The third way: Craig Cannonier laments the ‘one black party, one white party’ model of old and says the OBA offers a credible alternative. *Photo by Kageaki Smith
The third way: Craig Cannonier laments the ‘one black party, one white party’ model of old and says the OBA offers a credible alternative. *Photo by Kageaki Smith

WEDNESDAY, MAY 25: New political broom Craig Cannonier reckons the island’s political system is overdue a spring clean.

Now he’s got a seat in the Senate — and his ambition is for the fledgling One Bermuda Alliance (OBA) to clean up at the polls.

Mr Cannonier said: “I am the least likely person to get involved politically — as an entrepreneur, my hands are full already because I’ve got a business to run.

“I was asked to get involved by a friend who was already active politically. The more I listened and looked at the challenges the country is facing, the more I realised they weren’t being addressed head on.”

Mr Cannonier, 48, who owns a string of gas stations, added he was propelled into politics because of concern over crime and the economy.

Escalating crime

He said: “What got me really concerned was that my own son was worried when he came home that he might be mistaken for someone else and get shot.

“Crime just seems to be out of control but I don’t see a clear plan for dealing with the issue or looking at why crime has escalated.”

Mr Cannonier, also deputy leader of the party formed by the merger of the UBP and the BDA, will today take his seat in the Senate as shadow Minister for Economy, Trade and Industry — and he promised that a future OBA government would cut ministerial salaries by 10 per cent.

He said: “I was honoured that the party leader John Barritt had the confidence to turn over such a large portfolio to me.

“It’s a great opportunity for us to take up the challenges which we need to address.

“We’re in an iPhone world — but our political system still seems to be operating as if we’ve got an old rotary phone. By the time the call has been made, the people we need to connect with are already round the corner.

“I am a new politician and of course I don’t have experience in Parliament. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I have been involved for just short of two years now and I’ve come to understand the political process a whole lot better.

“One thing I’ve noticed is that it’s over-processed. It’s plagued with the sort of thinking that says you’re more effective as an attorney if you wear a wig. That’s got nothing to do with a lawyer’s performance.

“We’ve gone a long way away from keeping it simple and we’ve become entrenched in a system that really doesn’t turn out results fast enough.

“We’ve had a political system where, for years now, nothing has really changed. All the processes are basically the same.

“This is not an indictment of anyone, but you can get too involved in the pomp and circumstance and ceremony of it all.

“Now our country is in jeopardy because I believe we have bought into ceremony rather than the effort that’s needed to keep the country working.

“What I want people to see is the frustration, the dedication and the concern I have for this country.”

Mr Cannonier said that the country had lost sight of the importance of international business and its role in fuelling the whole economy.

He added: “We’ve opened our doors to international business and that means international thinking. We have to embrace that internationality. We’ve failed in that and that has led to some of our pains today.

Trickle down

“It’s international business which trickles down and provides the means for Bermudians to buy services. We haven’t made it entirely comfortable for international business to be here, though.

“Bermuda is suffering from the recession — but if international businesses are leaving Bermuda to go to another recession-hit country, then we need to look at ourselves.

“We need to know what international business is looking for to make them comfortable and allow these millions of dollars to be invested in this country.

“It’s the same with tourism — we have some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, but a beautiful beach isn’t enough in today’s market. We have to look at what we don’t have, but we don’t want to lose the Bermudian way, either.”

Mr Cannonier said the new party offered a new contract with the voters.

No complacency

He added: “We’ve put in place that all MPs must reapply for their constituency. It’s important for Bermuda to learn that we will not tolerate complacency. If we don’t do what we say we will do, fire us.

“The people of this country are looking for effective leadership — across the board, wherever you sit, the common theme is that leadership is lacking.”

Mr Cannonier added that more work needed to be done to move black Bermudians “into a wealthy economic position”.

But he said: “It’s unfortunate that we had a so-called white party and a so-called black party.

“I believe that has led to many of the challenges we face today. Unless we’re willing to cross the divide, the people of Bermuda will not progress.

“When you start up on divisive lines, you will get divisive behaviour. We need to erase the line in the sand and see Bermudians, regardless of skin tone, their economic background or what parish they come from.

“People should be clear on this — we’re not here just to be an effective Opposition.

“We’re here to win the Government. Anyone who underestimates that drive is wrong. It won’t happen overnight, but it will happen.”