Burt fingers gang violence for emigration hike
Questions ranging from the emigration of Bermudians to the island’s surging rat population were fielded by David Burt during Premier’s Question Time on Friday.
Mr Burt took opening queries from Craig Cannonier, the Leader of the Opposition, on the “prevalence” of Bermudians leaving the island for overseas.
Gang violence and further education, rather than the island’s high cost of living, were the top reasons for leaving, Mr Burt told the House.
He told the House that “empirical evidence is not currently being collected, it’s something I know the Department of Statistics is grappling with”.
The Premier said: “I don’t think economic reasons are the main reasons that people leave Bermuda.
“The main revolve around education and issues inside our community around violence and gang violence.”
When asked if he had rescheduled the number of parliamentary sessions, Mr Burt said “the short answer is no”.
Mr Burt said the House had met more often in the Progressive Labour Party’s first two years back in government than during the same time frame for the previous administration.
Mr Cannonier then asked whether “the proliferation of rats in Bermuda was an island-wide problem”.
Mr Burt said Cabinet had discussed the issue, saying rats had increased food sources from boom in vegetation blamed on the reduction in the use of Roundup herbicide.
He said he would bring the scientific evidence backing the claim to the House in a report filed by government technical officers.
Mr Cannonier asked if the Government would reintroduce a twice-weekly trash collection schedule.
But Mr Burt said it would not be reinstated until there were adequate trash collection resources.
Susan Jackson, a One Bermuda Alliance backbencher, noted the strike this week over health insurance cuts at Gorham’s hardware store, and said that the Matilda Smith Williams senior residence, as well as the Summerhaven home for the physically challenged, were “experiencing difficulties with health insurance”.
She questioned whether businesses were being hit by the Government’s healthcare reforms, entailing a block grant to the Bermuda Hospitals Board that impacted insurers — but Mr Burt said he could not comment on private businesses.
The Premier confirmed, in response to questions from Michael Dunkley, of the OBA, that a grant of $75,000 would be allocated to St George’s Cricket Club for Cup Match this year, as was done last year for Somerset Cricket Club.
Mr Burt also revealed that the Government was partnering with the Western Stars Sports Club in Pembroke to help to redevelop the facility.
Ben Smith, an Opposition backbencher, asked the Premier if he agreed with PLP MP Michael Weeks, who “seemed to suggest that permission be denied” for a gay pride march in Bermuda during last week’s session of Parliament.
Mr Burt replied that he had not been in the House at the time, adding: “On August 31, the members of this community are holding a parade, and the parade will happen.”
Asked if he would attend, the Premier said he planned to be in Florida with his wife and children.
Scott Pearman, the Shadow Attorney-General, asked Mr Burt about allegation of “abuse and neglect” under investigation at the Department of Child and Family Services, and asked who had been ordered to investigation.
Mr Burt said he “would only assume either the Secretary to the Cabinet or the head of the public service” would have made the decision.
Mr Pearman asked if Mr Burt had no involvement in the decision, to which Mr Burt responded: “Not to my recollection.”
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