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Penner was born in Rosthern, Saskatchewan. He served as President and C.E.O. of Penner Foods Limited from 1962 to 1998 (overseeing a business which employed 800 workers), and was appointed to Trinity Western University's Board of Governors in 1981. He was a graduate of Trinity University in Chicago and was awarded an honorary degree in 2001.
In 2002 Penner was honoured as the Humanitarian of the Year by the Variety Club of Manitoba.
Penner was elected to the Manitoba legislature in the general election of 1999, running as a Progressive Conservative in the rural, southern riding of Steinbach. This riding is considered extremely safe for the Conservatives; Penner defeated his nearest opponent by almost 5000 votes, despite the fact that the Progressive Conservatives were defeated provincially.
In parliament, Penner served as opposition critic for Consumer and Corporate Affairs and Finance. He chose not to run for re-election in 2003, having been diagnosed with cancer. Penner died on January 17, 2004.
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