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Cox: OBA can’t have it ‘both ways’ on Tourism Authority

Government and the Opposition traded barbs last night over the One Bermuda Alliance’s commitment to a Tourism Authority.

The Opposition “can’t have it both ways”, charged Premier Paula Cox.

“They can’t say that they are going to privatise much of the Ministry of Tourism and abolish the post of Minister of Tourism in one breath and then, in the next, say that they are going to protect all civil service jobs.

“They either protect jobs or establish the Authority.

“No matter how you slice it, the OBA is misleading you,” she said.

Tourism Minister Wayne Furbert said the Opposition had pledged to cede power to the Governor, who would appoint the Tourism Authority, adding: “It’s clear that the Opposition has no confidence in the hard-working men and women in the Department of Tourism.”

OBA MP Patrician Gordon-Pamplin reiterated the Opposition’s commitment to a Tourism Authority in public remarks during the launch of her candidacy.

A Progressive Labour Party statement called it “tantamount to privatising the Ministry of Tourism”, and said it would mean laying off civil servants.

The financing of a Tourism Authority was also called into question.

The statement challenged the OBA to identify which jobs would be cut.

Ms Gordon-Pamplin responded that none would be.

“The OBA said definitively in its Reply to the Budget that an OBA Government will freeze the size of the civil service and reduce it by attrition with ‘no public sector employees made redundant’,” she said.

Calling last night’s statement “the worst form of politics basing a political attack on an inexcusable misunderstanding at best, a lie at worst”, she continued: “A Tourism Authority is all about, and only about, putting the operational leadership of Bermuda Tourism into the hands of professionals who can be held accountable for the performance of the industry.

“Lack of accountability, and lack of expertise at the top of tourism, has been at the centre of the Island’s disastrous tourism decline over the past ten years a decline that has cost Bermudian jobs and careers.”

She noted that Mr Furbert had endorsed the idea as leader of the United Bermuda Party.

“In his 2006 Throne Speech Reply he said: ‘The United Bermuda Party believes that any recovery must begin with the formation of a Tourism Authority. Let’s put professionals in place to run things.’ We couldn’t agree more,” she said.

“Finally, before focusing their guns on us, the Government might want to explain to the existing civil servants why many of them are being refused extensions to their condition of employment and will be forced to retire at March 31.

“The Government is playing games with people’s lives and livelihoods. They are insisting that we do their work for them as they have shown clearly that they are out of ideas and out of their depth.”

At her candidacy announcement last month, the Shadow Transport Minister said tourism was failing to make progress, adding: “We have people in place that, however well-intentioned, do not have the expertise.”

Post-Budget Press Conference:Left-Dame Jennifer Smith and The Premier Paula A. Cox. (Photo by Akil Simmons) February 24, 2012

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Published March 05, 2012 at 9:18 am (Updated March 05, 2012 at 9:18 am)

Cox: OBA can’t have it ‘both ways’ on Tourism Authority

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