Stephen Todd to run for the PLP
Former Chamber of Commerce president Stephen Todd is to run as a candidate for the Progressive Labour Party in the next general election.
Mr Todd, whose resignation from the Chamber was announced yesterday, will represent the PLP in Constituency 30, Southampton East Central.
The seat was formerly held by Health Minister Zane DeSilva. Mr DeSilva switched to Southampton East after winning that constituency's branch election in September.
That appointment came in the wake of former police commissioner and Government Senator Jonathan Smith's bid to represent the party in Pembroke South East.
Premier Paula Cox yesterday described Mr Todd as a well-known member of the business community with “the courage to enter the political fray”.
She said the PLP's new candidates showed it to be a party of “expertise, experience and youth”.
The selection marks another high-profile acquisition from the business world, following the appointment to the Senate of former Belco CEO Vince Ingham.
Ms Cox said Mr Todd had approached her a few months ago seeking to join. He was offered Constituency 30 following an interview with the party's selection committee, and the approval of the branch executive.
Meanwhile, Mr Todd had to resign as chairman under the terms of the Chamber of Commerce's constitution.
Vice president Buddy Rego will serve as president until the Chamber's next annual general meeting in April. Flanked by members of Constituency 30, including branch chair Valerie Dill and deputy chair Glenn Woods, Mr Todd introduced himself as “a fourth-generation, proud Bermudian” with lengthy business and banking experience. “Over the years, I have seen the ebb and flow of change, and I am witness to the current crisis in which we find ourselves,” he said.
He noted that during his presidency at the Chamber of Commerce he dealt with key issues such as work permit term limits, customs duty relief and the impact of the economic recession.
Mr Todd hailed the PLP as “not only a labour party, but a government that strives to represent the interests of all who call Bermuda home”.
“Divisiveness will not bring about prosperity, and it will not unify us as a people,” the new candidate warned, urging Bermudians to set aside their differences and work together.
“To those who choose to define us by the colour of our skin, we say, that time has gone. We no longer wish to live lives that are demarcated by colour. We are one people working together for the success of all. We are a small country, dependent on each other for our very way of life. If we are to save our children, our society, our community and our way of life, it is imperative that we start by saving ourselves.
“It is healthy to disagree, whole heartedly, with another on their point of view, but it is imperative that, in the course of our disagreement, we respect one another, and maintain dignity in our dealings with each other.”
Acknowledging his “Front Street experience”, Mr Todd said he was not restricted to one sector of the community, but viewed Bermuda an extended village.
Asked why he had chosen the PLP, Mr Todd said: “I believe the PLP offers the solutions. They've shown during their 13 years of governance they are capable and willing.” He said he had not stepped forward before due to his other commitments, but added: “It's something I have wanted to do for some time.”
Asked about the top concerns in his new constituency, Mr Todd said: “As I went door-to-door, people's concerns tended to be of a general nature. They're concerned about the economy and our unemployment situation. Crime is a major concern. People want to know how to place Bermuda back in a position of profitability.”
He said his next step will be “to meet as a branch and get canvassing, knocking on doors”.
PLP chief of staff David Burt said that Mr Todd officially joined the party about six weeks ago, with Mr Todd adding: “I am now a life member of the PLP.”
Yesterday's announcement at Alaska Hall also coincided with the 13th anniversary of the PLP's 1998 election victory.
Chamber of Commerce President Stephen Todd's decision to stand for election as a Progressive Labour Party candidate took some of his colleagues by surprise.
Interim President Buddy Rego, who also heads Rego Sotheby's International Realty, congratulated Mr Todd for his years of service. Formerly Vice President of the organisation, Mr Rego — currently off the Island — said his goal now was to spend time with the Chamber's management team.
He said: “We have interviewed and selected an individual who has accepted the Executive Vice President position, and look forward to continuing with the efforts of the Chamber of Commerce to forge new roads ahead.”
Fairmont Hamilton Princess manager Allan Trew, who sits on the Chamber of Commerce's Board of Directors, admitted that the announcement came as “a complete surprise”. “I can say that I've enjoyed working with him, and that he's been a good friend of business who also worked well with Government.”
Past President Philip Barnett, whom Mr Todd succeeded in April of 2009, said: “I know that Stephen's wanted to get involved for a while now, but we don't sit around talking politics at the Chamber.”
Mr Barnett said the now-former President had recently disclosed his intentions to the Chamber's management. “Obviously, everyone that sits on the Board would be supportive of anyone fulfilling their political aspirations,” he said. The head of Island Restaurant Group added that Mr Todd's extensive background in local business stood to benefit the growth of business in Bermuda.
Meanwhile, Chamber of Commerce Treasurer and Belco President Andrew Parsons said he had known Mr Todd since his days as chairman of the organisations West End Division. “I served on the executive committee with him,” Mr Parsons said. “I've always understood that he had political aspirations.”
He added that “the Chamber's loss will be the PLP's gain”.
Shortly after assuming presidency in 2009, Mr Todd identified Bermuda's economic downturn, the revival of tourism and the Island's rising rate of crime as his top concerns. Mr Todd also spoke out on the issue of term limits for work permits, calling the six-year limit prohibitively low.
Last May, to a backdrop of machinations between the United Bermuda Party the Bermuda Democratic Alliance, Mr Todd was rumoured to have interests in an unnamed party, which he denied at the time.
Saying that it wasn't the first time his name had been linked with a political party, Mr Todd dismissed it as “rumour, conjecture and speculation”.