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As a citizen deeply concerned with the fate of our province I have been drawn to recent happenings in the House of Assembly as if by force of revelation.
In the Book of Luke 15:7, it is written: “Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.”
So, we can only imagine the blissful and felicitous beatitude that accompanied the solemn sincerity of the repentance of Minister Gerry Byrne in the House of Assembly.
And if the measure of joy might be in proportion also to the transgression, one can scarce comprehend the heavenly exultation that that such a display of penance and self-awareness might engender in legions of cherubim, seraphim and thrones. In such a clamour of the bells of righteousness untold multitudes of angels no doubt received their wings on this day.
To reflect on the significance of such an event and to see the depth of the minister’s humility, we need to look into the nature of the circumstance. Perhaps we call to mind his presiding as minister over a great ecological disaster, that is, the death of 2.6 million salmon, a staggering figure, equal to the total number of souls populating the provinces of Manitoba and Saskatchewan. This surely must be reckoned a sin against nature. But it was not this sin for which the wayward minister was brought to account.
Rather it was another breach that occasioned Byrne’s apology, or if that is too strong a word, withdrawal. And the delight we experience must heighten to the precise degree that his transgression deepened. And of what, pray tell, was the minister guilty? A sin not against nature but against the holy spirit; against the spirit of respectful collegiality that ought to govern the House of Assembly, and against the spirit of reconciliation that ought to govern the relation between our government and the Indigenous people of our province.
The bullying and bluster characteristic of Byrne’s performance as minister are by now obvious. To go so far as to accuse MHA Jim Lester of condoning the crime of poaching is merely singing from the same abject hymnal.
But what appears most disappointing to my mind is his willingness, in his slurs against MHA Jim Dinn, to use the profoundly painful issues that have faced the Indigenous peoples of our province as political fodder, distraction from his own political sins. To treat these issues in such a cavalier way, when real vicious racism has a venomous systemic and personal reality, is to demean the issue, to demean himself and to demean the House of Assembly.
So, let praises ring at his repentant withdrawal of such statements and that another sinner has returned washed in the blood of the lamb, or the salmon or the chicken depending on which of Byrne’s crises comes to mind.
And let praises ring at the deep wells of forgiveness that flow in the Liberal minority government. A less charitable spirit than Premier Dwight Ball would surely have cast Byrne into the fiery pit of the back benches. The premier no doubt fears an even deeper circle of hell where souls are buffeted by violent storms, the “howling darkness of discontent” and the perpetual gnashing of teeth. A circle known only by that loathsome word, opposition.
One does not need divine inspiration to prophesy that there will come a time of reckoning in the not too distant future when, on the threshing floor of the next election, the voters of this province will, in the words of Matthew 3:12, gather their wheat into the barn, but the chaff they will burn with unquenchable fire.
Sinners all, we wait on the fullness of time and welcome the prodigal home.