OBA calls for cost effective Cabinet
Cabinet changes after two high-profile ministers were forced to quit is a chance for the Government to be “more cost effective and consolidate”, the Leader of the Opposition said last night.
But Craig Cannonier said that David Burt, the Premier, would have to place the national security portfolio in a safe pair of hands.
Mr Cannonier added: “That's one you don't want to mess with. It's a hefty responsibility — you need somebody dedicated. He has a challenge in front of him.”
Mr Cannonier said Mr Burt was left with “nowhere else to turn” and had to ask Wayne Caines, the Minister of National Security, and tourism and transport minister Zane DeSilva, the tourism and transport minister, to resign from the Cabinet on Monday over a failure to stick to coronavirus rules at a dinner.
He added: “All he had to do was say, thank you for your resignation.”
The pair were forced to stand down after they were filmed at a dinner last Friday night at the plush Blu Restaurant in Warwick without masks and failing to observe other Covid-19 safety rules.
Mr Cannonier, who cut back some ministries as Premier during the previous One Bermuda Alliance administration, said Cabinet needed “depth” and Mr Burt had a large back bench to pick from.
But he admitted he was “concerned”, as tourism and national security were of major importance as the country started its battle back from the human and economic damage caused by the pandemic.
Mr Cannonier said: “Both are key right now. He may need to consider consolidating other ministries to ensure he has the right person for national security.”
The Opposition leader said his main concern was that the Progressive Labour Party had yet to stimulate the island's economy after three years back in power.
Mr Burt has emphasised a close working relationship with his political rival over the Covid-19 crisis.
But Mr Cannonier said: “That certainly does not negate us being very tough on the issues we feel need that urgency.”
He said the PLP was riding high on its handling of the pandemic, but that the country would have seen a similar approach with an OBA Government.
Mr Cannonier said: “The reality is we're not stimulating the economy. Reality now is coming home.”
Leah Scott, the deputy Opposition leader, who is the Shadow Minister of Tourism and Transport as well as Regulatory Affairs, highlighted that the public and essential workers made sacrifices or put themselves at risk as the island tackled the pandemic.
She added that the Premier's actions showed leadership.
Ms Scott said: “You have ministers who have put in place all of these restrictions to keep us safe and they are members of Cabinet, and with Cabinet you've got collective responsibility ... and us as Members of the Legislature who enacted and passed legislation to keep us safe.
“You've had people who have been cooped up since March, people who have been obedient to what David Burt has asked us to do and David Burt got the Best of Bermuda leadership award the other day, so this is demonstrating leadership.
“This is what a leader has to do, I'm sure it's not something that he wanted to do and I'm sure he anguished over it.”
Mr Burt's “level-headed leadership” was hailed last week when he was named Most Effective Politician in The Bermudian Magazine's Best of Bermuda Awards.
Ms Scott added that it was “unfortunate” to lose ministers who “did good work”.
But the OBA MP said: “I think out of every crisis comes opportunity. There may be people on the back bench that given an opportunity will be able to shine.”
She added that she had enjoyed her working relationship with Mr DeSilva.
Ms Scott highlighted that Renée Ming, a PLP backbencher, has spoken in the House of Assembly “about the lack of women in leadership positions”.
She said: “This is an opportunity for the Premier to do a look around the room and see who he can elevate in terms of the women.”
Patricia Gordon Pamplin, the shadow health minister, also weighed in on the behaviour of Mr Caines and Mr DeSilva at the Blu dinner.
Ms Gordon-Pamplin said: “While my initial reaction was one of disgust, sober reflection has turned that sentiment to one of extreme disappointment and concern.
“The sacrifices made by the majority of the population for the last couple of months could be completely undermined by that very serious lapse in judgment.”
Ms Gordon-Pamplin added: “Let us not retreat from the progress that we as a people have made and of which we can be justly proud.”