick Shone and Don Woodstock are also running.

Advance voting begins Monday. The election is Oct. 26.