Dr. Ewart Brown's Vision Statement
Ewart Brown: Taking Bermuda to the next level
Friday, October 20, 2006 3:25 PM
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 20: A few days ago, when I announced my intention to seek the leadership of the Progressive Labour Party, and thus, the leadership of Bermuda, I mentioned that I wanted to help propel Bermuda to its next level. I promised to come back to you with details. Those details follow in the attachment I call my Vision Statement, which is a summary of the issues we face and the challenges we must meet - what we need to do in order to take our country to its next level of prosperity.
Others and I are convinced that we need change, and we need it now. It is time for the PLP to move Bermuda from agendas and ideas to execution and action. For eight years, my government has had two distinct styles of leadership, and we have managed to maintain economic and social stability in the country.
I bring a third management approach to governance - one that stays on mission and gets the job done. I have worked hard, studied hard, and prepared for the task of leadership to the best of the abilities that God has given me.
Where do we need to go as a nation and who should lead us there? That is the question we must ask ourselves. I am asking to be your leader - a great honour, and I fully appreciate the seriousness of my request. I am asking for your support for my leadership, and understand that it would be a great trust for you to bestow upon me.
I assure you, that if elected, I will do everything in my power to deserve your trust and the confidence you place in me. I will do everything possible to lead Bermuda to greater health, happiness and prosperity for all of its people.
We all know that we must build a new hospital facility. However, the debate must be shifted from where the hospital will be to what it will be. Only after we determine what the hospital will be can we determine the costs, the best locations, the difficulty that might be incurred in building on the old site versus not, or any other decisions that should be made.
What the hospital will be is about feasibility. What do we need in Bermuda? What are most of our injuries? What are most of our illnesses? Why not consider having two urgent care centers at either end of the island and thereby make basic emergency care more readily available to all Bermudians? Should a mother who cuts her finger in Somerset have to travel all the way to Paget for stitches? Should a son who sprains his ankle on a bike in St. George's have to be brought all the way to Paget for x-rays?
What about care for the aging in Bermuda - since we have an increasingly elderly population, should we not have greater focus on geriatric care? Are not heart disease and diabetes two diseases that wreak havoc in our community? Do we know whether the current plan for the hospital includes a center for diabetic care or a cardiac or stroke rehabilitation unit? Should we not establish our priorities for health care, so that we can make a more informed decision about what and whether we can build at the current site and how much it would cost to build at the current site? It is my belief that once the proper feasibility studies have been done, there will be no need to have this ongoing debate about the need to build on the Botanical Gardens site. I believe that we can and will find an alternative solution that will be based on pragmatic concerns and that will find favor with most, if not all of Bermuda's residents.
As leader, I would move to abolish the so-called "Indigent Care" clinic at the hospital. In 2006, it is absolutely unacceptable that we would have a system that strips patients of their dignity by forcing them to go to the poor folks clinic - a relic of the past - in order to receive medical care. For a similar budgetary expenditure, we could simply give these patients a card that would guarantee them access to discounted medical care from the doctor of their choice anywhere in Bermuda. In order to keep his or her medical license, every doctor in Bermuda would be required to see these patients in their private offices. The government would continue to do what it does now - pick up the bill - but not at the expense of the dignity of its less fortunate citizens.
We have to deal with preventative care. As leader, I would embark on a campaign to encourage positive lifestyle changes, including weight loss, smoking cessation, healthy eating habits, and physical exercise - with our youngest to our oldest residents. And I would continually strive to ensure that all of Bermuda's citizens have access to quality healthcare.
We've been successful as a government and as a community in building beautiful edifices for the education of our children. We now have to shift the emphasis from "concrete and glass" to "teaching and learning".
We must talk to and listen to our teachers. We need to know what they believe is missing in education - why is it that so many of our children are failing to learn - why is it that many of our children are not seeking to reach the full levels of their potential? Teachers are experts right under our noses, and we are not using their expertise as much as we should. Our discussions with teachers must go beyond pay and benefits. They must move forward to motivation, incentive - and yes, accountability.
We must talk to and listen to parents. Why is little Maya not focused on her homework? What is it in Malik's environment that could help facilitate his getting to school on time, doing his homework on time, passing his exams with pride? Can we help some parents by trying to understand some of the problems they face, by trying to design programs that would help alleviate some of those problems, by perhaps even giving them tips on parenting school-age children that they just don't know?
We must talk to and listen to our children. We must spend resources figuring out why some of them under-achieve and fail to achieve. We must have renewed focus on the basics - reading, writing, math, critical thinking - and we must set national standards based on international standards that will measure how they are doing at various steps along their way. We can then use all sorts of tools - from remediation to early advancement - to prepare them to compete in what will surely be an even more challenging global economy.
