Scott concerned about dropping of Throne Speech
A former Progressive Labour Party premier has raised concerns about the Government’s decision to drop the Throne Speech and announce its plans at a party conference.
Alex Scott said yesterday that the two events were distinct and there was no pressing reason to replace the traditional public address with a presentation at a party gathering.
He explained: “It sounds as if the Government is electing to lay out its programme at its formal annual general conference as opposed to doing so at a conventional Throne Speech, and they’re two separate occasions.
“The general public, the voter, has at least come to expect that Government lays out its plan annually before the entire public.
“The Government certainly could choose to have the Throne Speech in the normal, official manner and then also make a special presentation to its membership.
“But the individuals who would attend and follow closely the Throne Speech may not, and cannot necessarily be expected to, follow a party — one is a party activity and one is a government activity.”
He added: “It may be open to the public, but it’s not a government event.
“I may date myself by saying that I would err on the side of continuing the practice of having a Throne Speech.”
David Burt, the Premier, announced on Tuesday that Parliament will continue to meet every other week until mid-December without the traditional Convening of the Legislature. The move means that the usual ceremony on the Cabinet Office lawn, when the Speech from the Throne is delivered by the Governor, will not be held.
It drew criticism from Craig Cannonier, the One Bermuda Alliance Opposition leader, who said the speech was how the Government told the public and businesses about its agenda for the next year.
He added that forgoing the address showed a lack of “ability to provide the necessary direction to solve the social and business issues” affecting the island and risked losing public trust.
Jamahl Simmons, the Minister without Portfolio, responded yesterday that the Government was “steadily working through” its five-year plan.
He said that Mr Burt, the party leader, would “announce new initiatives that the PLP government will implement to deliver on its mandate” on the opening night of the PLP’s annual delegates conference on Monday.
Mr Simmons said the public was invited to attend.
Mr Scott, who was premier from 2003 to 2006, said the Government was “answerable to the entire public”.
He added: “A presentation of the ruling party’s plan at a party convention is something different.
“There is nothing wrong with doing that, but it should not be done — to my way of thinking — to the exclusion of a government practice.”
Mr Scott said: “I might go through the rulebook and find that I can do it, it’s permissible, but our voting public, our population has come to expect a Government to lay out its plans at an annual Throne Speech and at this moment in time I see no compelling reason to change that to a party activity.
“If it was the OBA suggesting that they pass over the convention of a Throne Speech and have it at their party general conference, I would be equally concerned and critical.
“The criticism that I would lay on the OBA, I’m laying on the Government of the day.”
He added: “The response to the Throne Speech is a very important practice and expectation of the voter and in that regard, when does the Opposition get its chance to respond to the Government’s plan?
“If it’s argued that the Opposition should respond to a speech given at a party activity, I again say that it seems to fall short of what I deem to be an important government responsibility rather than a party activity, but I may be missing something.”
Mr Simmons said earlier yesterday that Mr Cannonier’s comments were “rooted in hysteria”.
He explained: “The implication that no Throne Speech in 2019 means no plan is a false correlation and shows that the OBA are more tied to the trappings of the past, than a party that is capable of adapting to the future.
“The PLP government has a five-year plan that was laid out in our election platform in 2017.
“We are steadily working through our platform and prior Throne Speech commitments ensuring that our promises are kept and we are delivering a better and fairer Bermuda.
“Our economic plan was delivered by our Minister of Finance in last year’s Budget statement, and though it doesn’t match the OBA’s singular answer to all of what ails Bermuda — opening the immigration floodgates — it is a long-term plan that has delivered increased investment in Bermuda, 300 new jobs, new local and international companies, and Bermuda’s first balanced budget in 17 years.”
Mr Simmons added: “While it has been a longstanding colonial tradition, the Throne Speech is not the only manner in which to inform or communicate to the people our government’s policies and plans.
“In 2019, we have chosen to save the over $10,000 spent on the pomp and ceremony, while continuing to sit in the legislature and deliver for the people of Bermuda.
“As a member of the public, Mr Cannonier is welcome to attend the opening night of our conference and listen as our party leader reviews our progress, shares our vision, and outlines new initiatives.”
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