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Enough of this horseplay already

Carika Weldon, flanked by David Burt, the Premier, and Lieutenant-Colonel David Burch, the Minister of Public Works and her biggest supporter, are pictured at the launch of the Bermuda Molecular Diagnostics and Research Laboratory last year. Dr Weldon leaves her positions as the Government’s science adviser and leader of MDL at the end of this month (File photograph by Akil Simmons)

It is not surprising that this is the time people feel the need and seize the opportunity to pile on: a shock resignation, a couple of missteps, arguable errors in judgment, poor optics, enveloped in plans and protocols that do not appear to be addressing all of the challenges and problems the Covid pandemic now poses.

But that’s the way we roll, isn’t it?

We are all short of patience, frustrated and angry with what we have had to endure over the past two years. And it’s good to be able to vent. Heck, it’s our right in a democratic society.

We are all armchair critics. We know with the benefit of hindsight what could have been or should have been. We can get on our high horses and boldly declare with righteousness where our government and its advisers went wrong — or tiny horses in the case of faceless, nameless, know-it-all bloggers.

Feel better? Perhaps. Change anything? Not likely.

Now that I got that off my chest. This is where I stand. I do not believe that any of what has happened or gone wrong is the result of any wilful and/or malicious ineptitude. Far from it — and to the contrary.

Those in charge have been struggling like us to come to grips with this pandemic, perhaps even more so having to work daily on and from the front lines. For two years and counting. Some consideration, some slack, would be appropriate. Those personal attacks are unwarranted and unnecessary.

If they followed every recommendation everyone made, they would be going in at least 50 different and probably opposite directions at once. Or worse: stuck by paralysis.

Personally, I continue to favour caution as the right approach — and that includes vaccinations. I see what is happening elsewhere. Take Canada, for example: Omicron or not, Delta or not, daily cases have come back to their highest levels, as hospital admissions, ICU included, and deaths climb. Bear in mind, too, that Canada has a vaccination rate in excess of 80 per cent and reports are that the overwhelming majority of those in hospitals are unvaccinated.

By comparison, Bermuda has not fared as badly with this recent surge — at least not so far. But the data is limited on where this may be going, here and elsewhere. We see, too, what is happening to critical and other services as absences soar, thanks to Covid.

This is not to say that I embrace wholeheartedly, or at all, each and every decision our government has made. As a first step, I would like to see greater transparency and accountability for plans, policies and decisions — as part of a wider and greater commitment to good governance.

Press conferences are a help. They should be a regular, if not weekly, occurrence — the direct means by which people can be informed of not just what has been decided, but why.

But that is just one component to better governance. The media should not be the only way in which people get to ask questions and seek answers. Voters should be also able to look to and rely on their elected representatives for another additional means to hold our government to account – and please not just by press release.

There ought to be a select committee of MPs whose job it is to track and question on a regular basis the decision-makers and their advisers. There are enough backbench MPs on both sides of the partisan aisle to make this possible. Their meetings, too, can be broadcast and in the exchange of questions and answers we will get to see our elected representatives in action and make appropriate evaluations.

In fact, this means should become standard operating procedure on so many fronts.

We need something more than endless, predictable criticism in the press, or on social media, or to-and-fro speeches in “the House on the Hill”. We could use a new approach if we are looking for new and better results — opportunities for greater participation and greater responsibility.

This may not be the cure for what ails us, but in my books it would certainly be a welcome start.

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Published January 18, 2022 at 8:00 am (Updated January 17, 2022 at 7:22 pm)

Enough of this horseplay already

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