There’s plenty of blame to go around on Tynes Bay disaster
The political blame game is in full swing.
Between the costs for the airport minimum revenue guarantee, the incinerator breakdown, the Morgan’s Point failure, America’s Cup expenditure, this administration seems to have much to draw on for “blame fodder“. Premier Burt recently stated in the Government’s November 26 press conference: “The people of Bermuda continue to endure the results of a nightmare one-term government who happily signed away our rights to the airport and broke the bank to support the America’s Cup — all while neglecting critical maintenance at Tynes Bay, citing lack of budget. Those decisions are costing the treasury daily and also are now affecting our natural environment.”
It is typical of every administration to scold the previous one for its shortcomings and use that as the reason they cannot do this or get that done. We all get it. History has a way of repeating itself and here is a perfect example. Let’s take the serious recent incinerator saga where, due to the dismal state of the plant, trash is now being dumped back into the landfill in the Marsh Folly area near residential development. You may remember we’ve been in a similar position in the past.
In 2010 the Bermuda Democratic Alliance’s Dr Katherine Michelmore, who was deputy leader and spokesperson on the environment, made a statement referencing the trash which was temporarily being stored in bales at Morgan’s Point due to the inability of the waste facility to handle the refuse load.
She said: “There have been a number of articles in the local press recently regarding planned refurbishment of the Tynes Bay Incinerator. Trash has been temporarily stored in bales at Morgan’s Point due to the inability of the waste facility to process the country’s refuse. The need to store baled waste had been anticipated but was required to begin earlier than planned.
“Reflection on this situation leads us to question exactly how we have come to this point, where tonnes of domestic waste must be stored above ground and in public view from the waterfront?”
She also mentioned that back in 2001 Finance Minister Eugene Cox indicated in his Budget speech that it will be necessary to start building a fund to replace the incinerator, “whose remaining useful life is fairly short”. The Works and Engineering Minister at the time, the Honourable Alex Scott, commented on the increase in waste production and stated: “It would be prudent for his ministry to assess the island’s increased waste, as well as the wear and tear of the facility, and assess the future direction of waste disposal on the island.”
Ms Michelmore said it was not until six years later, in 2007, that the Government announced plans to develop a third output centre at Tynes Bay. Then, in 2010, minister Derrick Burgess informed the public that a third stream cannot be built due to lack of funds and so was postponed till 2011.
So in this case, the Premier is absolutely right when he suggests “it wasn’t me”. The history of the incinerator saga began with the Government of the day, some 20 years ago in 2001, who recognised that action was needed and recommended that we should start building a replacement fund for the incinerator facility. Fast forward to today, the waste-disposal issue is now serious and it is obvious that there is a track record of successive administrations who failed to manage and plan for the incinerator’s future, resulting in the disaster we have right now. I believe the public all recognise that the Government is “broke” and they should know that we’ve been broke for 15 years, but when this leadership continually assigns blame it only deflects from what needs to be done by the sitting government.
The Premier ended that November 26 press conference with some encouraging words:
“I thank the people of Bermuda for the collective work we have done as a country to get to where we are today. I appreciate that it has not been easy, but we will continue to overcome the challenges we face by working together."
The world is worn out from two years of an unrelenting pandemic which has wreaked havoc on every nation both from a health and economic perspective. Here in Bermuda, the community is exhibiting obvious signs of a worn-out, politically divided, socially fractured and economically stressed community. What we need now, more than anything, is good leadership. Leadership where our Premier stands up and owns the present, full stop. The public needs to hear the Government’s detailed plan for the future of the incinerator and our economic recovery without the constant assignment of blame each time we have another fiscal grenade go off, because there will be more in the coming years. I believe he will get far more co-operation and respect if he does this and he will also have a better chance at “moving us forward together” as he recently stated in the press conference.
Given its current massive majority in the House, this administration looks to be well positioned to govern for many more years and I’m pretty sure the public would welcome a new kind of leadership where ownership of the issues and actual progress have a great marriage.