We must show our children the promise of the bright future that is theirs. We want to target our childrens' strengths and develop those strengths. I want to begin what I would call a "Rising Stars" program - a program designed to have celebrated high achievers in various professions, from both Bermuda and abroad, spend time with our rising stars in various disciplines - sharing with them insights on where they can go, how they can move obstacles that may be in their way, what they can do, and how far they can rise - convincing them that their possibilities are limitless.
We must give our children more to do that is fulfilling. We have to invest more in sports. Many professional athletes will tell anyone who listens that it was sports that taught them about leadership, hard work, accountability, teamwork, fair play, how to lose, how to win - major human tools - that are useful throughout life's arduous twists and turns. They will tell you that it was sports that was a diversion for their unspent, negative energy, and that, without it, their lives would have been markedly different. On a personal note, I can attest that were it not for opportunities in track and field, I would probably not be here with you today.
We must teach our children about their past. I am committed to ensuring that our young people have a solid and sure knowledge of Bermudian history - one that fairly and accurately reflects the contributions of all of our people. As leader, I would continue to use opportunities to name government-financed projects in a way that teaches young people about heroes of their ancestry. I would also seek to commission a few of the best Bermudian scholars and intellectuals to author a series of textbooks to be utilized at all levels of the public education system, so that we can say to our children, "Yes, you can." Look at who your forefathers were, so that you can see who you are - what you are really made of - what you can really become.
We must do everything we can, and invest everything we can, in this - our most precious asset - our children, our future.
We need to move forward and be in a position to offer our children and our children's children a Bermuda where every Bermudian can reasonably anticipate having a decent and safe place to live. We have to build affordable rental housing on a faster track to accommodate our people. We must engage Bermudian landlords in a plan to rent their empty apartments to renters who will respect and responsibly preserve their landlords' property.
We have to encourage and facilitate home ownership. As leader, I intend to work with the private sector and come up with innovative ways for families to finance homes. We also have to use what we have. Did you know that there are over 300 abandoned homes in Bermuda? In addition to tackling the problems of building and financing new affordable housing, I intend to get to work immediately on finding the best legal and financial minds available to figure out how we can bring derelict homes -- strewn throughout the island - back to states of usability, for rent or ownership, into the hands of deserving families.
I believe that the spike in crime and violence that we have faced as a country in recent times is interwoven with some of the issues I am addressing today. When we have better education, more affordable housing, more youth sports and otherwise improve upon our quality of life as a community, we will go a long way toward combating crime and violence.
But that will not get us all of the way - that is not all we must do. I am reminded of a much larger city just next door - New York City - which faced tremendous challenges with crime - and turned itself around. It can be done.
We know that we need more police, and a more visible police presence around Bermuda. We must also embark on a serious assessment of our criminal justice system - from infraction to incarceration and all that lies between. We must review our laws, our prosecutorial prowess, the judiciary system, customs search procedures, our prison system, how we combat recidivism, how we work with inmates to turn their lives in a different direction - we must look at all of these things - and still, we must do more.
In the words of a gospel song, "If we ever needed the Lord before, we sure do need him now". We have to pray as a nation and resolve as a community that we can combat crime and violence, and make zero tolerance a reality. As leader, I would call upon representatives of the clergy and lay people of faith in churches of all persuasions, mothers, fathers, sociologists, psychologists, community organizers, members of the police service, lawyers, and judges to impanel themselves - to join with government, to stare this problem in the face, and declare that Bermuda will be Bermuda once again.
RACE and EMPOWERMENT
Simply and succinctly, we must talk about race and we must do something about the short and long-term effects of racism. Issues of race are not going to go away unless we find a healthy way to confront the disconcerting deeds of our past and move forward to embrace the promise of our future. That is the truth. Descendants of both victim and oppressor may disagree, but that is the truth.
I am confident that the Bermuda I know and love can get past race - but not by ignoring its existence or its effects. We have to study our past, and as other societies have done, acknowledge where we find that we have treated certain of our citizens unfairly, and commit to countering the effects of that past unfair treatment.
You cannot harness a man's hands behind his back for a year, untie him and then tell him he is free to fight and may the best fighter win. That is not a fair fight.
As leader, I would seek the creation of programs to empower our formerly disenfranchised citizens, to give them a chance for a fair fight for their futures - a fair fight for jobs, businesses, land and opportunity.
I am confident that we will emerge as one Bermuda - united by our common heritage in spite of our different paths toward it - divided no more.
I firmly believe in the right of all and any individuals to be free from discrimination in any form. However, I would not support the proposed Human Rights Amendment. I do not believe that there is a need for special protection of persons in Bermuda based on their sexual orientation. I personally know of many individuals who have reached the pinnacles of Bermudian society who have stated their preference for members of their same sex. There is no evidence that this divisive amendment is necessary for Bermuda at this time.
The continued success of International Business in Bermuda is vital to our national interests and to our economy. That is why government and business should be in continuous dialogue and work together.
