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MPs set to discuss cannabis, gaming and conscription in new parliamentary session

Parliament will resume this morning, launching what Premier Craig Cannonier said could be the most transformational session in years.

In the coming weeks the House of Assembly is set to discuss a report on decriminalising cannabis, move forward on the elimination of conscription, and debate legislation establishing the framework for gaming in Bermuda.

Mr Cannonier said: “Gaming is all about jobs for Bermudians, reviving tourism and generating revenue to help pay down our national debt. The move last year to allow gaming aboard cruise ships in port is already paying dividends, with licensing fees generating more than $600,000 in direct revenue to the Government.

“Our main focus this session is to use gaming to drive hotel development, specifically at the St George's hotel site. Since releasing the RFP for the project we've had excellent responses from developers. I am advised that the selection has now been shortlisted to two excellent proposals. So the stage is being set at long last to bring a new hotel to Bermuda, generating jobs and career opportunities for Bermudians.

“This Parliamentary session is a vital step toward making all that happen.”

Mr Cannonier also noted the report of the Cannabis Reform Collaborative, commissioned by National Security Minister Michael Dunkley, which is expected to be tabled in the House of Assembly today.

The Premier said the debate will fulfil a Throne Speech promise, adding: “I am particularly keen to hear the views of MPs on the medical use of marijuana and also on decriminalisation — a tough issue because we have to draw the clearest line between responsible behaviour and the negative impact the existing regime has had on the lives of so many Bermudians.”

He said the issue of ending conscription has many pros and cons, but he is confident that an effective phased approach could be put in place to ensure the Bermuda Regiment remains strong enough to serve the Island's needs.

The session will also include debate on the Public Bodies Act, to be tabled by Finance Minister Bob Richards, which will set up the legal framework for “moving some government operations out of government” through mutualisation and outsourcing while retaining jobs.

Mr Cannonier said: “Bermuda today cannot sustain the cost of public debt and government. When we took office in December 2012, we inherited a government that in the year that followed cost $330 million more than it took in.

“The SAGE Report was very clear on the challenge: The debt and deficit situation constituted a threat to the financial foundation of the country and Bermuda's ability to compete globally.

“The goal here is to provide Bermudians with a government that is cost-effective, efficient and accountable; that becomes a positive force in restoring the Island's competitiveness — a government in short that works better for people and for Bermuda.

“There are many other initiatives that we will move forward with in the weeks to come. We want to bring about change that reflects Bermuda today, not Bermuda yesterday; change that creates jobs and opportunity while enabling us to build a future that is fair, free, inclusive and safe.”

The House of Assembly

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Published May 09, 2014 at 9:00 am (Updated May 09, 2014 at 12:21 am)

MPs set to discuss cannabis, gaming and conscription in new parliamentary session

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