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OBA denounces ‘misleading’ airport claims

The One Bermuda Alliance has refuted claims by the Progressive Labour Party that it “wants to privatise the airport”.

“It's amazing the Opposition misleads with such conviction,” an OBA spokesman said. “It's because they either really don't know what they are talking about or because they're deceitful.”

The OBA said yesterday it was progressing with plans to build an airport terminal through a public-private partnership, “as the PLP government did in building the new hospital wing”.

The spokesman added: “Instead of acknowledging the PPP fact, the PLP say the Government wants to privatise the airport, to hand over ownership of the terminal to a private company. That is factually wrong, and one more example of Opposition disinformation.”

He said the “depth of the PLP's deception is further underscored by their diversionary attack against privatisation”.

The spokesman noted that the PLP privatised a number of government activities, such as Health Department and Transport Control Department functions, as well as critical airport operations including ground electronics, weather service and air traffic control.

He urged consideration for “pro-privatisation comments” made by David Burt, the Shadow Minister of Finance, when he was the Junior Minister of Finance. Mr Burt was quoted as saying: “It is my hope that, as the Government looks to open up the budget process and looks to medium-term planning, we take a serious look at what government services may be able to be provided by the private sector in a more efficient manner. It is my belief that, as this Government considers all of the available options, there may be room for some government services to be privatised.”

The OBA spokesman said: “Sounds like hypocrisy is at work.” He added: “One question worth asking is why the Opposition is so bent out of shape by the planned airport PPP when they weren't for the hospital PPP they put in place while in government? ... the Opposition is not playing straight with the people”.

The spokesman said the airport was about creating much-needed jobs for Bermudians now and career opportunities in the long term, as well as building an asset that would serve Bermudians and the economy for decades, all “without adding to the public debt”.

“The Government will sign a deal with the Canadian Commercial Corporation that will deliver the project on time and on budget, replacing a very costly hodgepodge of failing buildings with a terminal complex that will uphold Bermuda's image as a first-world destination,” he added.

Mr Burt described the OBA statement as “another failed attempt to mislead the public while trying to build support for the privatisation of Bermuda's airport”. He also noted differences between the proposed project and the hospital.

The PLP “conducted a rigorous public tender process which was hailed as having the highest standards of ethics and transparency” and there was “no private company operating the new hospital wing”.

He said revenue and profits of the hospital were “the property of the people of Bermuda, unlike the OBA's plan for the airport, which will see 30 years of revenue and profits go to a Canadian company”.

Mr Burt said that if the OBA wanted to follow the PLP's plan for the hospital to construct an airport terminal, the PLP would be supportive.

“But the OBA know that they cannot do that because it means Aecon will have to compete with other companies who may be able to provide Bermuda a better deal,” he added.

He said the OBA's declaration that “the Government will sign a deal with the Canadian Commercial Corporation” indicated that “the OBA Cabinet have already made up their mind to go along with Minister Richards's personal political project to privatise the Bermuda airport”.

“All Bermudians should be concerned that a project of this magnitude is being awarded without Aecon having to compete with anyone, without the Bermudian people knowing they are getting value for money, and without regard to the highest standards of ethics and transparency,” Mr Burt said.

Redevelopment plans: LF Wade International Airport (File photograph)

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Published August 27, 2015 at 9:30 pm (Updated August 28, 2015 at 1:02 am)

OBA denounces ‘misleading’ airport claims

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