Consider this: Some of the brightest minds in international business and politics -- the so-called masters of the universe - are domiciled right here in Bermuda - whether year round or seasonally. What an incredible resource that lies right at our fingertips. As leader, I would use it.
Programmatically, I would seek to implement a Bermuda Apprentice Plan, whereby Bermudians would be apprenticed to jobs in the International Business sector. There would be clearly defined goals, expectations, time lines, and support for the apprentices as well as for the international businesses who would assist us in implementing the program. The objective would be that we would have more Bermudians trained and ready to assume roles in International Business.
Importantly, I would convene a Council of Economic Advisors, made up of some of those industry leaders, local businesses, and representatives from Cabinet. I would engage them in continuous, constructive dialogue geared toward how we can make Bermuda an even better place to work, reside and play, while at the same time, preserve it as the Bermuda so many of us know as our native home.
We need to continue our move toward development of destination resorts - first name hotel properties like Atlantis - where the discerning visitor will visit, and where those who want to see the discerning visitor will visit as well. We must continue to create programs that attract visitors, and to seek new airline routes, cheaper airline tickets, more leisure and business travelers, more individual and group travelers, and expansion of the golf and spa season. We must continue to put resources into our golf courses. Importantly, we must make sure that all of these and other tourism efforts are not defeated by negative visitor experiences.
As leader, I would strive for a national integration of purpose with regard to tourism. Tourism continues to be one of the two main pillars of our economy, so we must all be hosts to our guests - even the law enforcement official who conducts a search of someone who looks suspicious at the airport on arrival or departure. There is a way for each and every one of us to do our jobs in a way that is firm and correct, but at the same time courteous, respectful and as pleasantly as possible.
With Tourism, we have only just begun. We have outstanding results for the third quarter. Although I am sure that Minister Burch will provide details, I must share with you the most recent good news. Through only the past 9 months of 2006, visitor arrivals have exceeded all of 2005's arrivals. There is a promising future for us. As your leader, I would see that this momentum increases and that by the year 2010, we would usher in a Platinum Period of Bermuda Tourism.
We must look at new ways of transport, and attempt to find ways for alternative means of transport - more and different buses and routes, car pooling schemes, car usage schemes, water taxis, infrastructure improvements that are more walker friendly.
There are too many cars in Bermuda. We must find a way - perhaps unpopular to many and disdained by others - to arrest the increase of cars on our beautiful island. As leader, I would propose different attempts at addressing this problem to the public, and we would together determine the least unpopular one. Many of us will not be happy. But we will all be the better for it.
What do we mean by infrastructure challenges? Bermuda is at a critical period in our development - our infrastructure is in need of serious revision. We have discussed the need for a new hospital and new means of transport, but we need to talk about the causeway, garbage disposal, sewage treatment and the airport. These are critical issues that will become major problems if left unaddressed. As leader, I would look to resolve these and other issues that will impact our quality of life for generations to come.
By now, many readers and listeners are asking themselves who is going to pay for all of this? As your leader, I would be cautiously conservative with the public purse.
But there is some spending we should and must do, at the same time that we preserve our financial prudence and our ratings integrity. I am not the expert in this. I know that most cities and towns in the United States and other governments abroad hire financial advisors who are adept in the ways of government finance. I expect to be working closely with the Minister of Finance to make sure that we remain fiscally prudent but are well-positioned to meet the infrastructure challenges of the present as we prepare for Bermuda's dynamic, prosperous future.
I am firmly committed to Bermuda becoming an independent nation. I believe that we the people of Bermuda are smart enough, talented enough and wise enough, to be the arbiters of our own fate - the masters of our own ship.
There comes a point in every organism's life when it is time to fly away from the home perch - no matter how comfortable that perch is. How many of us have left wonderful homes in which we could have lived forever, except that we knew that in order to truly and fully develop as adults, we had to move away from that comfort zone and into a world of autonomy and self-determination? That is the natural way. To the extent that Bermuda does not seek independence, it is unnatural and self-limiting. We must seek total freedom from the colonialization of our past. To do otherwise would be to sell ourselves far too short from the strong people we are. We would do ourselves and the generations that follow us a grave disservice.
We are a unique island nation. We are economically sound and governmentally stable. Yet, some lack confidence. Some do not believe in ourselves or our ability to self-govern. Some do not believe that the world believes in us or our ability to self-govern. Some believe that if we detach ourselves from Mother England, we will fail.
I strongly disagree. But, as leader, I would have to listen to the people - all of the people. While I see no impediment to seeking independence at this time, I know that independence is a journey that we have to persuade a majority of the people to embrace before we begin. So, as leader, independence would not appear to be a focal point for me initially, although it would remain a principal objective. I would not give up. I would spend the time and energy necessary to get more of our citizens comfortable with taking that grand step. And, I commit to my ancestors, my offspring, my party and my country, that, God willing, I would move Bermuda toward its true glory as a self-determining, self-governing, healthy, whole and prosperous independent nation.