Cannonier: OBA is ready to govern
The One Bermuda Alliance has a “government in waiting” with a diverse team that is ready to run the country, its leader claimed a year after he resumed the role.
Craig Cannonier believed the country is ready for him to return as Premier.
But Justin Mathias, a former OBA chairman, feared the Shadow Cabinet failed to generate much interest among supporters (see separate story), while commentator Phil Perinchief said the Opposition leader suffers from an image problem as a “pawn of the white oligarchy”.
Mr Cannonier said: “I can assure you that the team we have right now is a government in waiting.”
He explained: “We certainly have the members, we have a Cabinet, we have a very capable team who are smart, who are at the table, who understood what it meant to get the economy up and flourishing.
“We also have the right people in place to recognise that when it comes to the social matters of this country, then we need to be listening very keenly to how we bring about equality and equity for those who are in need.”
When asked if the island was prepared for him to be Premier, he replied: “I believe Bermuda is ready, yes.”
Mr Cannonier first led the OBA from 2011 to 2014 but resigned after he stepped down as Premier following the Jetgate scandal, which erupted over a trip to the United States in a private jet owned by an American business tycoon.
He was sworn in as Opposition leader again in September 2018 after a motion of no-confidence in Jeanne Atherden from eight of the OBA’s 11 MPs.
Mr Cannonier took the reins of the party later and said last week that “significant changes” have been made.
He believed it was important to work out why the OBA was ousted so convincingly by the Progressive Labour Party in the 2017 General Election.
Mr Cannonier explained: “The OBA was, a year ago — and for some still — coming to grips with exactly how is it that we lost, what exactly happened to us.
“I believe that up until a year ago there were still emotions that were running high among party members and among MPs, still trying to grapple with what is it that we should be doing.
“One of the first things that was imperative and important to us was to be responding far more quickly and with more intent on how we felt about issues.”
The Opposition leader said: “In understanding what is it that we missed, we also recognised that we could have handled some of the more topical issues a hell of a lot better, immigration, right off the bat.
“I believe we could have handled some of our communicative skills better, when it came to issues like the airport.”
He admitted there was “more work to be done” to connect with voters, but it was of greater importance for people in Bermuda to know its government.
Mr Cannonier said his parliamentarians were a mixture of “well-seasoned individuals” and others who joined the political scene in 2011 or 2012, “now willing and ready to move forward with running this country”.
Mr Cannonier said: “We’re a varied bunch from every different background you can think of on this island.
“That’s proof we can come together so we need to get our messaging out there to the people that this really is about you, and not political power.”
He said the party was “keenly aware that an election could be called at any time” and talks with potential new candidates were taking place.
Mr Perinchief, a political scientist, argued that the former Premier was challenged by a perception that his leadership lacked autonomy.
He said: “Craig suffers a great deal from an image problem that he is simply untrustworthy and a pawn in the white oligarchy’s pawnshop to be fronted and used as and when required.
“Political prostitution is never a good look. Jetgate only cements and signposts that conclusion.
“As such, and in a community and body politic as small as is Bermuda, there really is no coming back from, or redemption for, such a branding.”
Mr Perinchief, who is a former attorney-general for the Progressive Labour Party and an independent General Election candidate, also pointed to the Devonshire South Central constituency, to which Mr Cannonier was first elected in 2011.
The OBA leader won a former United Bermuda Party stronghold after John Barritt resigned to create a possible House of Assembly seat.
Mr Perinchief said: “Whether or not the perception that Craig’s business interests were or were not assisted by the Jetgate debacle, it is enough that many people think he was so favoured.
“That coupled with the fact that he would win a seat in Parliament only if he ran in the safe, legacy and time-honoured UBP seat he is in currently, works in favour of the conclusion that ‘Craig is for ever their boy’ no matter the vehemence of his protestations to the contrary.
“Politically, he’s done. In many people’s minds, he is a means to any end his political handlers wish to pursue.”
Mr Cannonier responded: “What have I done that’s untrustworthy? There’s nothing out there.”
He explained that he sought advice from the Attorney-General, who was Mark Pettingill at the time, before the pair, along with then tourism minister Shawn Crockwell and Mr Cannonier’s business associate Stephen DaCosta, took a flight aboard tycoon Nathan Landow’s private jet.
The trip raised questions in Parliament about whether Mr Landow had been offered a quid pro quo, such as a gaming licence or development deal.
The Opposition leader said last week: “I have already stated the facts, the reason we went is because the A-G saw no problem. I sought the advice that was necessary to ensure we were doing the right thing.”
Mr Cannonier added: “I don’t hide behind anything, that was a major blow for me and a major lesson to be learnt.”
He said: “As a huge target, as someone who has already won an election, I expect to have pundits. I don’t expect that everyone is going to be in favour with the OBA, or me necessarily.
“What I can promise Bermuda is that I will always do what is in the best interests of Bermuda, and not Craig Cannonier.”
The Opposition leader added: “Where is the oligarchy right now, in the OBA? They’re on the back bench. It just doesn’t make any sense, if anyone’s been fighting them it’s me.”
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