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LETTER TO THE EDITOR: A response to Gerry Byrne

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The Western Star online editor Nicholas Mercer’s Jan. 24 column “Stoking the fire using dated viewpoints” triggered a light bulb inside my head.

The piece noted that MHA Gerry Byrne had used Twitter to show a two-year-old video of Conservative MHA Barry Petten speaking in the House of Assembly and questioning the movement of the Crowns Lands office to our city.

Mercer notes: “Byrne doesn’t see that bringing the truth to light as petty, though. He sees the clip as a way to hold his critics accountable for their words.”

Let’s stay in the past of two years ago and bring the truth to light once again as we revisit Mr. Byrne’s statements and hold him accountable just like he wishes us to do so for Petten.

It was the summer of 2017 and Byrne said this on VOCM:

“I don’t look for a controversy for the sake of a controversy. I step in where I see a need to have an active discussion to get facts out on the table and to get the full truth out. 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”. (Aug. 4, 2017)

I wonder if any of the following (referenced in a piece I had previously submitted for publication) shared Mr. Byrne’s assessment of himself:

Target #1: Canadian actress Pamela Anderson and the late Sam Simon (of “The Simpsons fame”).

Both were protesting the sealing industry here in the province in December 2013. Byrne got personal and criticized Anderson on Twitter over her Hepatitis C disease calling it sexually transmitted and remarked she was a “has been.”

Anderson wrote at the time: “Mr. Byrne’s juvenile remarks seem better suited to someone running for class clown.” Byrne was forced to apologize.

As for Simon (who was dealing with terminal cancer) Byrne viciously handed out this verbal grenade by tweeting “a guy dying of cancer...men of retirement age aren’t important!”

(Do you know anyone who has had cancer or who is presently struggling or dying with the disease? I do. What a verbal slashing that is — and from a person who carries around the title of “honourable member.”)

Target #2: Officials at Memorial University.

Byrne espoused in April 2017 that MUN had been providing inaccurate financial information to the public about per-student operating costs at the university. MUN President Gary Kachanoski said Byrne’s remarks were “unfounded and not correct,” adding “these are serious allegations that call into question our integrity.”

Target #3: PETA

It was January 2010 and then federal fisheries minister Gail Shea got a pie in the face while speaking in Burlington, Ont.

Byrne said this act should be a test case to try to label PETA as a terrorist group. PETA’s President Ingrid Newkirk responded: “Mr. Byrne’s reaction is a silly, chest-beating exercise.” She added people are “bright enough to spot the difference between a bomb and a tofu cream pie.”

Ask yourself this question: How does creating a controversy by publicly criticizing a woman with Hepatitis C, a man dying with cancer, professionals at our provincial university and an animal rights organization lead to something where — in Mr. Byrne’s own words — “at the end of the day, something good always comes of it”?

If Byrne can hold Petten accountable for his remarks of two years ago, would it not be fair for Byrne to be held accountable for his?

Bern Kenny,

Corner Brook

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