Gander MHA Kevin O'Brien says he did not ask the Gander and Area Chamber of Commerce to revoke invitations to an NDP MHA and an NDP party member to be servers at the group's annual community breakfast.
"It was their decision." — Gander MHA Kevin O'Brien
"It was their decision in regards to the chamber of commerce," O'Brien said on Tuesday. "I don't hold any power over them as the MHA. I don't fund them. I can't pull their funding or anything like that. So the NDP nor anybody can say that."
NDP MHA George Murphy and Lukas Norman, a 20-year-old Gander resident who ran for the NDP against O'Brien in the 2011 provincial election, had their invitations to be servers revoked just before the Aug. 5 event.
A source close to the issue told CBC that O'Brien didn't want Norman and Murphy to serve breakfast, and that he pressured the chamber to revoke their invitations.
The source said O'Brien argued that only elected politicians from the area, no matter what their affiliation, should be servers at the event.
"The persons in question don't represent our community," said O'Brien. "That's the basis of the principle, okay? So, no problem with everybody else coming and participating. No issue whatsoever. Absolutely not."
Politicians, celebrities only
Each year, the chamber has traditionally invited politicians and celebrities to serve food at the event, which is part of Gander's annual Festival of Flight.
The group had invited Murphy and Norman to serve breakfast in previous years.
"They were very enthusiastic about having us back," said Norman, who is also the NDP's representative for the area.
However, CBC's source said O'Brien made his point during a hastily-called chamber of commerce board meeting before the event.
The group wanted Norman to serve anyway, wearing a name tag that identified him as a chamber of commerce scholarship winner. But the source said O'Brien still wasn't satisfied.
And the invitations for Norman and Murphy to serve breakfast were revoked.
"Gander is my home. I love the people that live here. I live here," said Norman. "To be told that I couldn't serve at the community breakfast was strange, to say the least."
"And to find out the minister had actually gone out of his way to make sure that I wouldn't be able to serve, or that our NDP elected officials wouldn't be able to serve, is a very bad thing. I don't think it's positive at all."
In the end, O'Brien did serve breakfast at the event. Norman and Murphy attended, but they weren't servers. Instead, the NDP erected a large tent where they greeted people attending the event.
Representatives from the Gander and Area Chamber of Commerce have not commented on the situation.