Scott: airport ‘nowhere near a done deal’
A Progressive Labour Party government would not pull the plug on the proposal for a new airport terminal, according to David Burt, the Acting Leader of the Opposition.
“A lot of times in the community, it's said that if the PLP return to the Government, we will cancel it — we've already seen the repercussions on the public when the Government cancels,” Mr Burt said, referencing the controversial decision in March 2014 to scrap plans for the redevelopment of the Hamilton waterfront.
“It would not be responsible for a PLP government to say that we would be able to cancel the deal.”
In the hypothetical event that the Opposition were to “become Government tomorrow”, Mr Burt said the key step would be to put the project out to bid so that the contractor, Aecon, would have to compete. Mr Burt was joined by Lawrence Scott, the Shadow Minister of Transport, who said the PLP's priority would have been to create an independent Airport Authority first, to hold operational control of LF Wade International Airport and vet potential bidders.
Both said the proposal could yet be turned away by legislators.
Mr Burt took a tough line against Minister of Finance Bob Richards, accusing him of engaging in 20 months of “misleading statements, fabrications, half-truths and lies” about the project — although he said that the need for something to be done to the existing airport had never been in doubt. Bermuda would inevitably have to put up “a significant amount of funding”, he said, possibly through raising taxes, which the Shadow Minister of Finance said had been a source of private concern for international business. The lack of open tendering, criticised earlier in the week by the Chamber of Commerce, once again stood out as a top concern.
Mr Burt said he awaited the release of a letter of entrustment, required by the UK Government, which would offer a comprehensive assessment of the project.
The island's business community needed to examine the numbers, he added.
Mr Scott has called for the creation of an Airport Authority since March 2014, and yesterday he accused the minister of pushing the airport redevelopment to the detriment of more worthy causes.
Mr Richards has repeatedly described the ageing facility as rundown and prohibitively expensive to maintain in its current form. Mr Scott said the project was “not something that we can afford”, and accused Mr Richards of “constant dismissal” of the peoples' concerns.
“If you are against this deal, like the majority of this population, I am here to tell you what is coming down the pipeline,” he said.
“This is nowhere near a done deal.”
With further legislation to go through Parliament, Mr Scott said there was still a last chance to stop it.
“If we do not, we will find ourselves with Aecon giving and setting revenue guarantees for airlines.”