Burt: Expect election before Cup Match
Michael Dunkley's position as leader of a minority Government will be put to the test in 2½ weeks.
David Burt, Leader of the Opposition, last night said he had “every intention” of debating his motion of no confidence on June 9, when MPs return to the House.
Friday night's announcement, which had the ring of inevitability for sources that spoke to this newspaper, was unrelated to the imminent America's Cup and would not impact it, Mr Burt said, calling the event high-profile and important for the island.
“The timing of this motion of no confidence has nothing to do with the America's Cup. The timing is a direct result of the fact that the Government no longer controls Parliament, which became quite clear on Friday night when the Progressive Labour Party passed two pieces of legislation over the objections of the One Bermuda Alliance.
“This motion, enshrined in Bermuda's constitution, will test whether or not the OBA minority Government retains the confidence of the MPs.”
Mr Burt said the community's pain “cannot be ignored due to the America's Cup”.
“The OBA minority Government has failed to meet the needs of all the people in this country and has governed to the benefit of a select few.”
He chastised the OBA's performance on jobs and debt while Bermudians struggled with a “skyrocketing” cost of living.
With both parties down to 17 votes each — but the PLP down one owing to Randy Horton's position as Speaker of the House — independent MPs Shawn Crockwell and Mark Pettingill now wield critical influence. Asked if he felt the two would back his motion of no confidence, Mr Burt said all MPs would need to judge “whether this Government has governed well for all Bermudians, or if Bermuda can do better”.
“The PLP will make the case that Bermuda can do better, that we can take care of not only the economy, but the Bermudians who desperately need hope for a brighter future and want a Government that puts Bermudians first.”
In the event that the motion passed, Mr Burt said he anticipated the Opposition would agree to wrap up any urgent legislation prior to the dissolution of Parliament, to ensure Bermuda's continued stability — adding that he would expect an election before Cup Match.
“If the motion does not pass, the Premier will call an election at the time that best suits the OBA.”
Mr Dunkley last night said the OBA would fight the motion, attacking Mr Burt's decision to move it in the middle of the America's Cup.
“It has always been politics first, country second with him,” he said. “It shows a remarkable tone-deaf approach to what's important to the thousands of Bermudians who have worked hard to make sure we put our best foot forward for the biggest sporting event in the island's history, before a global audience.
“If ever there was a time for Bermuda to demonstrate collaboration and teamwork, to set aside our squabbles and move forward together as one Bermuda, it is now.
“But that's not the way of the Opposition leader.”
He added: “As Premier, we will deal with this motion. It's just one more hurdle to jump as we work to support the well being of all Bermudians, moving the island forward.”
One source close to the OBA said Mr Dunkley's position had been in jeopardy after the December 2 protests outside Parliament, when protesters clashed with police.
Another OBA source said the Opposition's move had come as no surprise — and that the real surprise would have been if it hadn't happened.
“It came a lot later than I thought. Kudos to the PLP; they played it well. They got their legislation passed; the Opposition is already performing like they're Government.”
Neither independent would be likely to side with the ruling party in a vote of no confidence, the source said. “They left because of Mr Dunkley. The greatest we could hope for is that they abstain from voting.”
Describing Mr Dunkley as “too nice, and a bit naïve”, the source said the Premier was “in denial; that's the challenge”.
The Opposition was less concerned by OBA internal dynamics than with “being in election mode — doing everything they can to win”, while OBA members for now were “tending their own corners, mulling what the next steps should be”.
“In the last election, people wanted wholesale change, and they got it.
“Now it's dependent on each of us.”
Both independent MPs told this newspaper that the present administration was in an “historic” position of weakness.
With a vote of no confidence expected to take place on June 9, a focus has been turned to independent MPs Shawn Crockwell and Mark Pettingill, whose voices could determine the future of the One Bermuda Alliance government.
Asked if he would side with the Opposition, Mr Crockwell told The Royal Gazette: “I will certainly have to consider it. There’s a lot I have to take into consideration.”
Mr Crockwell pointed out that “my voting in its favour does not guarantee it would be successful”.
“Based on my stance since I resigned from the Cabinet and from the party, just about a year ago, I can’t now say that I have confidence in the Government,” he added.
Mr Crockwell called his relationship with Mr Dunkley “friendly over the years — this is not personal”.
“But since Michael Dunkley has become premier, he has lost two leading Members,” he said, also noting that his reasons for resigning “have not been addressed”.
Mr Pettingill meanwhile declined to state his position when asked if he would vote against his former party.
But, like his fellow independent, the Warwick North East MP was not surprised by Mr Burt’s motion.
“Shawn spoke very candidly his views on leadership,” Mr Pettingill said.
“My statement was more general. We’re diametrically opposed on so many things the party was doing or didn’t do.”
Mr Pettingill also said he was not committed to retiring from politics at the end of the current session, saying he’d had “a lot of encouragement to run as an independent” — but that party politics was “still very much alive”.