Backing brown: Student Carlsen Philip, 19, would have to pay about $1,500 more for his education if it were not for the Premier’s launch of free tuition. He said he would have left Bermuda for the U.S. if this incentive were not available. *Photo by Sirkka Huish
Backing brown: Student Carlsen Philip, 19, would have to pay about $1,500 more for his education if it were not for the Premier’s launch of free tuition. He said he would have left Bermuda for the U.S. if this incentive were not available. *Photo by Sirkka Huish
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Are you and your country better or worse off than four years ago?

This is the question on everyone’s lips as Premier Dr. Ewart Brown prepares to hand over the reins tomorrow.

He has been praised for achievements such as free daycare, free college tuition and FutureCare, but he has also picked up his fair share of critics along the way.

The Bermuda Sun’s Sirkka Huish spoke to the people who count — the very islanders he was elected to represent. 

She interviewed five Bermudians from different walks of life and received a mixed bag of responses.

Whether they were sorry to see Dr. Brown go or could not wait to see the back of him, everyone had plenty to say.


The student: ‘Free tuition has slashed my costs’

Carlsen Philip probably would not be studying at Bermuda College if he did not get free tuition.

The 19-year-old is quick to point out that if the PLP had not seen through their election promise, he would have to fork out about $1,500 more for his education.

Power

Mr. Philip is “most definitely better off” due to Dr. Ewart Brown’s four years in power.

He said: “Free tuition has really reduced my costs.

“College enrolment is at its highest point and the Government should be credited for that. I probably would have returned to the States to study but this was an incentive for me to stay in Bermuda longer.” Having attended Warwick Academy, Mr. Philip studied in the U.S. for a few years before starting at Bermuda College in September.

He is on a two-year liberal arts programme but is “still working on” what he wants to do as a career.

He added: “I was encouraged to come to Bermuda College. I was told there were good academics and professors and I would like it.

“They were right, I’m really enjoying it.”

Mr. Philip lives in Southampton with his mom and his 17-year-old sister.

He takes advantage of free public transport and he has relatives who have benefitted from FutureCare, land tax exemptions and an “improved school system”.

Mr. Philip said: “Dr. Brown has been a role model and an inspiration to a lot of people.

“He was a Premier with a vision who liked to move fast and make things happen.

“That made some people feel uncomfortable but I understood what he was doing.

“He’s always worked in the public service and he made a sacrifice for his country.

“I would like him to do a second term, I will miss him.”

 

The senior: ‘I’m glad of free health insurance’

Senior Norris Ming has to watch every dollar he spends as he struggles to make ends meet.

The 77-year-old lives on a pension of about $750 a month and admits there is “not much left over” after he has paid his rent and bills.

This is why he is so thankful for getting his health insurance “absolutely free” through FutureCare.

He signed up for Premier Dr. Ewart Brown’s money-saving initiative for seniors as soon as he heard about it.

Mr. Ming, a former Government worker, said: “It covers dental, doctors, my eyes, just about everything and I only have to pay 20 per cent for my prescriptions.

“I used to pay about $120 a month for health insurance so that’s a big saving for me.

“The extra money helps pay my rent and little odds and ends to keep me going. It’s tough being a senior.”

But Mr. Ming admits he had to change surgeries as the GP he was originally with “didn’t acknowledge FutureCare and made me pay up front”.

Mr. Ming, of Pembroke, also called the free licensing for seniors “an excellent idea” even though he cannot afford a car himself.

But looking at the overall picture, Mr. Ming does not think he is better or worse off than four years ago.

The divorced father-of-two and grandfather-of-two said: “It’s been a mediocre four years, nothing has changed a great deal for me.

“He’s been a pretty good leader, I can’t knock him, but he certainly hasn’t pleased everyone.

“He’s certainly spent some money on those trips he’s been on, so I hope it was worthwhile for us.”

Mr. Ming would particularly like to see the voting age lowered to “get more young people interested in politics”.

He said: “Let him step down, it’s time for a change, let’s see what someone else can do.”

 

The family: ‘I’m not sad to see him go... he hasn’t been there for us’

Jenny Purvey thinks Premier Dr. Ewart Brown should have done “a better job” for the sake of the island’s future generations.

The mom-of-three believes he supported “some people more than others” during his four years at the top.

For that reason she is looking forward to welcoming a new leader with fresh ideas.

She said: “I do feel that he has not 100 per cent given himself to all the people.

“I’m certainly not sad to see him go. In terms of the race aspect, he hasn’t always been there for all of us.”

Mrs. Purvey, who works at Onsite Engineering Services, said Dr. Brown’s “weakest area” had been over-spending within Government.

She added: “There’s been quite a lot of over-spending.

“This is very disappointing to hear as it is the public purse.”

Mrs. Purvey said her family is “worse off now” as they are suffering from the decline in the rental market.

The family lost their tenants when the recession hit and are now getting “a considerably lower rent”.

Mrs. Purvey, 37, and her teacher husband Brian have three children — Harlee, nine, Tristen, seven, and three-year-old Rhianna. They live in the city of Hamilton.

The family relies on their rental income to support the needs of their son Tristen, who has autism.

