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Editorial: Cue the outrage

Fisheries and Land Resources Minister Gerry Byrne takes qustions from reporters following a speech to the Groundfish Industry Development Council at the Comfort Inn in St. John’s on Wednesday.
Fisheries and Land Resources Minister Gerry Byrne. — Telegram file photo

Ah, where would we be without Gerry Byrne, Newfoundland and Labrador’s minister of fisheries and occasional grandstander-in-chief?

Tuesday, the good Mr. Byrne was in high dudgeon, upset that he was not going to be at the table for the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ stock assessment meeting on Atlantic salmon.

“DFO acknowledges I am trained academically as a biologist. They acknowledge I have a keen interest in science and in the Atlantic salmon’s status, but yet they deny me as minister a seat at the table,” he told The Telegram.

That came after a series of social media posts, saying things like, “Who exactly is ‘invited’ to attend DFO NL Atlantic salmon advisory table? Never in 22 years of public life before!”
Well, we’d say to the minister, such theatrics may play well and get your name in the headlines, but it’s all so much flash in the pan.

And we would give him an A+ — not in science, but certainly in social media theatre.

Mr. Byrne has his attributes, but being a fisheries scientist specializing in salmon isn’t one of them. And make no mistake, this is a meeting about salmon science.

After all, Mr. Byrne was in the federal cabinet as a Liberal cabinet minister — that doesn’t mean he could traipse to Ottawa and automatically sit in on any meeting of Justin Trudeau’s cabinet.

Byrne has a record of tilting at windmills, sometimes without much gain.

Who can forget his attacks on Memorial University when he was minister of advanced education, skills and labour, his claims that the university was providing false information, that the university was overly spendthrift and unwilling to cut costs. At that point, his rallying call was “I’m not going to encourage the conversation. I’m going to drive it.”

That issue faded quickly, once the political posturing stopped.

It’s just one of his many battles.

And the truth is that Byrne knows it, too — he said this last August on VOCM: “I don’t look for a controversy for the sake of a controversy. … I don’t mind it when people take a poke at me. I don’t mind it when I get embroiled in a little bit of a controversy because, at the end of the day, something good always comes of it.”

So make sure you look at the perceived slight of not including Minister Byrne in a scientific discussion about a fish stock in that light. After all, don’t we all need more science and less politics in our discussion of the health of individual stocks?

We think Minister Byrne is doing what he does best — politics.

And we would give him an A+ — not in science, but certainly in social media theatre.

(And yes, we’re ready for the obligatory “I will not apologize for standing up for the people of this province…” letter to the editor. It’s all part of the performance.)

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