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PLP attacks airport plans at meeting

New claims: Lawrence Scott, the Shadow Minister of Transport, last night

The Progressive Labour Party reiterated its staunch opposition to the Bermuda Government’s plans to redevelop the airport last night.

More than 100 people attended the party’s third town-hall meeting at St George’s Cricket Club to hear David Burt, the Shadow Minister of Finance, and Lawrence Scott, the Shadow Minister of Transport condemn the One Bermuda Alliance’s “privatisation” proposals.

The $250 million project will be financed by a private-sector developer that will take over management of airport operations for 30 years.

Government has signed a memorandum of understanding with the Canadian Commercial Corporation, a branch of the Canadian Government, which selected Canada-based Aecon Group Ltd as the developer and concessionaire.

Mr Scott told last night’s meeting that “new information has come across my desk” that highlighted possible consequences of the deal for future generations.

He said: “Most of the major building jobs would not go to Bermudians, they would fly people in.

“I am made to understand that Aecon has pulled out of the Quito, Ecuador airport (which it had previously built with CCC) and sold it.

“Why? Because a better deal came along and that is why we are all here today.”

Mr Scott said that under the PLP’s plans to create a financially separate Airport Authority no Bermudians would lose their jobs.

He added: “I am made to understand that the persons working in Airport Operations have already been told they can not be guaranteed their jobs when this goes through.

“My understanding is the new airport is smaller than the airport we have now with less gates.

“We have eight at the moment, the new airport will have seven or six.”

Several PLP MPs including leader Marc Bean, Derrick Burgess, Michael Weeks, Lovitta Foggo as well as St George’s Mayor Quinell Francis and John Barritt attended last night’s meeting that began at 7pm. Mr Burt told the meeting the country would lose $1.6 billion in revenue by giving away the airport to a Canadian company to run for 30 years.

He described the project as “a personal, political project of the Minister of Finance”.

Mr Burt added: “After we gave our last town-hall meeting, the Government has signed a further agreement with Aecon that now ties the Government of Bermuda.

“Now, all of us are on the hook. This is hugely irresponsible of the Minister of Finance to commit the Government to spending money without looking at other options.”

The Royal Gazette reached out to the Ministry of Finance last night for comment on the assertions made in the PLP meeting but we did not receive a comment by the time we went to press.

Previously Bob Richards, the Minister of Finance, has said that the jobs and compensation of the staff at the airport will be protected, and that more jobs will be created there.

He has insisted taxpayers would get value for money under the public-private partnership and that Bermuda would acquire a strategic asset without incurring any more debt.