He is currently receiving therapy in Florida because “Bermuda can’t compete with the States”.

Mrs. Purvey said: “He (Dr. Brown) hasn’t done enough for families. With regards to education, we are heading into a worse situation than we are already in. Not enough is being done for special education.

“There’s been lots of talk, but nothing has been done.” Mrs. Purvey, president of Bermuda Autism Support and Education, hoped the Ministry of Education would support mixed schooling for special needs children.

But she believes plans are now in place to open a separate school for those who would benefit from social interaction.

Mrs. Purvey said: “This is going to be a bad downslide for special education. 

“It’s all about what is cost-effective when it should be about what is best for our children.”

Mrs. Purvey called free college tuition a “positive step for education in Bermuda”.

She also supports the fast ferries and free public transport for students, saying: “It’s great to be able to jump on a ferry for a day out.”

Mrs. Purvey backed the land tax and free licensing initiatives but said that “more good things would have been welcomed”.

Talking about tomorrow’s announcement of the new Premier, she said: “It will nice to see a fresh face with new ideas who is ready to do a better job.”

 

The local celebrity: ‘Our paradise is gone, he’s been destroying everything’

Michael Frith said Premier Dr. Ewart Brown “ploughed ahead” with what he wanted to do with “little regard” for anyone else.

The 69-year-old did not mince his words as he accused the Premier of “destroying” his beloved home island.

He said “little to nothing” had been done to support the very people he was supposed to be representing.

Mr. Frith called the last four years “a very interesting ride” that he was glad to see the end of.

He said: “What Bermuda was all about, what Bermuda stood for, it’s all gone.

“The piece of paradise that we all grew up with is no more — he’s been destroying everything.

“We are appallingly worse off than we were.”

Mr. Frith and his wife Kathryn Mullen live in Paget. He has three children, Jonathan, Christina and Callee, and four grandchildren aged 14 to 21.

He is the former executive vice president and creative director for Jim Henson Productions and is famed for helping design The Muppets.

Mr. Frith says Dr. Brown’s biggest failure is the “enormous destruction” of the natural and built environment.

He added: “Bermuda was known for its unparalleled beauty. But it’s like there has been a concerted effort to destroy all our assets that do not exist anywhere else in the world and cannot be rebuilt.”

Mr. Frith loathes how Hamilton is now filled with “hideous” and “out-of context” buildings. He added: “The built environment is a travesty.

“Hamilton now looks more like a New Jersey office park with steel, marble and glass everywhere.”

Mr. Frith complained that crime had rocketed and he called the island’s schools “an education circus” when they should be “the very focus of the country”.

He said young people are “not being trained and inspired” and he questioned the quality of teaching on the island.

Mr. Frith called the Premier’s Ministry of Transport and Tourism “a disaster in all respects” and said he would give him “more than a failing grade”.

He accused the Premier of being “delusional” if he thought tourism figures were improving.

Mr. Frith, whose parents ran a guesthouse, said tourists liked the island’s quaintness.

He added: “Bermuda used to be a great gift to the world but we’ve all had to watch it fall apart.

“Talk of all these big hotels is all about grander ideas without thinking through the consequences.

“Rather than enhancing the tourism product, he’s been putting the nail in tourism’s coffin.”

Mr. Frith loves the idea of fast ferries as they alleviate road congestion.

But he called them “the most ugly and vicious boats I’ve ever seen” and said “the only positive thing about them is that they get you from A to B”.

Mr. Frith added: “I’m not sure what the future holds for our children and grandchildren. You always hope for the best for future generations but we now look to a very uncertain future.”

 

The community activist: ‘It will take years to clean up Brown’s mess’

Terrence Flood wants people to pull together to repair the country Dr. Ewart Brown has destroyed.

The 67-year-old family man believes Bermuda “is most definitely much worse off” than it was four years ago.

Mr. Flood, of Devonshire, welcomes a new leader, saying a lot of work has to be done to rescue the island.

He said that during Dr. Brown’s tenure, islanders have seen a rise in crime, Government over-spending and a decline in tourist numbers.

Mr. Flood added: “I’ve never seen Bermuda like this before, it’s in a sad state right now. There’s more violence, crime and disarray in the Premier’s own party. The record speaks for itself — his own members  have tried to oust him a couple of times.

“Whoever takes over has to realise it will take years to clean up this mess.

“The country has been damaged and the people will need to pull together to get it back on track.”

Mr. Flood was pleased to see the new TCD and cruise ship pier at Dockyard but is concerned about over-spending on both projects.

The community activist said the “ordinary folk” of Bermuda were struggling when “Government seemed to be throwing money away”.

Mr. Flood, who has six children and five grandchildren, works as a private bailiff and a taxi driver.

He said he sees people with good jobs struggling to make ends meet and feels Dr. Brown has “done an injustice” to the tourism industry.

Mr. Flood added: “There is free child care and bus travel but it’s not free when taxpayers’ money is paying for it. Our taxes have risen to pay for them and the cost of living is sky-high.

“It’s sad but it doesn’t have to be this way. We are ready for change and a new leader.”