Newfoundland’s ag minister, critic returned in election

Liberals score majority-minus-one government

gerry byrne
Newfoundland and Labrador's minister of fisheries and land resources, Gerry Byrne, is shown here at right with Western Agriculture Centre research manager Sabrina Ellsworth and the department's "Agri-Truck" promotional vehicle at Pynn's Brook in September 2018. (Gov.nl.ca)

The cabinet minister in charge of Newfoundland and Labrador’s Forestry and Agrifoods Agency held onto his seat in Thursday’s provincial election, as has his critic across the aisle.

Gerry Byrne, the Liberal MHA for Corner Brook since 2015 and the province’s minister of fisheries and land resources since 2017, held his riding on Thursday against Progressive Conservative challenger Tom Stewart by a spread of 754 votes.

Byrne, a former economic development officer, was a federal Liberal MP for 19 years before entering provincial politics. In Premier Dwight Ball’s cabinet Byrne had previously served as minister for advanced education and skills.

Jim Lester, who became the Tory MHA for Mount Pearl North in a byelection in 2017, kept his seat from Liberal challenger Nicole Kieley by a margin of 711 votes.

Lester, a Mount Pearl area farmer, was the Tories’ critic for lands and wildlife heading into the election, handling the agrifoods, forestry and Crown lands files, and critic for the Newfoundland and Labrador Housing Corporation.

Premier Dwight Ball’s Liberals lost 10 seats in Thursday’s election, ending the evening with 20, just one short of majority government status.

Ches Crosbie’s Tories held official opposition status with 15 seats, gaining seven, followed by Alison Coffin’s New Democrats with three seats, gaining one. Two independents, both former Liberals, hold the remaining seats in the House of Assembly.

Local media quoted Crosbie on Thursday night as saying he wouldn’t concede to the Liberals and calling for a coalition with the five other opposition MHAs.

A part of what’s now the fisheries and land resources department since 2017, the Forestry and Agrifoods Agency was set up in 2007 under the former natural resources department, then spun off to fisheries department oversight in 2015.

The Corner Brook-based agency’s Agrifoods Development Branch is responsible for promoting development, expansion and diversification of the primary and value-added agriculture and agrifoods sectors in the province, which today gross annual sales of about $500 million. — Glacier FarmMedia Network

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