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An aversion to consultation and scrutiny

“Reckless abandon” was the accurate description my colleague, Marcus Jones, used regarding the way the Progressive Labour Party passed the recent Health Insurance Amendment Act.

However, I would go a step farther and use this description for the PLP's entire tenure in government since the 2017 General Election victory.

It has consistently made a mockery of our democratic system, ramming legislation through without allowing proper scrutiny or debate.

The general populace is still uncertain about the Health Insurance Amendment Act and many simply do not understand it.

Only after questioning in the Senate did the Government speak about a larger plan behind this amendment, but it was distilled in a five-minute explanation, so not much use to anyone given the complexity of the subject.

One would have assumed that if there was going to be any transparency, as this government keeps talking about, that this plan would have been laid out in detail before its passage through the House and Senate.

This is not the first time we have seen legislation passed in this manner.

The sugar tax was rushed through without proper consultation and, subsequently, it was rolled back and then later reimplemented.

This legislation directly affected the lives of Bermudians and was done with little regard for adverse implications; we have seen businesses close citing the sugar tax as the reason.

Our democratic system was once again abused with the Municipalities Reform Act 2019, which was strongly opposed by the communities it affected, and in the brief consultation given by the PLP, the disdain of the people was clear.

Yet, despite the protest, it decided to table it with haste and use its electoral majority to ram it through the House of Assembly.

It was turned down in the Upper House by the independent senators and my fellow Opposition senators because the Act removed Bermudians' right to vote for their municipal representation.

This is not the first time we have called out the Government on this legislative rush: the Opposition leader, Craig Cannonier, wrote an opinion last December that was critical of this approach

At that time, it was referencing the amendment to the Children's Act, which had to be delayed owing to a lack of consultation, and the Sex Offenders Bill, which failed to implement suggestions made by the parliamentary joint select committee formed to investigate the issue.

The Bill was presented to the House before the joint select committee had even submitted its report, so what was the point of the committee?

A recurring theme we are seeing is that this government is averse to proper consultation and scrutiny.

Consultation does not necessarily mean agreement; as the elected government, it is given the authority to make decisions on the people's behalf.

Sometimes decisions are not popular, but must be made for the greater good. That is understandable.

However, Bermudians need to be given time to properly scrutinise proposed legislation, public scrutiny and real transparency are important in a democracy.

They can prevent poorly thought-out decisions being implemented and stop unintended consequences, as we saw with the health Bill.

Remember the ATV situation, when public works minister David Burch decided to reject the results of consultation and take his own counsel?

This resulted in him being overruled by the chief justice after a case was brought against him by Bermuda Environmental Sustainability Taskforce.

The PLP ran on transparency, but its real plans for the country tend to surface only after legislation is passed.

It appears not to want to listen to the people and power forward with its half-baked plans. That is not transparency.

Dwayne Robinson is an Opposition senator with the One Bermuda Alliance

Dwayne Robinson

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Published May 31, 2019 at 9:00 am (Updated May 31, 2019 at 8:55 am)

An aversion to consultation and scrutiny

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