OBA leader resurrects Pathways to Status
Bermuda may be more receptive to providing a pathway to status for non-Bermudians now the island has suffered the effects of a strained economy, says Craig Cannonier.
The Leader of the Opposition was speaking after his party reignited the idea of the controversial immigration policy in its Reply to the Budget on Friday.
The previous One Bermuda Alliance administration was forced to withdraw its Pathways to Status Bill after widespread protest.
Mr Cannonier told The Royal Gazette: “Mr and Mrs Bermuda are now beginning to see the effects of not having a diversified economy and not having enough people working within Bermuda.
“Mr and Mrs Bermuda are beginning to understand the importance of opening our doors.
“Mr and Mrs Bermuda are starting to understand the importance of ensuring immigration follows through on a timely basis with its work permits because the business community started to push back.
“What is happening now is the people who work in those businesses understand that we need job creators here. We need more people spending into the economy.”
Nick Kempe, the Shadow Minister of Finance, said he was not in politics to make popular decisions but to make decisions that move the country forward.
Asked about the previous OBA approach to the immigration issue, Mr Kempe said: “Perhaps it was rushed.”
He continued: “Certainly there was a very organised opposition to that, as there was to pretty much everything we were doing.
“We have seen now, for example with the airport project, that ministers are happy to stand up at press conferences and smile the successes, but when they were in Opposition it was the worst thing that could ever happen to Bermuda.
“But the OBA stimulus projects are the only thing buoying the GDP numbers right now.”
The Progressive Labour Party has said that it aims to attract more Bermudians back to the island create jobs and fill gaps in the workforce.
Minister of Finance Curtis Dickinson said in his Budget Statement that economic competitiveness was the core issue in immigration reform.
He said: “A more competitive Bermuda economy will create more jobs, which will, in turn, lead to an increase in Bermuda’s population as Bermudians return home to fill these new jobs, which is essential for our long-term economic survival.”
Mr Kempe said: “That is a wonderful sentiment but there is nothing stopping Bermudians coming back, so why aren’t they? The fact is our fate as a country is intimately linked to guest workers who bring with them capital and expertise.
“From 2008 to 2013, there was a loss of guest workers of about 3,000.
“If the narrative was true that guest workers took Bermudian jobs, you would expect to see an increase in Bermudian employment of about 3,000 but the exact opposite happened.
“As the cost of living increases, there is more pressure to get by, but we must realise that we cannot do this alone. If it is an unpopular decision, so be it.”