Nfld. & Labrador

NDP joins Tories in call for Gerry Byrne's resignation

The caucus issued a news release Friday calling for the fisheries minister's resignation over the mishandling of the south coast salmon die-off.

Fisheries minister not backing down from accusation made in House of Assembly

Fisheries Minister Gerry Byrne says he won't apologize for suggesting Tory MHA Jim Lester is pro-poaching and that NDP MHA Jim Dinn condoned a racist remark. (Peter Cowan/CBC)

NDP Leader Alison Coffin and her caucus have joined the Progressive Conservatives in their call for Gerry Byrne to resign from cabinet.

In a news release Friday, Coffin said the fisheries minister mishandled the die-off of 2.6 million salmon on the south coast.

She also said Byrne, a longtime Liberal both provincial and federally, exhibited "inexcusable conduct in the House of Assembly that included making unfounded accusations against opposition MHAs in question period and in subsequent media interviews, and aggressive behaviour that was deliberately intended to intimidate."

Byrne, meanwhile, told reporters Friday morning he will not apologize for suggesting Tory MHA Jim Lester is pro-poaching and that NDP MHA Jim Dinn condoned a racist remark in a 2018 meeting.

The comments were made during an angry exchange at the House of Assembly on Thursday. 

"I can appreciate why the opposition parties may want me to resign, because if I was in opposition facing me as a minister, I'd want me to resign too," Byrne said.

Coffin said Byrne's "aggressive behaviour" and attempt to "defame and raise suspicion" about Dinn was unacceptable conduct for an MHA and cabinet minister. 

Provincial NDP Leader Alison Coffin is calling for Liberal cabinet minister Gerry Byrne to step down as fisheries minister. (Eddy Kennedy/CBC)

Byrne said he makes no apologies for calling out racism and has Premier Dwight Ball's full support.

"It has to be fair, we recognize that people make mistakes. Mistakes should never, ever be considered fatal. You admit them, show concession, act on concession and if the apology is accepted you move forward," he said. 

As for Lester, Byrne is standing firm on not apologizing for that either. He says Lester condones hunting at night, which is an illegal practice. Byrne has also called PC Leader Ches Crosbie's push for his resignation "repulsive."

Crosbie said Byrne is coming unglued and is unreasonably attacking the opposition party members.

"He needs to be isolated and put into quarantine," Crosbie said on Friday.

"The way to do that is for Mr. Ball to put him out of cabinet."

Crosbie added that Byrne's accusations against Dinn and Lester are so over the top that the public doesn't give his comments any credibility. 

The NDP is calling for an independent investigation into the dead salmon and a review of aquaculture regulations and enforceable legislation.

Coffin said Byrne's reaction to Dinn trying to get answers about the salmon die-off resulted in harassment, intimidation and "very unparliamentary behaviour." 

"I don't think he's behaving well. I think he's not attending to his duties properly. He's not responding to the accountability that we are demanding," she said.

"If the minister won't do the right thing a

nd resign, I call on the premier to remove Gerry Byrne from cabinet."

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