Busy times ahead: Premier Cannonier announced his new Cabinet last night. *Photo by Kageaki Smith
Busy times ahead: Premier Cannonier announced his new Cabinet last night. *Photo by Kageaki Smith

FRIDAY, DEC. 21, UPDATE: Jobs and the economy will be the priority for the new Cabinet team announced last night by Premier Craig Cannonier.

And the leader of the first OBA Government made good on the pre-election pledge to cut Ministerial salaries by 10 per cent.

Mr Cannonier said: “Our primary focus is to get our economy growing again, creating the conditions for new jobs and opportunity, creating conditions to help people meet their daily needs and to ease the pressures that they face.

“The work ahead will not be easy, but we will get the job done.”

Mr Cannonier added: “It’s a team of working men and women — fresh faces, experienced hands — all dedicated to making this island work better for the people of this country.

“A team that has come together from all backgrounds, all walks of life, to be a public service Government — getting things done, putting people first.”

Mr Cannonier said: “Another important goal for the Government is to close the gap that has grown between Government and the people.

“In keeping with this plan, our Cabinet Ministers will take a 10 per cent pay cut effective immediately.

“The people of this country are going through very tough times and it is essential they know that their elected representatives are with them.

“We cannot expect Bermudians to tighten their belts without their leaders doing the same. Sacrifices must be shared.”

Mr Cannonier added that another pre-election pledge to invite a member of the PLP to join the new Cabinet had been rejected.

He said: “But they declined, citing a party position to not accept such an offer at this time.”

He was speaking as his new 12-strong Cabinet team were sworn in by Governor George Fergusson at Government House last night.

Among the team spearheading the fight out of recession will be new Finance Minister Bob Richards, who pledged 2,000 new jobs within five years.

He will be backed by Economic Development Minister Grant Gibbons, together with Tourism and Transport Minister Shawn Crockwell, Home Affairs Minister Michael Fahy and new Education Minister, Senator Nalton Brangman.

Mr Richards said: “There has already been a surge of confidence and we have had offers of assistance from all kinds of people in all walks of life, from ordinary people to business tycoons.

“People want to help because we are committed to doing this and a lot of people want to help us do it.”

He added: “The things we outlined in our platform are not pipe dreams, they are real. Our first job is to establish a base line for us, find out what the actuality is and what’s really going on in Government finances.

“Once we find that out, we can use it as a base line for our objectives and we will be reporting to the Bermuda public when we get an idea of what that business plan is and what the state of the island’s finances are.”

Dr Gibbons, former shadow Education Minister, but who also served as Minister of Finance in the last UBP Government, said he would be working with the crucial international business sector to create new opportunities for Bermudians.

He added: “The priority now is international business — to work with them to make sure they feel as welcome as possible, that we understand their needs as job creators and stem what I would call a haemorrhage of jobs, finding new areas of diversification and making them feel as welcome as possible.

“Many Bermudians are employed in international business — we need to make the jobs we have secure and find new jobs. It’s all about people — jobs and employment and getting Bermuda back on track economically again.”

Mr Gibbons said he would work with Sen. Brangman to ensure that Bermudians had the educational tools to work with, while there was “a great deal of synergy between international business and tourism” and that he would work closely with Mr Crockwell.

New Home Affairs Minister Michael Fahy, whose role includes immigration and labour relations, said: “There is lots we need to do about immigration — we talked about suspension of term limits for two years until we find something which works better to encourage people to come to Bermuda.

“We need to balance that with making sure that Bermudians and their positions are protected and that they are given every opportunity possible in the workplace.”

He added that he would be extending an olive branch to trades unions, including the pro-PLP BIU and its leader Chris Furbert.

Mr Fahy said: “I’m going to be reaching out to Mr Furbert, sitting down with him and hearing their concerns and sharing our ideas for economic growth.”

He added he would also be speaking to the white collar BPSU, to reassure them that cuts to the Civil Service would only come through attrition and recruitment freezes “so jobs are protected”.

Mr Fahy said: “We have a lot of work to do and trust to build and we are confident we can do that.”

The rest of the new Cabinet team are Michael Dunkley (Public Safety), Trevor Moniz (Public Works), Patricia Gordon-Pamplin (Health and Seniors), Mark Pettingill (Attorney General and Legal Affairs, Sylvan Richards (Environment and Planning),  Wayne Scott (Community and Cultural Development) and Leah Scott (Minister without Portfolio).

Mr Pettingill — a top barrister — admitted his new role would mean a financial hit as he will not longer be able to appear for private clients.

But he said he would be a hands-on Attorney General.

Mr Pettingill added: “I will be appearing in court as Attorney General — I am an advocate. If matters are to appear in court, I will be doing it.”

He said: “It’s a quite significant financial sacrifice, but being called to these things, to do that is important.

“I have a very supportive wife and if that’s what I have to do for the benefit of all of us, that’s what I’ll do.”