The possible political flashpoints of 2022
After a tumultuous 12 months in politics we look ahead at the likely flashpoints in the year to come. Shaun Connolly reports.
HIGH STAKES IN CANNABIS CLASH
David Burt, the Premier, appears on a collision course with Rena Lalgie, the Governor, over far reaching attempts to liberalise cannabis policy by making use of the drug legal and licensing its production.
After being delayed by the Senate, Mr Burt has insisted the legislation will come back before the House of Assembly for approval in the coming months.
The Premier is adamant that laws passed by Parliament should not be vetoed by London.
Upping the political rhetoric, Mr Burt warned that if the Cannabis Licensing Act did not get Royal Assent it would “destroy” the island’s relationship with the UK.
However, the Governor made it clear to The Royal Gazette that the UK was bound by international treaty obligations which stated legalisation of cannabis for purposes other than medicinal and scientific use was not permitted.
The Government has insisted Bermuda should be able to go its own way on drugs, like Canada has, but Canada is a sovereign nation, and not an overseas territory of the UK.
ANOTHER TOUGH BUDGET BECKONS
Bermuda is braced for more austerity as Curtis Dickinson, the finance minister, has signalled a very tight financial outlook as the island continues to fight Covid-19 and the economic problems unleashed by the pandemic.
With prices rising, Mr Dickinson has insisted price controls are unlikely.
Indeed he said the island was “importing inflation” due to its need for goods from the US, Canada and Britain.
The finance minister has already warned that while estimated revenues for this fiscal year would be $8 million higher than predicted, expenditure would be $56.9 million higher than anticipated.
The Minister has already drastically cut capital expenditure and implemented a Government hiring freeze – and has insisted that Government’s deficit target will be met.
COVID WITHOUT END?
As new strains of coronavirus continue to emerge and threaten to overwhelm health services, the ongoing battle with the disease races on.
With the Omicron variant sweeping across the island as the Delta one did previously any real return to normalcy looks as far away as ever.
The Government has moved to ease travel restrictions, but the Opposition will be pressing for more action on an economic stimulus to deal with the financial toll being faced by Bermudians.
As with cannabis, the issue could see a potential bust-up with Britain as the Privy Council, the highest court of appeal for Bermuda, considers its judgment after the island drew international attention, and much criticism, when it became the first territory to legalise same sex marriage, and then move to reverse the decision.
The hearing was held last February and a decision is eagerly awaited.
Expect the PLP and OBA to continue to trade blows on the environmental front. Both sides have engaged in a blame game over which of them took their eye off the Tynes Bay ball and allowed the incinerator to run down.
The OBA is also asking questions about why the Government was so keen to cut a deal with Irish headquartered energy firm Seabased which want to bring tidal power to the island, but have been allowed by ministers to carry out their own assessment of the green impact of such a move.
Potential clashes with London over cannabis reform and marriage equality could trigger more pressure in the PLP to rearrange relations with the UK.
The Government has talked loudly on the issue, but walked softly. With even a broadly conservative figure like Charles Gosling, the Mayor of Hamilton, stating that independence is inevitable, the dramatic decision of Barbados to sever ties with the Crown and become a republic could have a ripple effect across the Caribbean and into the Sargasso Sea.
A surge in gang-related gun violence in the past year has led the One Bermuda Alliance to demand better funding for the police.
Although policing remains the remit of the Governor, the PLP controls the purse strings for law and order.
The Bermuda Police Service has made no secret of the need for more money and has been in talks with the Government over its budget.
A NEW PLP LEADER?
While David Burt lead the party to a crushing election victory in 2020, the shine appears to be coming off the Premier among some of the party faithful.
Will a delegates conference in October see a leadership bid to try and topple Mr Burt?
finance minister Curtis Dickinson has signalled he is not interested in the top job, but could the slick media performer be persuaded? Youth, Culture and sport minister Ernest Peets, and Education Minister Diallo Rabain are also ones to watch.
And with Cole Simons still failing to cut through as the alternative Premier, will (what’s left of the OBA) decide to cut their losses and pick a new front person from their much reduced number?