UBP new blood who became the OBA old guard
Grant Gibbons joined the political fray in 1992 as part of a new group of well-educated, business savvy candidates in the ruling United Bermuda Party.
At the time, Dr Gibbons, who was the managing director of the family business Gibbons Company, made an unsuccessful bid to become a candidate in Smith’s South, after Tony Correira, running mate to Jim Woolridge, then tourism minister, retired.
Under the old constituency system, each seat elected two MPs.
Dr Gibbons told the Mid-Ocean News at the time that people were “expecting a new face”.
But fellow political newcomer Trevor Moniz came second in a primary in October that year and stood for the seat alongside Mr Woolridge instead.
However, Dr Gibbons was undaunted by defeat and pointed out that he had come from “zero to 300 in five months”.
Dr Gibbons was appointed campaign chairman for the UBP in January 1993, a crucial year for the party that he said was a “watershed” after the General Election that October.
Sir John Swan, who was premier under the UBP, said Dr Gibbons had played “a behind- the-scenes role in helping to formulate the blueprint” in the UBP’s final electoral victory.
Dr Gibbons was appointed senator and parliamentary secretary for finance and works and engineering in October 1993, and given a ministry portfolio of Management and Technology in January 1994.
He also served as the Government’s “point man” as the island’s American military bases were closed down.
Dr Gibbons led the Bases Transition Programme, which included tough negotiations about an environmental cleanup and other compensation.
The death of government backbencher John Stubbs in 1994 sparked a by-election in Paget East, which Dr Gibbons won and he entered Parliament in July that year.
His career as an MP was linked to Paget East from then on — a stronghold for the UBP and still a safe seat for the One Bermuda Alliance.
Dr Gibbons directed the return of the base lands to government control and established the Bermuda Land Development Company in 1996.
He also masterminded the transfer of air traffic control and air services to civilian control and the return of the Canadian base at Daniel’s Head.
Dr Gibbons brought telecommunications legislation to Parliament in 1995 which ended the monopoly of Cable & Wireless and jump-started the island’s development in a key sector for international business.
He took over as finance minister from David Saul in 1996 and presided over the insurance and reinsurance surge that fuelled unparalleled growth in international business.
Dr Gibbons delivered a 1998-99 Budget with a surplus in current and capital accounts and also piloted the occupational pension scheme through Parliament before the PLP swept to power in 1998’s General Election.
Dr Gibbons led the party in Opposition from 2001 to 2006 and was also chairman of the Public Accounts Committee.
He said in 2005 that the party’s time in Opposition was “frustrating” as the UBP struggled to redefine itself.
He told The Royal Gazette at the time: “We know what has to be done and we have the ability to carry it out — we just hope the electorate has the ability to see that.”
But the choice of a white man from what was seen as an establishment family to lead the UBP was not always popular.
After his term as leader came to an end in 2006, Dr Gibbons was denounced in Parliament by Ewart Brown, then the Premier, as a “racist dog”.
As the Bermuda Democratic Alliance joined former MPs from the UBP in 2011 to create the OBA, Dr Gibbons was among the veteran MPs who made the transition and the new party scored a narrow General Election victory in 2012.
Dr Gibbons led the charge to develop new tourism properties as OBA Minister of Economic Development, established the Bermuda Business Development Agency, and oversaw the launch of the Regulatory Authority in January 2013. He also had telecommunications and energy in his portfolio and introduced key information protection legislation. But perhaps his proudest moment in the one-term administration was as head of the successful bid team which brought the 35th America’s Cup to Bermuda.
But, in the wake of the OBA’s defeat at the polls in July 2017, Dr Gibbons, now 65, and other ex-UBP MPs were branded a liability by some political pundits.
He made it clear last Friday, however, that, irrespective of the election outcome, an exit from the political stage had been long planned.
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