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OBA: Government MPs were intimidated over tax breaks

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Artist's impression of Fairmont Southampton Beach Club overheadPhotograph supplied

Support among PLP MPs for the Government’s controversial stance on taxpayer funded financial commitments to the massive $376 million Fairmont Southampton revamp has been questioned by the Opposition.

But shadow tourism minister Craig Cannonier said the One Bermuda Alliance did not vote against the $120 million in tax concessions despite speaking against them because it only had six MPs.

The comments came after former finance minister Curtis Dickinson launched a withering condemnation of concessions made to developers by David Burt, the Premier.

In an attempt to try and regain the political initiative after Mr Dickinson’s incendiary criticism of the Government’s decision, Mr Burt is holding a “town hall meeting” on the redevelopment Thursday evening.

The meeting follows approval by MPs of the tax concessions valued at between $121 million and $133 million over 15 years to owners Gencom.

It was also revealed in Parliament that Government will give a guarantee of $75 million, representing 21 per cent of the revised costs of the project.

Mr Dickinson, who quit as finance minister in February after a Cabinet bust-up over the deal, insisted the Government was “flying blind” over the real costs and being “too generous” to Gencom.

One Bermuda Alliance shadow tourism minister Craig Cannonier suggested PLP MPs are unhappy about heavy handed comments that it would be “borderline criminal” not to support the project.

Curtis Dickinson, former finance minister (File photograph by Blaire Simmons)

Referring to events in the House of Assembly last Friday when Mr Dickinson strongly attacked Mr Burt’s handling of the situation, Mr Cannonier told The Royal Gazette: “The question that needs to be asked is: why did so few PLP members speak to a Bill of such magnitude?

“Maybe the answer lies within the Tourism Minister’s statement - ‘It's borderline criminal’ to not support.”

Mr Cannonier hit out at the Government’s attitude, stating: “Not enough information was made available before the debate and thereafter.”

Asked why the OBA did not put the legislation to a vote in the House, Mr Cannonier said: “We made it clear we support the Southampton Princess, but do not support this deal.

“We have six members, so the only place we really have a chance is in the Senate.”

However, the Senate cannot vote against “money bills” concerning taxation.

Mr Dickinson told MPs the legislation had failed to provide sufficient detail when, with the $75 million guarantee thrown in, it could run up to $180 million to $200 million.

He added that the cost could run still higher, with a potential for further incremental costs on the project.

The tax concessions cover customs duty, hotel occupancy tax, land tax and the employer’s portion of payroll tax.

Mr Cannonier said: “The OBA very much supports the concept of a redevelopment of Fairmont Southampton.

“All Bermudians welcome a revival of our much needed tourism economy. We want more Bermudian jobs. Yet we believe Bermudians deserve a better deal than this one.”

The former OBA premier said that if his party was negotiating with developers they would have insisted on tax concessions for ten years, not 15.

He said: “Southampton must not have a sweetheart deal that prejudices others.”

Artist's impression of Fairmont Southampton DuplexPhotograph supplied

The OBA said it also wants stronger guarantees on the bulk of jobs generated by the project going to Bermudians.

Mr Cannonier added: “We want to enhance training requirements, so all Bermudian workers benefit from training, not just management alone as in the PLP deal.

“And change payroll tax concessions, with payroll tax relief granted for Bermudian workers – there is no reason to grant the developers a multi-year payroll tax giveaway for all non-Bermudians as well.”

Craig Cannonier, shadow tourism minister (Photograph supplied)

Mr Burt’s “town hall meeting” takes place at 6pm at the Warwick Camp dining hall.

The Premier will be flanked by Vance Campbell, the Tourism Minister, and Chris Furbert, the president of the Bermuda Industrial Union (BIU).

The meeting will be featured on CITV’s YouTube and Government Facebook platforms.

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Published May 12, 2022 at 7:47 am (Updated May 12, 2022 at 7:47 am)

OBA: Government MPs were intimidated over tax breaks

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