A St. John's businessman has now confirmed that Defence Minister Peter MacKay was his guest during a controversial trip to a remote fishing lodge on the Gander River last year.

Rob Crosbie, who is the chair of Marine Atlantic, said Tuesday that the visit to the exclusive Burnt Rattle fishing lodge in July 2010 was indeed a private trip, but said he would not have any knowledge of whether or not MacKay left for a training exercise.

The trip is being hotly debated because MacKay used a search and rescue helicopter to return to Gander and he is being accused of using the helicopter for personal use rather than professional.

The lodge is owned by a group of business people including Rex Anthony, Rick Gill and Rob Crosbie.

Crosbie said the MacKays and the Crosbies have been friends for years, and that MacKay always enjoys the trip up and down the river to the lodge.

Mackay has said he was on a personal visit, but insisted he shortened his stay by a day to participate in a search and rescue demonstration with 103 squadron 9 Wing Gander.

The next day, the minister took a military Challenger business jet to reach his Nova Scotia riding for an annual lobster festival.