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Airport deal: it didn’t have to be like this

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“Every time I hear the crack of a whip

My blood runs cold”

— Bob Marley

Every time that many Bermudians drive or walk near the gates of the House of Assembly on Reid Street or Parliament Street, their blood runs cold.

Deep in their souls, they shudder at the memories of December 2, 2016. Scores of Bermudian men and women, many of whom were seniors, being pepper-sprayed by the police.

Those sounds and images of that fateful day are replayed in their hearts and minds on a continuous basis.

So why did this take place?

Simply put, the One Bermuda Alliance government of the day wanted to gain access to the House of Assembly to pass legislation to hand over our only airport to Aecon for 30 years.

Some of the scenes from that fateful day (File photograph)

This despite 75 per cent of Bermudians of all ages and races being against the airport deal.

Former premier Michael Dunkley had this to say during a recent interview with Bermuda Broadcasting:

“We had a right to go into the House of Assembly to do what we had to do.”

The truth of December 2, 2016 is also in the findings of the Parliamentary Joint Select Committee, which the very same former premier, Mr Dunkley, had to appear in front of.

Monument to violence

On December 9, 2020, many may have patted themselves on the back and given out great platitudes to the completion of the construction project.

A senior woman tries to recover from being pepper-sprayed (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

Indeed, the building itself is sleek, modern and filled with pictures depicting the wide spectrum of our culture.

However, there will always be a sordid legacy surrounding the airport deal itself.

Every time that Bermudians enter the new air terminal or drive near by, we have to think of those senior women crying and holding their burning faces after being pepper-sprayed.

We then have to ask ourselves, was it really worth it?

In 2016, we were warned by numerous persons that, with airport revenue now going to Aecon, our Consolidated Fund would be short by at least $27 million per year.

“With this airport scheme’s proposed giveaway of $27m a year, the Government is now planning to give away revenue of about $74,000 every day – for the next 30 years.”

— Larry Burchall, December 1, 2016

So $27 million from Bermudians that could have gone towards maintaining our schools or paying down our debt.

Again, the question remains: Was it really worth it?

Into the frying pan

It gets worse.

“The concealed and unstated fact is that the Bermuda Government will have to reach into its ‘reduced revenue’ pot [reduced by the $27m revenue] and pay out additional government money [revenue] to give to Aecon so that the Canadians always walk away with at least their guaranteed ‘base case’ profit/revenue.”

— Larry Burchall

While we are suffering economically because of Covid-19, we are being forced to pay even more money.

More than $5 million in July 2020. Then more than $15 million in October.

So approximately $20 million paid out to Aecon that could have gone to those who are now unemployed asa result of the global pandemic.

This is probably not the last that we have heard from Aecon on this matter.

Responsibility for the actions of December 2, 2016 and the added subsequent expenses lie squarely on the OBA, which insisted that this deal must happen.

They were the ones who refused to reveal the full contract before signing off in April 2017.

Their financial ineptitude, coupled with disregard of the people's demands for transparency, has allowed Aecon the ability to now demand $20 million during an economic crisis.

Recently, during a Bernews interview on November 16 this year, the latest Opposition leader, Cole Simons, stated the following:

“The OBA is the only team with experience in financial matters.”

Every single Bermudian taxpayer must now ask themselves this singular question: After the financial debacles of Cross Island and this airport deal, can the OBA really speak with any authority on finances?

Every time we visit that airport terminal, or drive near by, we need to remember these two things:

• Bermudians were pepper-sprayed on December 2, 2016 over that airport deal

• Bermudian taxpayers are now forced to pay tens of millions of dollars in extra money for this airport deal

All because of a deal brought to us by a Michael Dunkley-led OBA.

“Today they say that we are free

Only to be chained in poverty”

— Bob Marley

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Published December 11, 2020 at 8:00 am (Updated December 10, 2020 at 4:31 pm)

Airport deal: it didn’t have to be like this

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