New Cabinet sworn in
The first One Bermuda Alliance Cabinet is a large one — 13 members, including Premier Craig Cannonier.
But Premier Cannonier said changes could be in the offing in a year and the Cabinet could be shrunk.
He also announced after the swearing-in at Government House late yesterday afternoon that all Ministers would take a ten percent pay cut effective immediately.
“The people of this country are going through very tough times, and it is essential they know that their elected representatives are with them,” said the Premier.
“We cannot expect Bermudians to tighten their belts without their leaders doing the same. Sacrifice must be shared.”
Mr Cannonier said, as expected, that a Progressive Labour Party member had been invited to join the Cabinet but the offer was declined.
“We will continue to push forward with plans to grow cooperation and collaboration among the elected leaders of the country,” he said.
“By creating opportunities for joint efforts in our parliamentary committees and by inviting parliamentarians from all parties to work on major policy issues of the day.
“I am very hopeful for progress in this area because it is the right thing to do — the more we work together, the more we take advantage of our collective strength, the more we will find solutions that work for all of Bermuda.”
Asked how he would have handled the conflict of interest issues of a PLP member of Cabinet, Mr Cannonier said:
“We were willing to sit down and discuss with the member those things they would be uncomfortable with and also that they would be comfortable with,” he said.
“I continue to go through it to see how effective it would be. But Cabinet should be working on behalf of the people and not in the interests of the party.”
He said he would expect Cabinet members to keep their secrecy oath and not to speak with their party caucus about cabinet deliberations.
“Cabinet is there to work on behalf of the people, not on behalf of a party’s caucus, so the effort to break that down was important and I’m looking for that collective voice and will continue to look for the ability to reform our governmental system to include more voices.”
Asked about his pledge to introduce fixed term elections every five years and whether that meant that the next election would be held five years from now, the Premier said: “You better believe it.”
The Cabinet has two Senators — the maximum allowed under the Constitution — Michael Fahy, the new Home Affairs Minister, and Nalton Brangman, the new Minister of Education.
Asked the rationale for choosing a full sized Cabinet, given concerns about government spending, Mr Cannonier said that he had consulted with the civil service.
“We will continue to consult, and this will be a work in progress,” he said.
“Where we see the need for reform you will see that.”
He added later: “They (Cabinet Ministers) do know that things could change in a few months time. But right now, it’s all hands on deck.”
But he added that the plan was to shrink the cabinet in a year or so. “I would have liked to have even at this time gotten it down to nine or ten.
“I do have a model that fits that but again, as I said, I wanted to consult with our Cabinet Secretary first. They’ve been doing some work on it as well but I wanted to consult with them first.”
Pat Gordon Pamplin, who now heads up the Ministry of Health and Seniors, explained that there was a need to hit the ground running.
“In order to get a handle on things as quickly as possible, it makes sense to spread the workload,” she said.
“I believe once we get a handle on exactly where the country is, I believe we will then be able to hone down and do efficiencies that will ultimately shrink the Cabinet.”
As to her own ministerial priorities, Ms Gordon-Pamplin said that tackling the cost of healthcare would be a first order of business.
Michael Fahy, the new Home Affairs Minister said his responsibilities include labour, and immigration and they would also include governance reform which would handle fixed term elections and other political reforms.
Suspending term limits for two years, a platform promise, is a priority, he said.
“We’re going to make this very clear because we had it in our platform, we’re going to follow through on it. Yes, we’re going to suspend term limits for two years but at the same time we still have to protect the Bermudian worker and protect them from rogue employers who simply tailor ads for some of their existing guest workers,” Senator Fahy said.
“We’re going to measure it but we have made some commitments and we are going to follow through on those commitments very swiftly to give some comfort to business but protect Bermudian jobs.”
New Attorney General Mark Pettingill said that one of his immediate priorities would include a review of all government contracts.
Shawn Crockwell, new Minister of Tourism Development and Transport said he would be working immediately on establishing an autonomous Tourism Authority.
“I’m excited about being in Cabinet but I’m humbled at the confidence shown in me by the Premier. But in addition I understand the enormous challenge I have in both Ministries.
“Tourism needs to be turned around and Transport needs to be reformed to be more efficient and effective.”
There would be no changes in the Tourism Plan which had been anonymously approved by the last parliament, he said.
And asked when the current Tourism Board will be given its walking papers, he said he expected that it would serve its full term established by the legislation.
Mr Crockwell said he will on the job full-time and has taken a leave of absence from his employer effective at year’s end.
“The PLP takes note of this evening’s OBA Cabinet appointments.
“When our Shadow Cabinet is unveiled, we will show Bermuda who will be standing strong for them on our behalf in Parliament,” said a statement from the Opposition party.