Retired senator: immigration needed to boost the economy
A commitment to change immigration policy is one of the key factors needed to boost Bermuda’s jobs market, the just-retired vice-president of the Senate has said.
But James Jardine added that a balance had to be struck between attracting non-Bermudians who created employment and “opening the floodgates”.
The independent senator of almost nine years stepped down from the Legislature this month.
He said: “It’s just been a great experience, I’ve enjoyed every moment of it.
“There has been some tough moments, we have had a few laughs and it has been an experience that I’ve really cherished.”
Mr Jardine, a retired accountant, added: “The Government has a lot of challenges ahead. Creating new jobs is not easy here and that’s going to be its biggest challenge.
“I’ve always been an advocate for – not opening the floodgates and allowing everybody to come to Bermuda – but in a somewhat controlled manner by way of, for example, along the lines of what the Cayman Islands have done and that is to allow people to at least obtain permanent residency.
“Bermuda status is a very tough subject and I wouldn’t advocate opening the floodgates on that at all but I do think that they could move ahead with providing permanent residency status to more individuals based on a points system, including a period of time of residency.”
Mr Jardine added that international business workers who came to the island from overseas created jobs for Bermudians.
He said: “I think Government needs to seriously look at continuing with its immigration reform and coming up with something that is fair and reasonable but, at the same time, allows those people who do uproot and come to Bermuda and bring something to Bermuda with them – bring skill sets, bring companies, create jobs – some stability and security here for their families in the long term.”
Mr Jardine, who admitted there were many other ways to help stimulate the economy, added: “It is a delicate balance, it’s a difficult balance because of course we want to make sure there are jobs for Bermudians.
“But I think if we are going to be serious about creating jobs quickly – and we need jobs quickly, there are a lot of people unemployed – we need to be able to bring businesses here who will invest in Bermuda and create those jobs.”
He added: “We need to be creating hundreds of jobs, if not thousands of jobs, and we need to create them for Bermudians.
“But in so doing it will mean we will have to bring non-Bermudians to the island who will bring those businesses and help train Bermudians to perhaps take on those jobs.”
Mr Jardine served as an Alderman and Common Councillor on the Corporation of Hamilton for 18 years and was on the Bermuda College Board of Governors for five years.
The list of committee and board appointments held by him also included the Summerhaven assisted living centre, where he was a founding member.
Mr Jardine said his experience meant he knew how critical it was to be informed before Senate debates – and that he put in hundreds of hours of research on a single topic over several months in at least one case.
Mr Jardine added: “Preparation was extremely important, as it is on any board, but I think here, where you’re debating legislation which is going to impact your country, you want to make sure that you’ve done proper research and you know what you’re talking about.
“That’s probably one of the things that was at the forefront of my mind all the time – I’m representing Bermuda and Bermudians and I have a responsibility to make sure that I’m fair and well-informed before I cast my vote on any particular issue.”
Mr Jardine said the Domestic Partnership Act and the Municipalities Reform Act were among the key pieces of legislation debated during his time in the Upper House.
He added: “The other one that took a lot of time was the Bermuda Airport Authority Act, which was very controversial and we had a stack of documents and agreements, which I ploughed through, being an accountant of course, crunched all the numbers and looked at all the alternatives.”
Mr Jardine said: “I did, as a matter of interest, point out the risks associated with the minimum revenue guarantee, which of course has now come back to haunt us.
“I made it quite clear at the time that I thought Government should have purchased some insurance coverage to protect Bermuda against such an eventuality.”
Mr Jardine said the country’s massive debt was also a major concern over his time in the Senate.
The former partner and chief executive officer of international law firm Appleby added: “Every Budget, I spent quite a bit of time preparing for that.
“It’s always concerned me and nine years ago when I first was appointed to the Senate, we had substantial debt at that time.”
Mr Jardine said: “I’ve always cautioned on spending in a whole host of areas and it certainly is a major concern.
“I think Government has a real challenge on its hands to balance our budget, to find the revenues that it needs going forward in order to not only balance the budget but reduce the debt we have now.”
Mr Jardine said that he often referred to the Bermuda Constitution over his Senate career and that he “would advise everybody, if they haven’t already done so, to read it”.
He added: “I always tried to sort of take my guidance from the Bermuda Constitution and the fundamental rights of every individual.”
Mr Jardine said his time in the Upper House was “fascinating”.
It included sharing the table with two senators who went on to become premiers – Michael Dunkley and David Burt.
He added that “many other good members of the Senate” moved on to the House of Assembly.
John Rankin, the Governor, confirmed earlier this week that Mr Jardine’s replacement will be announced before the Convening of the Legislature next week.