Nfld. & Labrador

After days of insisting he did nothing wrong, Gerry Byrne withdraws accusations

The fisheries minister says he's "unequivocally" withdrawing his prior statements, which suggested NDP MHA Jim Dinn condoned racism and that PC MHA Jim Lester condoned poaching.

Fisheries minister made statements about two other MHAs that led to a House vote to reprimand him

MHA Gerry Byrne said for several days that he did nothing wrong, but on Wednesday he withdrew his previous statements about two other MHAs.

Gerry Byrne withdrew his accusations about fellow MHAs Jim Dinn and Jim Lester "unequivocally" on Wednesday after the House of Assembly was tied up for a second day over debate about whether or not the fisheries minister should be reprimanded.

The furor was sparked Thursday, when the fisheries and land resources minister said NDP MHA Dinn didn't do enough to rebuke comments about Indigenous people and that Progressive Conservative MHA Lester condoned moose poaching.

Dinn on Wednesday began his comments in the House by stating that he only wanted Byrne's statements withdrawn, as he did not want an apology and didn't believe sensitivity training for Byrne would change anything.

"If this is an attempt to make me back off, I will not," said Dinn.

Independent MHA Paul Lane agreed that sensitivity training would not change Byrne, and supported reprimanding the fisheries minister.

A motion introduced Tuesday was amended by Premier Dwight Ball on Wednesday, requiring only that Byrne withdraw his comments. 

The amendment was seconded by Progressive Conservative Leader Ches Crosbie.

The House voted unanimously to approve the amended point of privilege, after which Byrne withdrew his comments.

Another day of delays

The debate around the motion scheduled for Wednesday bled into the afternoon session, causing proceedings to shift and the loss of question period for the second day in a row.

Proceedings will resume normally on Thursday. One rule from Wednesday's session will be carried over to Thursday, allowing independent MHAs Paul Lane and Eddie Joyce to ask a question in question period. Independent MHAs are normally allowed to ask questions only on Wednesdays.

Dinn said he wishes Byrne had withdrawn his comments the day they were made, saving the House from debating them Tuesday and Wednesday.

"I think we were tied up unnecessarily in this issue for the last day and a half or so, when we could have been going on with other matters," Dinn said.

PC Leader Ches Crosbie said the motion needed to be looked after before the House could properly continue with business.

"The place has to operate on a certain measure of decorum and respect," Crosbie said. "And if you don't have that, you're not going to get the House business done either.… That had to be remedied, and we did remedy it. So now we can get on with things."

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