Cannonier accuses Premier of hypocrisy
A letter by the Premier to the Opposition leader posted on social media was condemned as a “cheap political PR stunt” by Craig Cannonier yesterday.
David Burt published the correspondence, addressed to Mr Cannonier, on Twitter “in the interest of transparency” on Tuesday.
It said that weekly meetings between the leaders of the Progressive Labour Party and the One Bermuda Alliance were not held over the past two Mondays.
Mr Burt wrote: “Yesterday, during our regularly scheduled meeting, I had intended on having a discussion regarding your comments noting that the public should expect more resignations from the Opposition benches.
“Already, since the 2017 General Election, we've seen three of your 12 members of Parliament resign.
“As you are aware, by-elections cost money. Specifically, each by-election costs taxpayers $30,000.
“To that end, how many additional resignations are you expecting and are those expected to happen in the near future?
“I would be grateful for your response so that we can plan going forward in the spirit of unity that this pandemic time demands.”
The Premier's comments came after he pointed out that his office contacted the Opposition leader for the regular meeting this week, but did not receive a reply about the weekly call after a follow-up e-mail.
Mr Cannonier was asked last week by The Royal Gazette if he expected more resignations after Trevor Moniz, an MP for 27 years, announced his retirement from politics ten days ago.
He replied: “Of course.”
The OBA leader said yesterday: “For the past six months, the Premier and I have spoken and ‘WhatsApped' very frequently, indeed.
“We have worked together to guide Bermuda through the Covid crisis.
“For some reason, he now decides to write me a letter and to make it public as a cheap political PR stunt.
“Bermudians need to ask why private correspondence between the leaders of two parties is being made public by the Premier in this way.
“The Premier also chastised the hotel association for doing exactly what he has just done. It is hypocrisy at its best.”
Mr Cannonier said: “I was asked if I expected more MPs to retire. The answer was yes — of course.
“People normally want to retire and enjoy their later years, but this is true of OBA MPs and PLP MPs, as I actually stated.
“I hope that the Premier is asked about his own MPs who might be considering retirement.
“The Premier says he is concerned about the cost of a by-election. If the Premier is that worried, perhaps he will lower the ministerial payroll instead of increasing it.
“Perhaps he will choose not to hire so many consultants.
“Maybe he will also ask for the $1.2 million payment to a former PLP premier to be paid back. How many by-elections would that pay for?”
He added: “Mr Premier, if you need me, send me a WhatsApp as you usually do. You've got my number. And if you want to know which MPs might retire next, maybe you should ask your backbenchers, as I hear many of them want to leave.
“If your political advisers told you that releasing this letter was a good political strategy, you should ask them to resign. Are these the same folks telling you to push for independence?
“Mr Premier, please do not get sidetracked by fake news. We need you to concentrate on fixing the economy.”
Mr Burt's letter, dated August 11, highlighted that he and Mr Cannonier had met once a week over the past few months “to discuss matters of importance”.
He wrote: “Unfortunately, you informed me last week Monday that we couldn't meet as you were in meetings — and given your announcement last week, I understand.
“This week Monday my office contacted you for our regularly scheduled 9.30am meeting and followed up by e-mail and did not hear back regarding our weekly call.”
Mr Moniz announced he was stepping down on August 3 and said there was a need to “bring new blood to the House of Assembly”.
The Opposition leader revealed last Friday that Vic Ball, a former OBA senator, would fight to fill the vacant Smith's West seat.
Mr Cannonier was asked if other party backbenchers could follow Mr Moniz.
He said: “Absolutely. Well, I think if you look at both sides of the Government, the OBA and the PLP, we have very senior members within, so I anticipate that there will be some on the PLP side as well as continued on the OBA side.”