Don Grearson *Photo by Glenn Tucker
Don Grearson *Photo by Glenn Tucker

It is hugely unfortunate that the Hon. Craig Cannonier has had to resign his position as Premier.

He is a good man who was presiding over a government that had achieved a great deal in a short time, moving the island steadily toward recovery and renewal.

From Day 1, Mr. Cannonier was committed to two things: 

Getting the economy working again for people;

• Bringing Bermudians together. 

These tasks are extremely challenging, taking time, patience and leadership. The team Mr Cannonier put together has proved to be incredibly able. In 18 months, good progress has been made on the economy and a host of other issues.

The economy was clearly the most pressing concern when he took office — thousands out of work, businesses closing down or leaving, runaway deficits and a mountain of public debt. There was also the horror of gang violence. 

Mr Cannonier’s election victory restored hope across the board, that at long last we could get to grips with what was happening to Bermuda. 

The previous government had simply failed on the big issues, including the many ethical questions that had accumulated round them. The 2012 election gave the One Bermuda Alliance the opportunity to reverse the damage.

Mr. Cannonier set the tone and brought forward the energy, optimism and direction the situation needed. 

The signs of economic recovery since then are undeniable: 

The first upturns in retail sales in years;

• International and insurance company formations rising steadily;

• A turnaround in real estate activity, boding well for a return in value to people’s properties;

• Rising custom duties and increased container traffic indicating increased consumption;

• Big steps forward on job-growing projects such as the Hamilton Princess, Pink Beach and a new hotel for St. George’s.

Although the economic negatives of previous years did not end with the December 2012 election victory, confidence and hope began to return. This is one of Mr. Cannonier’s great achievements — leading a government that got people to look up, not down; that got investors to look again, not away. The Government’s accomplishments — including the lowest crime rates since 2000 and new controls on government spending — are part of an across-the-board rebuilding that will create the jobs and secure future people need. 

In this and all other work, Mr. Cannonier was careful to caution that “we are not yet out of the woods, but we are getting there”.

The second big goal Mr. Cannonier wanted to achieve was to bring Bermudians together.

Most people would agree this to be an even tougher task than economic renewal.

In Mr Cannonier’s view, it was critical to dial back the divisions so that people could work better for people — a society, in short, that “leaves no one behind”. Perhaps that’s an idealistic line, but I know he thought that if there was one place on the planet that that could be achieved, it was Bermuda.

He started toward this goal with the Christian churches, bringing them together for a Day of National Prayer, to raise the spiritual element and collective awareness across the Island.

He moved forward with the idea of business, unions and government sitting down together as a tripartite committee to provide government with advice on the economic challenges we all share. He pushed for, and Mr Dunkley delivered, on getting grocers to expand food cost relief by introducing 10% discounted shopping on Wednesdays. 

Mr Cannonier said collaboration was all about “getting people to see beyond their traditional turf… to understand the importance of its well-being. The ‘me-first’ mentality has to make room for others because we are truly all in this together.”

I know Mr. Cannonier will keep to that vision because it’s the way he believes life should be lived — working together, with a smile and an open heart for everyone. 

The good news is that he’s still on the Hill, still in position to help make Bermuda better. The other good news is that Premier Dunkley is there too, an equally positive force and a team leader. The Government, in short, is in good hands. 

Don Grearson was an advisor to former Premier Cannonier.

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