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Airport debate delayed until Friday

Protesters at the House of Assembly (Photograph by Jonathan Bell)

Legislators got two extra days to prepare for a debate in Parliament on key airport redevelopment Acts, after Randy Horton, the Speaker of the House, deferred today’s session until Friday.

Meanwhile, confidential schedules for the airport development agreement, withheld since April because of non-disclosure agreements, have been shared with MPs.

The schedules were not divulged while negotiations continued with Canadian Commercial Corporation and its contractor, Aecon, despite the issuing of a summons by the Public Accounts Committee.

However, Mr Horton said he had called upon Bob Richards, the Deputy Premier, to request their release — which was granted yesterday, prompting the deferral.

It came in the wake of several days of meetings with Michael Dunkley, the Premier, as well as Leader of the Opposition David Burt and their respective parliamentary teams.

Last night, Mr Dunkley said that the schedules had not been given out with other reports issued on November 18 because they had still been subject to confidentiality.

“The release of the schedules — at the behest of this Government — is in keeping with the Government’s commitment to fully inform the people of Bermuda at all steps of the Airport Redevelopment Project,” Mr Dunkley said. “It is my hope Members of the Opposition take this opportunity to review the documents for Friday’s debate to approve a project that will generate jobs, career and business opportunities for Bermudians; get built on time, on budget, and stimulate economic growth with no increase the national debt.

“This is a project of national importance that will protect and strengthen Bermudian families for years to come. We look forward to Friday’s debate.”

Last night, Mr Burt said the release of the schedules — 15 months after the airport development agreement was signed — was “barely a partial victory” for people in Bermuda who wanted transparency and good government.

“It was only after immense pressure by the Opposition and the public that the Government, Aecon and CCC finally relented on their longstanding and unjustified refusal to release the schedules of the Airport Development Agreement,” he said.

“The documentation released earlier today is insufficient and more information is required for Members of Parliament to make an informed decision. Of necessity is the release of the Project Agreement itself, which will govern the 30-year concession between the Government and Aecon. Today’s release of the schedules is a feigned attempt at transparency as the substantial contract details still remain unknown.”

Mr Burt had yesterday planned to issue a speech to residents from the steps of Parliament, where a small group of protesters quietly gathered in anticipation of the debate.

Dressed in black shirts emblazoned with the campaign name Move, they were watched by police, with a fence flanking the Sessions House entrance — echoing concerns from March, when mass demonstrations over immigration proposals briefly shut down Parliament.

Flyers accusing Mr Richards of breaking the law over the deal were placed on parked cars last night in Hamilton.

Mr Burt appeared at Parliament but announced the cancellation of his speech, saying he could not divulge his reasons — although he later tweeted that today’s session had been postponed. It capped a day of continued sparring over the airport agreement, with Mr Burt issuing a response to Mr Richards’s counter-response to an Opposition press release.

Mr Richards charged that the Opposition “appears to be working on the theory that if you repeat a falsehood often enough, people will believe it”, while Mr Burt continued to hammer the project as “an untendered deal which has violated the Good Governance Act”.

Mr Horton’s deferral was the second for the legislation, originally scheduled for last Friday but postponed to allow more time for MPs to review the project’s business case and value for money report.

For the PLP leader David Burt’s statement in full, click on the link below “Related Media”