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Judging a cover by its record

Michael Dunkley, the Premier, and David Burt, leader of the Opposition (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

On May 9, 2016, the Progressive Labour Party held a press conference where acting Opposition leader David Burt alleged that JetBlue had been pressured by Aecon to fire shadow transport minister Lawrence Scott because of his opposition to the airport contract.

Allegedly, an anonymous source told Scott of political machinations taking place months before his dismissal. Further, Scott inferred that Michael Dunkley, the Premier, tourism minister Shawn Crockwell and Cabinet Secretary Derrick Binns had colluded with JetBlue during a prior meeting in New York.

To date, Scott has not presented any information to substantiate his claims. It has been reported that his Supreme Court filing was withdrawn, but nothing has since been reported about his claim to the Human Rights Commission.

If the HRC claim hasn’t been addressed after a year has passed, why isn’t Scott making a political issue of it? If the HRC determined that JetBlue was guilty, wouldn’t the PLP be trumpeting this before the election? If the claim was settled or withdrawn, don’t the public deserve to know which is the case?

Given that we don’t know what has taken place, one might say that the political silence has been deafening. What really needs to be appreciated is that this unsubstantiated claim is but one of many that have been thrown in the air seemingly for political gain, and regardless of what damage it does to Bermuda.

If I was inclined to believe Marc Bean’s “Demonic Harry Potter One Bermuda Alliance” rhetoric, claims such as Scott’s would be received as unquestionable fact. And if I believed Burt’s constant disinformation, I would easily be misled about the many other conspiracy theories that have been floated into the public domain.

Although the OBA is incredibly far from being perfect, it’s clear to see that it is the better of the two political options once you separate facts from conspiracy theories, divisive rhetoric and empty promises.

For example, the OBA was severely handicapped by the poor state of Bermuda’s financial affairs, yet it has managed to reduce the deficit, set us on track for a balanced budget and it has had five years of unqualified audits. The OBA has also successfully defended Bermuda’s tax status on numerous occasions.

In comparison, the PLP has not shown us any concrete ideas for managing the economy better than the OBA. Vision 2025 has been out for two years, and many ideas remain nothing more than shallow concepts. Ideas such as the Bermuda Fund should frighten every pensioner simply because the PLP hasn’t bothered to explain how it would actually work.

In the case of tourism, the OBA has revitalised Bermuda’s image through the work of the Bermuda Tourism Authority, it has brought new hotel developments to fruition and it has given St George’s the high priority it deserves. It has also successfully executed the America’s Cup, which already has, and will, pay significant dividends to the tourism industry.

As the public record shows, the PLP attacked the BTA for the first two years of its existence. Far more disturbing, it took every opportunity to malign the America’s Cup by spreading false information about its cost, its business purpose and its potential benefit to all Bermudians.

On job creation and protecting Bermudians, the OBA can be credited with stopping our economy from collapsing, which sets the foundation for increasing job opportunities for Bermudians. It should also be credited with making the work-permit renewal process more transparent via the Jobs Board. It should also be commended for increasing fines and penalties for immigration violations.

Good governance is an issue that should define every government, and here the OBA has excelled. Not only did it make Public Access To Information a reality, it also increased transparency by creating the ministerial travel website. The OBA has also set precedents for accountability with the Commission of Inquiry, new rules against self-dealing and the imminent introduction of anti-bribery legislation.

The PLP has demonstrated the complete opposite. Not only does it have a dismal good governance record, it has also fought against accountability at every opportunity. If it wasn’t attempting to excuse its misconduct with absurd claims of racism, it was attempting to blame a civil servant for that which cannot be explained. The choice is simple.

One party has made major mistakes, but it has set Bermuda on a solid path to economic recovery and good governance. This gives the Government greater ability to fund social services such as education and healthcare.

The other party speaks about two Bermudas, but has no problem with an opposition leader setting up a gambling shop on Court Street. More to the point, empty promises, demagoguery and “possible criminal activity” diminish the Government’s ability to fund social services.

When judged on its record instead of conspiracy theories and political rhetoric, the two parties could not be farther apart.

To reach out to Bryant Trew, e-mail bryanttrew@mac.com

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