The Premier is on a three-day trip to the Bahamas. *MCT photo
The Premier is on a three-day trip to the Bahamas. *MCT photo

The Premier is drawing criticism on two fronts after hiring a new consultant and jetting off to the Bahamas on the taxpayers’ dime.

It emerged yesterday — after questions were raised by the Bermuda Sun — that Craig Cannonier now has a $105,000 ‘Advisor’. He was appointed in May.

The Premier is on a three-day trip to the Bahamas, pictured, to celebrate the nation’s independence.

Both moves, critics say, are out of step the current economic climate of austerity and the OBA’s call for ‘shared sacrifice’ to help reduce our mountain of public debt. 

BPSU boss Kevin Grant declined to comment on the Bahamas trip but the new hire at the Cabinet Office has raised his hackles: “At a time when we are all supposed to be tightening our belts this is concerning to say the least,” he told us.

“Right now we need to be saving the pennies. When I tell my members we are going to have to be more frugal, the first thing they always say is that the people at the top have to do the same. I thought these guys said in their mandate that things were going to be different, but maybe not?” 

The Premier’s Press Secretary Charmaine Burgess yesterday confirmed that Don Grearson, a former journalist, author, and OBA Communications Director, has been hired as an advisor “to provide the Premier with advice and assistance on government planning, special projects and speech writing”. Efforts to contact Mr Grearson proved unsuccessful.

We have been given to understand that his job will not involve liaising with the media, writing press releases, providing communications strategies or liaising with DCI.

The Premier said he was delighted to have Mr Grearson on board: “He and I have worked closely together from the formation of the One Bermuda Alliance through the 2012 election campaign.

“He is highly respected in the community, deeply committed to the success of the Island, enjoys close working relationships with every minister in the new government, and works hard on getting things right. 

“Working with my colleagues, Don will help advance the Government’s goal of national renewal, which is focused on reviving the economy for the thousands who remain without a job and the many who need to earn more to recover diminished incomes.”

Mr Grant is concerned that there might be overlap between Mr Grearson’s role and that of the Premier’s full-time Press Secretary. And he urged Government to “lead by example” when it comes to tightening the belt on spending.

Mr Grearson will earn $105,765 for a one-year contract. 

Mr Grant told the Bermuda Sun: “Government has to set an example. Just as we are being asked to do A, B and C, Government needs to do its bit, too.”

Well-placed sources in  the civil service are also concerned about the hiring of a consultant in the Cabinet Office. Now there are essentially two press secretaries on the job, they suggested.

They also expressed dismay at what they see as unnecessary extravagances of the Government, such as the trip to the Bahamas. They said they were not aware of any Bermuda business in Bahamas and called for this kind of travel to be axed in a climate of shared sacrifice.

The Premier, along with his Chief of Staff, Dale Jackson, are on a three-day trip to the Bahamas, which is celebrating the 40th anniversary of its independence.

Also there is Opposition Leader Marc Bean — who paid his own way.

Last night a statement released on behalf of Mr Cannonier described the trip as ‘official business’.

It added: “The Premier has also been in preliminary discussions with the Prime Minister regarding the successes and challenges of their financial model, Gaming and Concierge services as it relates to the tourism product and business services as well as foreign investment. 

“Additionally, the Premier has met with stakeholders from various countries regarding possible business opportunities in India, China and North America.”

Blood ties

The statement quoted Premier Cannonier as saying: “It was good to see many Bermudians in attendance such as the Opposition Leader, Dame Jennifer Smith and other members of the House of Assembly.

“Bermuda has close blood ties with Bahamas. It’s important that we recognize our friends and relatives and the commonalities of where we have come. 

“It’s also important that we share strategies for our successes as we chart the way forward.”