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Parties support Bermuda Day switch

A Progressive Labour Party bill to move the Bermuda Day holiday to the Friday before the last Monday of May received support from the Government's Minister of Community, Culture and Sport Wayne Scott in the House of Assembly.

The draft legislation, entitled Public Holidays Ammendment Act 2014 and proposed by Michael Weeks, the Shadow Minister of Community and Cultural Affairs, was in its second reading on Friday night.

Mr Scott said that while there seemed to be support for the move, he was awaiting the outcome of a poll on the issue, which is currently under way.

“On this side, we committed to adhere to the polls that are being done. On the surface it is something many of us over here think has a lot of merit.

“We are getting this information out so we can truly [find out] what the people of Bermuda feel.”

There was also an OBA commitment to discuss the issue after the next May 24 holiday, he said.

Mr Weeks told the House of Assembly that moving the date of the holiday would make it “a more productive and positive experience for the whole of the Bermuda economy.

“Businesses would prosper — many businesses from Front Street to the proverbial back of town, will see their bottom lines increase as a result of this holiday.”

The Shadow Minister argued it could have an impact on tourism if it were marketed correctly. “Over 80 per cent of our tourists come from the US East Coast,” he said.

“Placing Bermuda Day on the Friday before the last Monday in May would capitalise on the Memorial Day US holiday weekend, courting new opportunities to attract new visitors.”

He pointed to the appeal of Bermuda's historical and cultural product and added that participation in the holiday events required free time — from preparing to run the Bermuda Day Half Marathon Derby to building floats and practising Bermuda Day parade participation.

He said: “It is unreasonable to expect participants in this holiday to come off the day and then go into a normal [working] day.”

The Shadow Minister said his research showed a large level of absenteeism at the Island's public schools the day after the holiday this year.

“I wasn't surprised what I found — it confirmed a greater need to bring this most important amendment to this House. “Case in point and for the record, 15 per cent of the public school population was absent the day following the holiday this past year, and 200 students showed up to school extremely late. This data came directly from the Ministry of Education.

This was not a typical attendance rate, he explained, and noted it was impacted by the involvement of students in “a very important day in our culture”.

Mr Weeks explained: “The holiday was established for Queen Victoria's birthday — a day for the people to have fun in a time of war.” Changing the date was “the next logical step,” he said. “A change in the date would allow for so much more, including minimal impact in our schools and the workplace.”

He said an online petition on the subject has garnered more than 700 signatures,

Mr Scott, who said he appreciated the Shadow Minister providing a history of the holiday, added: “A look at where the celebration of Bermuda Day started, and where it is now, — it is certainly a celebration of our heritage.

“I think over the past couple of years, walking through the crowds and talking to people and to the schools after the event, this is something that has come up many times.

“We are committed to have the discussion after May 24 this year.”

He said a “straw pole” seemed to show a lot of support for the idea.

“Whether people are at the parade or at the beach, [this holiday] is something that people really look forward to.”

Mr Scott said the OBA would adhere to the polls that are being done. “We have agreed in principal to do that — so this bill will not die.”

There were no objections to the Shadow Minister's motion that the bill be committed.

New date? runners enjoy the Bermuda Day Half-Marathon Derby. Next year's race could be moved from Monday, May 25 to the Friday before

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Published December 08, 2014 at 8:00 am (Updated December 08, 2014 at 1:36 am)

Parties support Bermuda Day switch

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