The term “to play politics” generally means to make something that should be non-political into a political issue. One online definition defines it as, “to allow politics to dominate in matters where principle should prevail.”
Surely to God, a community fundraiser should be a place where common interests prevail, where professional or personal rivalries can be put aside for a higher cause. Surely, a reasonable person would not drag completely unrelated baggage into such an event and sour the atmosphere.
But Kevin O’Brien is not a reasonable man.
O’Brien, the province’s municipal affairs minister, took the extraordinary step last month of pushing the Gander Chamber of Commerce into un-inviting two members of the provincial New Democrats from a community breakfast.
St. John’s East MHA George Murphy and former Gander NDP candidate Lukas Norman had originally been asked to help serve food at the affair. But O’Brien would have none of it. He made it clear to organizers that the two were not welcome, so their invitations were revoked.
There’s a well-worn saying that if you’re in a hole, you should stop digging. O’Brien, it seems, just couldn’t stop shovelling.
On Wednesday, he issued a written explanation of sorts to the media. Instead of apologizing or trying to downplay his involvement, he had the gall to suggest his entire motivation was to take the politics out of the event.
So, to summarize, making sure two people were removed from an invitation list to a non-partisan event — simply because they were of a different party stripe than the local MHA — was “depoliticizing” the event.
But that’s not all. O’Brien apparently had an inside source.
“When I was informed that other political parties were trying to make the community breakfast a political platform, I felt I had to stand on principle and advocate to maintain the non-political policy; a policy that was rightfully set up many years ago.”
What a hero.
Unfortunately, this is the kind of petty paranoia and manipulation we’ve come to expect from this government.
It was only a few months ago that Labrador Affairs Minister Nick McGrath did the same thing to Lorraine Michael. He demanded the NDP leader be uninvited from a meeting of the Labrador Combined Councils — or at least that she not speak.
Any government member worth his or her salt should be able to withstand sharing a bit of neutral sod with a political foe now and then. Only someone suffering from severe arrogance or cowardice would take such underhanded measures to prevent it.
By the way, let’s not forget when the shoe was on the other foot.
Fabian Manning certainly knows what it was like to be excluded from community festivals and presentations.
In the primarily Liberal town of Placentia, the then Tory MHA was often left off the itinerary when announcements or celebrations were taking place. Instead, he’d stand with the audience and take his lumps.
It’s not new. But it’s not pretty.
And right now, it’s getting downright ugly.