'He was very loved': Former Flin Flon NDP MLA Clarence Pettersen dies

A former NDP MLA who ran as an independent after openly criticizing former premier Greg Selinger has died.

Outspoken politician broke with party to run as independent

Former Flin Flon MLA Clarence Pettersen died Wednesday at the age of 65. (Manitoba Legislative Assembly)

Manitoba politicians took a moment Tuesday to mourn the loss of long-time politician Clarence Pettersen, who was described as a free thinker and who ran as an independent after openly criticizing Greg Selinger, who was premier at the time.

Pettersen, a former MLA for Flin Flon, died last Wednesday. He was 65.

"My relationship with Ace, as we liked to call him, goes back a long way. Obviously we departed on certain political leanings, but then again he departed on political leanings with others as well," an emotional Premier Brian Pallister said during question period Tuesday.

"He was a man who thought freely and expressed himself freely and I know he will be deeply missed by his family. He was very loved."

The one-term MLA was elected in 2011, but lost the NDP Flin Flon nomination in December of 2015. He declared his intention to run as an Independent and did so in the 2016 election, but came in fourth of four candidates.

On his last day in the Manitoba Legislature, he accused Steve Ashton, then MLA for Thompson, of reneging on a deal to ensure that Selinger would lose the NDP leadership race

According to a Hansard transcript, Pettersen said the deal involved Ashton and then MLA Theresa Oswald, who challenged Selinger for the party's leadership and allegedly agreed that should one of them finish third in the first round of voting, that person would then support the other to help beat Selinger.

He was a man who thought freely and expressed himself freely.- Premier Brian Pallister

"There was an agreement with the minister from Thompson that the status quo is not a choice … [and he said] he would support us on the second ballot, and we would support him," Pettersen said on the floor of the legislature.

Instead, Ashton did not endorse either candidate and Selinger clung to power.

Selinger stepped down as leader after the NDP lost the 2016 provincial election, and recently stepped down as MLA for St. Boniface.

Before running as an Independent, Pettersen told the Flin Flon Reminder he was proud of his four years in office and that he managed to secure about $180 million in funding for the riding. 

NDP Opposition Leader Wab Kinew shared his condolences with the families of Pettersen and long-time politician and lawyer Saul Cherniak, who died Friday.

"He was a high-ranking cabinet minister during the [Ed] Schreyer government and will be dearly missed," Kinew said of Cherniak, before recognizing Pettersen's important community work in Flin Flon and asking fellow MLAs to applaud the work of both men.

Pettersen was a teacher before his foray into politics, earning a degree in education and history at Brandon University. That's where he and Pallister met and became friends, the premier said, and they went on to do their teaching practicum together at the same school.

Pettersen was the co-founder of the Flin Flon-Creighton greening project, which had a mandate to reclaim lands affected by industrial pollution. 

He leaves behind his wife of 42 years, Judy, three daughters and two grandchildren. A service will be held on Apr. 21 at St. Ann's Roman Catholic Church in Flin Flon.

Corrections

  • A previous version of this article misattributed comments made by Premier Brian Pallister in remembrance of Saul Cherniak as in remembrance of Clarence Pettersen. Those comments have been removed.
    Apr 04, 2018 8:33 AM CT