FRIDAY, MAY 4: When I was sworn in as Leader of the Opposition in November at Government House, I made a brief speech in which I said: “Government must be about the business of the people.”
That one statement lies at the core of my political beliefs. A government elected by the people must be a government for the people. Stick to that rule and good things will get done.
My colleagues and I have been critical of this Government for not conducting the business of the people with any sense of urgency.
Yes they can point to this and that, and to lots of activity here and there, but on the big issues —jobs, crime, education — they have moved without urgency; and the lack of results has meant a lack of results for the people.
As Leader of the One Bermuda Alliance, I took my seat in Parliament in mid-November and what I have seen since then has only deepened my concerns that the PLP Government is not really about the business of the people.
This really hit home in February when the House debated the Joint Select Committee report on education reform. This was a report on the recommendations of the 2007 Hopkins Report that contained the shocking conclusion that the public education system was “on the brink of meltdown.”
That was five years ago and yet only at the start of 2012 was the Government bringing Professor Hopkins’ recommendations before the House.
The failure to move with urgency on education is not a one-off.
Recently, the prison officers marched on the Cabinet Office to appeal to the Premier and the Attorney General for help with perimeter breaches at Westgate, where gang members are throwing weapons, cell phones and drugs to inmates. The officers’ main concern was their increasingly unsafe working environment.
Their well-documented case could not have been clearer, but one month later they felt the need to demonstrate again saying the Government was “not listening” and showing a “total disregard” for their needs.
There are other areas of concern.
Crime is one. Bermuda has been knocked sideways in the past three years by gang wars that have seen 300 shooting incidents, 70 people shot and 17 killed.
During the summer of 2010, the concept of Operation Ceasefire was introduced locally. Operation Ceasefire is an American programme that has achieved amazing results in US cities – cutting homicide rates among gangs by as much as 60% within months of the programme being introduced.
Despite its record of success, the Government ignored calls for its adoption until late last year when the National Security Minister saw a documentary on Ceasefire’s effectiveness in Chicago. Shortly after, he announced that Operation Ceasefire would come to Bermuda this spring. We’re still waiting.
Continue looking around.
In late April, the House of Assembly debated a change to the Motor Car Act to improve road safety – the result of a terrible accident in which a young girl was struck down by a car some nine years ago.
We supported the change. It was a good Bill, but nine years! Where is the urgency?
There are many other incidents I could touch on – the failure to act with any coherence to stop our ten-year tourism decline, the failure to nail down a new hotel deal, the failure to put forward a real plan to get the thousands of out-of-work Bermudians back to work.
My colleagues and I have spoken often about the need for a government that puts Bermuda first, and by that we really mean people first — “not me first, not party first, Bermuda first!” Only with that mindset — a real and sincere commitment to doing the people’s business – will we see our way to a Bermuda that works better for all its people, not just the few.
That’s my commitment, that’s my pledge — the people’s business, once and for all, with urgency.
• Craig Cannonier is Leader of the One Bermuda Alliance.