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Fahy: Voting rights for commercial immigrants is wrong

Giving voting rights to commercial immigrants to Bermuda would be wrong, Home Affairs Minister Michael Fahy told the Senate.

He said that an economic citizenship programme should not be taken off the table as all opportunities for economic growth for Bermuda had to be explored.

“The biggest problem people seem to have . . . is a fear — I think it's a legitimate concern — of commercial immigrants being given an opportunity to vote. A lot of countries don't allow that and I think that's right.”

He said one way to offer economic citizenship would be to allow people to come to the Island for five years and then apply for naturalisation, which would enable them to obtain passports but not to vote.

“That's a model that could be far more palatable,” said Sen Fahy, speaking during debate on the 2014/15 Budget in the Upper Chamber.

He added that he tried to “ignore the noise” from those who asked why economic citizenship should even be considered.

“We shouldn't shy away from these discussions,” he said. “We shouldn't believe it's a grand conspiracy to give people voting rights.”

He said other countries had introduced commercial immigration schemes that had worked well for them and Bermuda could potentially do the same — though he stressed no decisions had been made yet.

“I think we have to explore all options. We have undertaken a mandate to explore certain things that may make a lot of people in Bermuda, no matter where you come from, uncomfortable.”

Opposition Senator Renee Ming, during the same Budget debate, said Bermuda was in need of “dramatic change and transformation” but questioned whether the One Bermuda Alliance had a real plan to ensure economic recovery.

She said Government talked a lot about the economy having turned a corner but those who had lost their jobs and were struggling were wondering “which corner”.

“My question to the people of Bermuda is: are you satisfied with the change?” she said.

Independent Senator James Jardine pointed to the Island's debt as a key concern, noting that following recommendations in the recent SAGE Commission report could result in “overall surpluses of a substantial amount” by 2018.

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Published March 20, 2014 at 9:00 am (Updated March 20, 2014 at 11:33 pm)

Fahy: Voting rights for commercial immigrants is wrong

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