House: Scott calls for action on road safety
Shadow transport minister Lawrence Scott has blasted the Bermuda Government for “not including a single word about road safety” in its Budget Statement, describing the issue as a “national health crisis”.
Speaking in the House of Assembly last night as part of the Opposition's Reply to the Budget, Mr Scott said that in allocating $148,000 to road safety, the Government has dedicated $2.25 per person.
“That is what our lives are worth to this government.”
Mr Scott pointed out that Bermudians were three times as likely to die on the roads as they were to die as a result of gang violence, saying it was safer to join a gang than to get where you were going.
Last year, the One Bermuda Alliance announced the creation of a Road Safety Working Group to address perilous conditions on our roads.
Grant Gibbons, the Minister of Economic Development, described Mr Scott's speech on the value of Bermudian lives as “nonsense”, but the issue was not addressed further.
Mr Scott also highlighted concerns regarding the airport development last night.
The OBA struck a deal with the Canadian Commercial Corporation and its subcontractor Aecon in 2014 for them to finance the redevelopment of LF Wade International Airport in return for a contract to run the facility for 30 years and collect any revenue raised.
The controversial agreement has been criticised by those who say the project should have been put out to tender.
Bob Richards, the Minister of Finance, has maintained that the sole source deal was the best for Bermuda. But Mr Scott said Aecon and CCC appeared to have control of incoming contracts when “they don't even have shovels in the ground”.
“International companies are being blocked by a company that has no real jurisdiction,” he said, adding that this constituted a breach of international aviation policy.
Mr Scott also criticised the increased $78 departure tax, claiming that it was driving airlines away from Bermuda.
“It doesn't make us attractive to airlines, it doesn't make us attractive to tourists and creates a stumbling block for the Bermuda Tourism Authority,” he said.
Speaking on the departure tax, Dr Gibbons pointed out that the duty was not charged to airlines but to passengers through the price of a ticket.
Regarding whether the Government was breaching any rules, Dr Gibbons added: “I have faith in the head of the Department of Airport Operations, Aaron Adderley, who is very knowledgeable — he will not have us in breach of practices.”
The issue of immigration was also raised in relation to the Budget yesterday.
Some members of the Progressive Labour Party accused the Government of an attempt at “social engineering” by proposing to grant status to long-term residents.
Derrick Burgess said: “At least 95 per cent of the white population vote one way.
“We have a long history of racialised immigration and the policies were put in place to ensure power. This is what this Government seems to want to do.”
Quoting the Budget Statement, Kim Wilson singled out the Government's promise to “improve the quality of life for all”.
Citing unemployment rates and the Minister of Finance's claim that the recession was over, Ms Wilson said that “he who feels it, knows it”.
She said Mr and Mrs Bermuda were feeling the full effects of unemployment, increased taxes and increased food and fuel prices in “a country that seems to place greater emphasis on long-term guest workers”.
Ms Wilson added: “This Government is content to rely solely on immigration to promote economic recovery.”
The issue of status, she said, had been “highly emotive”, and she stressed the importance of bipartisan, comprehensive immigration reform so it serves not just one sector of Bermuda.
Other issues raised in the House included the OBA's perceived strained relationship with the general public.
Walter Roban, the Shadow Minister of Home Affairs, said: “If you don't have the confidence of the public you have nothing.
“It speaks to the relationship with the public that is contaminated and tainted and brings about such anger and strong reaction.”
Jamahl Simmons, the Shadow Minister of Tourism and Economic Development, called for compassion from the Government.
“The OBA does not have much time left. In that time, you have to do better,” he said.