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'Bermudians are looking for a spark of hope, a vision' - Cannonier

Craig Cannonier

Senator Craig Cannonier yesterday declared himself the new broom to sweep the One Bermuda Alliance into power, claiming: “We have a choice of more of the same or embrace a new way forward.”Sen Cannonier insists his political inexperience will prove no hindrance as he vowed if elected to bring more untapped talent into politics to address Bermuda's array of social problems.The businessman, who goes head to head with Shadow Finance Minister Bob Richards at Saturday's OBA leadership conference, also pledged not to get sucked into pointless battles with the Progressive Labour Party, a trait the United Bermuda Party was often accused of.Mr Richards has attacked Premier Paula Cox's financial track record, but Sen Cannonier said yesterday: “Whilst my running partner may wish to slug it out with the Premier, I don't believe that's the answer to our problems in this Country.“Our days of fighting are done. Across the Country, everyone is looking for the next breath. I believe that breath is people like myself willing to get involved.”Meanwhile OBA interim chairman Michael Fahy yesterday confirmed Sen Cannonier and Senator Michael Dunkley are supporting each other's bids for leader and deputy leader respectively.Sen Cannonier said he would like to see Sen Dunkley as his deputy for his decision-making skills and energy.Sen Cannonier, a gas station dealer with East End roots, was outside of politics until being elected the Bermuda Democratic Alliance's leader last year.He told The Royal Gazette yesterday: “I believe that I'm a product of a Country that has been thrown into a melee of divisiveness and uncertainty.“I believe Bermudians are looking for a spark of hope, a vision, a way to build our Country back.“I have thought over and over and over again about this. My wife has said, ‘Are you sure you want to do this?' but I believe that someone has to pave the way for others to feel there's a way forward for this Country.“In the political arena right now, a lot of people have been around for quite some time. Bermuda right now needs someone to set a new course and refocus the Country.“I'm a full-blooded Bermudian, born here, raised here, gone to school here, gone to church here, and the values and the foundation I have are built on a Country that believes in its people.“It only makes sense for me to want to come home from university and to be a part of this Country, that I would establish myself in the business community and to further that by getting involved and being an influence in the Country at large.”Mr Richards' supporters point to his long track record as a United Bermuda Party Senator and MP.However some believe Sen Cannonier represents the OBA's best hope of showing it's not simply a reincarnation of the UBP.Sen Cannonier said: “Those fresh and new coming into the political arena are experienced in the community and business world. They bring a new and fresh look to Bermuda.“They may not have been honed on the politics of this Country, but all of us feel the effect of this Country's politics every day.“What we need now is people who are going to be solution-driven, who are going to look at Bermuda as an opportunity to rise from the ashes of division and uncertainty and provide solutions. Not tomorrow, now.“I come from a generation who believe in acting on things now. The legacy parties have set a great foundation for us but I felt they have lost their way. I'm hoping for a new way forward for us.“I believe many others like myself who have gone away and come back will pave a new way forward that's inclusive to everyone.“We are not driven to protect the organisation of power, we are driven to empower the people of this Country.“I'm a man who's been in business for a long time, I know what it means to have employment concerns about the future and having difficulty making ends meet. I have employees who have been brought out of the gang world, who now understand what it means to manage their money.“These are the kind of things I do on a daily basis.”He said Bermuda needs to tap into the knowledge of experts across the Country who are currently not involved in politics.“I have the gift of being able to bring those experts together,” he said.“I don't claim to be the expert in everything, but I do know I can find those experts and bring together a well run Country.“We have so many talented people in Bermuda who want to contribute to this Country and we are leaving them out.“If we don't have the expertise, we need to go and find it, but I know what it means and I have known how to bring people together to be successful.“This is a thankless job that takes a wear and tear on your family. I'm driven and committed by this one premise: we must act on behalf of our people and do what is right by our people because to do otherwise gets us to where we are today: tired, frustrated, hungry, can't find affordable housing, jobless and in debt.“If we want to take political experience, look where it's gotten us today. It's because we have not incorporated everyday people on the street who understand us.“Unless we are willing to work across the divide, progress will never happen. That's what I'm bringing to the table: the ability to work across the divide, the ability to inspire and excite people in labour first to start their own businesses and become true entrepreneurs.”Many members had anticipated a battle between Sen Cannonier and Sen Dunkley, with each attracting support from former BDA and UBP members respectively.Sen Dunkley's supporters had expected him to run for leader until shortly before the nomination deadline last Wednesday night.However it's believed at the last moment Sen Dunkley applied for the deputy job instead, with Mr Fahy stating yesterday: “They are supporting each other.”Mr Fahy, a close political ally of Sen Cannonier since their BDA days, yesterday confirmed he'll be backing Sen Cannonier on Saturday night at the Fairmont Southampton.Sen Cannonier said of Sen Dunkley yesterday: “I would like to see him voted in as deputy leader. I believe what he brings is very much what I represent. He's young, energetic, smart and knows how to make good decisions.“But I need to be concerned about how I bring everyone together, regardless of if it's him or not. I know Dunkley has committed himself to whoever becomes the leader.“We need to show Bermuda that we truly are a new organisation, rather than just old UBPers all over again. We have to show that we are a new way forward.“It has to physically look that way, act that way and truly believe in that. I believe that there are many like myself who will come forward with my leadership.”Useful websites: www.oba.bm