Nfld. & Labrador

Kevin O'Brien accused of threatening chamber of commerce

A former president of Gander's chamber of commerce and past Liberal candidate says local MHA Kevin O'Brien threatened to slow down construction on a new school.

Former president and Liberal candidate says minister has pressured business group

Municipal Affairs Minister Kevin O'Brien has denied pressuring a Gander business group. (CBC )

A former president of Gander's chamber of commerce and past Liberal candidate says local MHA Kevin O'Brien threatened to slow down construction on a new school, amid allegations that the Tory municipal affairs minister wanted to oust NDP supporters from a community breakfast.

NDP supporters revealed accusations last week that O'Brien pushed the chamber to revoke invitations to an MHA and former candidate from a breakfast at this summer's Festival of Flight.

Barry Warren, a former president of the Gander & Area Chamber of Commerce for two years, told CBC News that O'Brien has made similar threats over the years.

Warren said O'Brien verbally berated him on several occasions, and that O'Brien threatened to hold up government money for community projects if the chamber displeased him.

"Basically, the message I got was if you didn't toe the line, that funding would be withheld, or in the future if you were looking for funding, that you may find it was going to be difficult," Warren said.

Had run against O'Brien in 2011

Warren ran unsuccessfully against O'Brien in the 2011 election.

The NDP candidate in that race was Lukas Norman, who was one of O'Brien's alleged targets at the Festival of Flight breakfast.

Warren said that when the chamber invited two NDP members to help serve breakfast at the event, O'Brien was angry, particularly at a meeting with the current executive.

"Funding would be held up for the new Gander Academy and also other future funding that they may be looking for could be in jeopardy, if they didn't change their mind and uninvite the people from the NDP," said Warren, who said he was consulted by current executive members for advice.

Warren said O'Brien has often told chamber members over time that if they spoke publicly about his tactics, he would deny everything.

CBC News has confirmed Warren's account with sources close to the chamber of commerce. 

O'Brien did not return CBC's calls.

Last week, O'Brien denied pressuring the chamber of commerce, or with making any kind of threats.

"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," O'Brien told CBC News last week.


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