DeVent highlights unresolved voting issues
A former Progressive Labour Party minister said he hoped voters would consider key policies such as immigration reform and a living wage as they decided who to back in the General Election.
Ashfield DeVent added that he was disappointed there had not been more discussion about some of the problems that affected Bermuda.
He said: “One issue that I thought the PLP would have clearly made some inroads in dealing with would have been immigration.”
Mr DeVent said that legislation to tackle the problem of mixed-status families this month was a “little concession”.
He added: “That almost looks like an afterthought and some would say that it's just been done to get votes at this point.
“I, and I think many people in the country, were still hoping for, and looking for, a comprehensive, full revamp of immigration policy.”
Changes to immigration law that came into force this month meant that applications for status and permanent resident's certificates would be accepted by the Department of Immigration from this week.
The amendments — passed by Parliament in March — were designed to deal with the longstanding anomaly where some members of the same family were Bermudian, but others were not.
The PLP pledged that it would “complete comprehensive bipartisan immigration reform to ensure that the rights of Bermudians are advanced and protected, while recognising the need to grow our economy with fair and balanced work permits and residential policies” in its 2017 election platform.
Mr DeVent said: “Another issue that I would have thought we might have seen something actually done with by now is the cannabis reform.
“The PLP promised to deal with some of these issues at the beginning of the last election and they're still not dealt with and we're calling another election with no clear indications from my view — that I have seen, maybe I missed it — but no clear indication of what it is they intend to do with those same issues.”
Mr DeVent added: “Immigration reform particularly was key and people marched in the past up to Parliament regarding immigration and us having a comprehensive immigration policy, and we have yet to see it.”
Arianna Hodgson, a PLP candidate for Paget West, said yesterday that the Government believed in a “balanced immigration policy designed to put Bermudians first”.
She added: “Young Bermudians often complain that they are passed over for jobs and promotions. We hear you.”
Ms Hodgson said more work was needed on “enforcement, while balancing the need to grow our population” but that the PLP would put opportunities for Bermudians first.
The PLP's 2017 election platform said that possession of less than seven grams of cannabis would be decriminalised — a move that was approved by Parliament in December that year.
The Expungement of Convictions Act 2020, passed in July, meant that people with previous convictions for possession of less than seven grams will be able to apply to have them removed from their record.
A public consultation on government proposals for a regulated cannabis regime was held in the summer and Kathy Lynn Simmons, the Minister of Legal Affairs, said the results would be analysed to decide if any policy recommendations needed Cabinet approval.
Jache Adams, the PLP candidate for Pembroke West, said yesterday that the party would “complete the regulation and taxation of cannabis and ensure that young Bermudians, who have been negatively impacted by cannabis prohibition, have the first opportunity to access business licences in this new industry”.
He added: “Revenues from cannabis taxes will be redirected to invest into communities most impacted by cannabis prohibition.”
Mr DeVent also asked about progress on the introduction of a living wage, which was championed by Rolfe Commissiong, a former PLP MP who will not stand in the October 1 election.
He said: “Where are we going on that? At this time with so many people having been out of work for so long and with jobs declining and what might happen financially in the future, why have they not come up with a figure for a livable wage as yet?
“Those are the types of issues that I would hope voters would be looking at.”
Mr Adams said yesterday that a living wage was on the cards and that it would “ensure that all our young people can get the wages they need to not only survive, but also thrive ...”.
A party spokesman said: “While we're making steady progress on our agenda, there's no doubt that the PLP has more work to do. We have committed to completing a number of initiatives including, but not limited to, the living wage, cannabis reform and phasing out of middle schools.”
She added that “this election is a choice about whether Bermudians want a Craig Cannonier-led OBA government, possibly in coalition with Marc Bean's FDM party, or if they want to keep the strong leadership of David Burt and the PLP team working for us”.
Mr Commissiong, who chaired the bipartisan parliamentary joint select committee on a living wage, tabled a report from the JSC in July 2018.
It recommended a gradual introduction of minimum wage rates over a three-year period from May last year and a living wage to be created next year.
The PLP promised in its 2018 Throne Speech that it would mandate wages in line with the cost of living and town hall meetings were held.
The Employment (Wage Commission) Act 2019 came into force last October and a six-strong Wage Commission was appointed in January.