Manitoba Liberals stand by candidate who pleaded guilty to assaulting girlfriend

The Manitoba Liberal Party is standing by a candidate who pleaded guilty to assaulting his common-law partner in 2002.
The Manitoba Liberal Party is standing by their candidate Kurt Berger. He was given a conditional discharge and placed on two years' probation for assaulting a girlfriend in 2002. (manitobaliberals.ca)

The Manitoba Liberal Party is standing by a candidate who pleaded guilty to assaulting his common-law partner in 2002.

"My common-law partner at the time and I got in an argument. It escalated to a point where she had pushed me. I pushed her in return," Berger said in an interview with The Canadian Press on Friday.

"I felt the situation was getting out of hand, so I ended up calling the RCMP."

Berger and his partner gave differing versions to the police, he said, and he was charged with assault.

Liberal spokesman Mike Brown said Berger was upfront with party officials about what happened and he was approved as a candidate.

"He had indicated that he'd gone through some counselling and had paid his penance, and we felt that that was a distant enough time," Brown said.

Berger, now 41, works in human resources for a Winnipeg firm and is carrying the Liberal banner in the Winnipeg Elmwood constituency for the April 19 election. The incumbent is New Democrat Jim Maloway.

Relationship described as 'very volatile'

Berger and his former partner had one child together, who lives with Berger. The woman moved out of town after the relationship dissolved and attempts to reach her were unsuccessful.

Berger described the relationship as very volatile. His former partner took out a protection order against him about five months before the assault. In a court application for the protection order, she said the two were arguing over who would take care of their child when she pushed and "hit at" Berger and he hit her across the face.

Berger said that wasn't true, He said he grabbed her arms as she was striking him. The woman withdrew the protection order two months after she asked for it.

The Liberals are not the only party with a candidate who has an assault conviction.

New Democrat candidate Wab Kinew, an indigenous advocate and author, pleaded guilty to assaulting a taxi driver in 2004 — something he mentioned in his recent memoir. Kinew has also come under fire over sexist and misogynistic rap lyrics and social media comments. Kinew has apologized for them and the New Democrats have remained supportive.

Berger said he has turned his life around, thanks in part to the counselling he went through. He married another woman not long after the relationship ended and has had no more involvement with the criminal justice system.

"I've been in a relationship with my current wife for 10 years. I now have three kids altogether. You know, we're quite a stable household."

Corrections

  • The Canadian Press erroneously reported on Friday that former Manitoba Liberal candidate Kurt Berger was given a conditional sentence of two years' probation after pleading guilty to assault in 2002. In fact, Berger was given a conditional discharge and placed on two years' probation for assaulting a girlfriend.
    Apr 04, 2016 5:11 PM CT

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