Manitoba

'He should have been there': Manitoba WWII vet disappointed premier missed D-Day ceremony

A Second World War veteran says there's "no excuse" for Manitoba's premier not attending a ceremony last week in France to mark the 75th anniversary of D-Day.

Federal official says Brian Pallister could have been given a 2nd seat, but never asked for one

Winnipeg Second World War veteran John Stoyka, 94, was in France on June 6 for a ceremony to mark the 75th anniversary of D-Day. He's disappointed Manitoba's premiere wasn't there too. (CBC)

A Second World War veteran says there's "no excuse" for Manitoba's premier not attending a ceremony last week in France to mark the 75th anniversary of D-Day.

"He's a leader. What does that say for him?" said Winnipeg veteran John Stoyka, who fought on the front lines in Germany during the Second World War.

A spokesperson for Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister has previously said he gave up his seat at the June 6 Juno Beach ceremony so MLA and veteran Jon Reyes (St. Norbert) could attend.

"The premier was pleased to provide Mr. Reyes a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to participate as the official representative for the Manitoba Government at Thursday's International Ceremony at Juno Beach," the spokesperson said in an email statement last week.

A federal official with knowledge of the invitation process says Pallister could have been given a second seat, but he never asked for one.

That doesn't sit well with Stoyka.

The 94-year-old made the long journey overseas for the Juno Beach ceremony. He says he's disappointed Pallister wasn't there too.

"He should have been there. No excuses. Men died to preserve our freedom."

The premier's office declined to comment for this story.

Business meeting 'could have waited'

Pallister was in France at the time of the Juno Beach ceremony.

He was in Lestrem, about a four-hour drive away, where he attended a meeting with French agribusiness giant Roquette Freres. The company is building a $400-million pea-processing plant in Portage la Prairie. 

Roquette confirms Pallister met with company officials for four hours, along with Manitoba Agriculture Minister Ralph Eichler. The company says the visit included a tour of Roquette's facility in France.

The first thing he should have done is be there. That $400 million dollars could have waited.- WWII vet John Stoyka

Prior to Pallister's trip, a government spokesperson said his schedule included commemorating D-Day, business meetings and some time off.

Pallister attended a wreath-laying ceremony at Vimy Ridge and planned to participate in events at the Canadian War Cemetery in Normandy and with Manitoba soldiers, his spokesperson said last week.

Manitoba Metis Federation president David Chartrand, who did attend the June 6 Juno Beach ceremony, told CBC last week he noticed Pallister's absence.

"For him not showing was quite embarrassing, I think, for me as a Manitoban and definitely for many out there," he said, calling the meeting with Roquette a "lame excuse" for missing the event.

Stoyka agrees the premier should have put the ceremony before the business meeting.

"Does that weigh against the lives that were lost?" said Stoyka.

"The first thing he should have done is be there. That $400 million dollars could have waited."

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