New OBA leader vows to get Bermuda working again
New One Bermuda Alliance leader Senator Craig Cannonier vowed to give people hope and get Bermuda working again following his dramatic victory over Shadow Finance Minister Bob Richards.
Sen Cannonier beat Mr Richards by 344 votes to 330 on a tense night at Fairmont Southampton after delivering a rousing speech promising the OBA would fix the Island's social and economic problems and not duck the race issue.
Senator Michael Dunkley was voted deputy leader, beating Shadow Attorney General Trevor Moniz by 506 to 163.
The result of the leadership race was in the balance until 12.30am yesterday, with the vastly different styles of Sen Cannonier and Mr Richards both drawing large cheers from across the audience of nearly 1,000 people.
But relative political newcomer Sen Cannonier's call for the membership to show serious commitment to change narrowly won the day over Mr Richards' campaign based on his political experience and financial know-how.
Michael Branco and Jeanne Atherden were elected deputy chairmen over Karen Magnum.
Yesterday, Sen Cannonier told The Royal Gazette: “This Country is in deep trouble on almost every front. We must give people hope and a plan that we can get Bermuda working again, that we can lead them to a better, more secure future.
“Our focus is on the people of this Country. We are going to be out there talking with them, understanding their concerns, explaining our plans and answering their questions.
“We must earn their trust. All actions we take from this day on flow from that all-important goal.”
Immediately after victory was announced, Mr Cannonier said: “It's a new day. I'm glad the voting was so close because it shows that we are engaged.
“The OBA is very very serious about moving this Country forward.”
Mr Richards, who also lost a United Bermuda Party leadership contest to Kim Swan two years ago, said: “I'm what they call a political bridesmaid.”
Sen Dunkley said of his new partnership with Sen Cannonier: “We will work very well together. We worked very well in the Senate; I have worked in business with Craig before.
“Craig's an easy guy to get to work with. He's got that common touch. He's a people's person.”
In the next few days, interim Opposition leader John Barritt is expected to resign his seat in Devonshire South Central, paving the way for Sen Cannonier to get into the House of Assembly via a by-election. Mr Barritt's resignation will mean Bermuda is without an Opposition leader until Sen Cannonier wins a place in the House.
Sen Cannonier indicated Mr Richards would have a key role to play as the OBA attacks the Progressive Labour Party's record on the economy; he will select his Shadow Cabinet in the coming days.
On Saturday night, Sen Cannonier spoke passionately about race, telling the audience the OBA must confront the issue head-on and not allow the PLP to direct the conversation.
Mr Richards argued the PLP's achilles heel is the economy and claimed the OBA needs to make that issue its strength by electing him leader.
Yesterday, Sen Cannonier said: “The focus over the past four months has been to get the OBA up and running as a working organisation. That phase is now over.
“Our focus going forward is to take our case to the Bermudian people, one person at a time. We will talk directly to them wherever we meet. We have to earn their trust. That is our focus going forward.”
Sen Cannonier said the OBA will provide specific ideas to reduce crime, reform education, fix the economy and make Government more transparent and accountable.
“We can't do everything at once but our goal is to put the Country in safer hands,” he said.
Saturday night was the OBA's first public conference and the first time an Opposition leader was selected by a full party membership.
Sen Cannonier said: “It was a great convention: open, exciting, positive, very promising.
“The turnout spoke to the widespread hunger for change; change that will restore confidence and hope in the direction of the Island.”
He said the party now has more than 1,200 members, up from 350 last month.
“That tells you something about the OBA, about Bermuda's hunger for change and about the future,” he said.
“Bermudians want their Country to succeed. They want it to work for them and their families. That's the challenge in a nutshell.
“The OBA was formed to meet that challenge. We are in this to get Bermuda working again. More and more people are beginning to see this. We are catching on. We're not there yet, but this is a good start.”
Premier Paula Cox said in a statement yesterday: “I extend best wishes to Senator Craig Cannonier on his election last evening as leader of the OBA, and to all successful candidates in the OBA's executive elections; notably Senator Michael Dunkley on his impressive 75 percent victory in becoming deputy leader of the Opposition party.”
Mr Swan said: “Allow me to formally congratulate newly elected leader and deputy leader of the OBA, Senators Craig Cannonier and Michael Dunkley, on their victories at their leadership convention.
“We wish them well in the discourse of their duties. It is noteworthy, that neither of the appointed Senators can assume the constitutional office, Leader of the Opposition, until they become duly elected Members of Parliament. Hence, this clearly sets the stage for at least one by-election.”
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