Full Text: Opposition’s Reply To Throne Speech

November 14, 2016

The Progressive Labour Party delivered their formal response to the 2016 Throne Speech today [Nov 14] in the House of Assembly, covering a number of topics including finances, crime, tourism, immigration, education, technology, and more. The full response is below, as well as some extract highlights.

Creation of a Bermuda Fund

Mr. Speaker, if we are to create long-term economic growth, we need to use the tools at our disposal to invest and generate economic activity in Bermuda. There is a high level of investment expertise in Bermuda and the next PLP government will take advantage of this expertise by creating a “Bermuda Fund”. This fund, which will be seeded with a small portion of the pension funds that are under the control of the government, will allow Bermuda to tap into the investment expertise on the island, while providing an additional outlet for our large pension funds to invest more of their monies in Bermuda-based equity investments.

The Bermuda Fund will not be exclusive to pension funds and other institutional investors; it will be listed on the Bermuda Stock Exchange to allow individuals to invest and contribute to the development of Bermuda.

This fund must have strict controls so that it is not subject to political whims, and will be run for the specific purpose of generating positive returns while investing in the development of Bermuda-based businesses. The fund could invest in industries identified to diversify the economy by the Economic Development Unit. The Bermuda Fund could also be used to attract job creators to our shores while we invest in emerging global industries such as cyber-security, FinTech and mobile application development.

Mr. Speaker, this is not exclusively the PLP’s idea. It is one of many ideas that have been recommended by respected members of the local business community. Before the armchair critics speak about the underfunded state of our pension plan, I would urge them to consider that this proposal represents a small portion of overall pension funds.

Establishment of a Technology Incubator

Mr. Speaker, to grow our economy the PLP will develop a technology incubator at Southside. This will allow start-ups in the technology field that require little more than a computer and an Internet connection to use our regulatory environment while developing their new products and services in Bermuda.

A successful technology incubator could lead to other well-established global technology companies setting up a physical presence here. Bermuda First recommended that Bermuda become a global centre for intellectual property. Having a technology incubator could assist in realising that goal. Success in this area will grow our economy and also provide job opportunities for Bermudians.

Financial Assistance Reform

Mr. Speaker, the next PLP government will reform financial assistance to reflect the needs of today’s families in need, preserve dignity, minimise abuse, create a pathway away from assistance and get tough with individuals who abuse the system. The current structure of financial assistance does not incentivise able-bodied persons to work, as all money earned is automatically deducted from a person’s award.

A simple principle should apply, that someone receiving financial assistance should be better off in work. This minor change will provide added incentives for recipients to take part-time work as their income will increase.

Our reform will also separate able-bodied persons from disabled-bodied persons and track each individual programme and budget separately. Additionally, we will include a person with a disability on the Financial Assistance Review Board to ensure diverse representation.

Extending Maternity and Paternity Benefits

Mr. Speaker, in 2000 the PLP created the Employment Act which for the first time guaranteed all mothers eight weeks of paid maternity leave. Sixteen years later it is time to re-examine what we have done and look to extend that leave to 13 paid weeks, while also making allowances for paternity leave. The next PLP government will consult widely on this proposal; however, we will ensure that the duration of paid leave is extended so that mothers and fathers will have more time to bond with new additions to their families.

Decriminalisation of Cannabis

Mr. Speaker, this year, for the first time since 2013, the OBA has again raised the issue of decriminalisation of cannabis in their Throne Speech. A cynical person would say that this is just an election ploy, but for the OBA this issue represents yet another campaign promise unfulfilled and an example of a government unwilling or unable to deal with an issue that affects the youth of this country.

Mr. Speaker, this is also an issue of fairness as black people in our society are far more likely than whites to be arrested, charged and convicted for cannabis possession. The criminalisation of our citizens for minor, non-violent possession is an open sore on our society, damaging the lives of hundreds of Bermudians, young and old.

Mr. Speaker, it is upsetting to hear the stories on the doorstep of the young father who cannot go away to see his child play in a sporting tournament due to a conviction for simple possession many years ago. Many have been obstructed from years of real opportunity to improve their lives and those of their families. The Government again this year called for more consultation while their continued inaction will see more young lives impacted forever.

Mr. Speaker, the OBA has had time to lead on this issue and they have failed. Therefore, the PLP will table a bill to remove criminal penalties for simple cannabis possession below a prescribed amount.

Creation of a New Type of Dwelling Unit to Stimulate Construction

Mr. Speaker, to stimulate construction demand and provide homeowners with additional income, the next PLP government will create a new category of dwelling unit. These new units will have assessment numbers, but will be restricted from having a private car registered at the address. These new units can be restricted to one-bedroom or studio units with all standard planning requirements except for the need to provide additional space for car parking. Many homeowners have space to create an additional unit but are unable to create additional parking spaces. This new type of unit would be ideal for young people just leaving home, students returning to Bermuda wanting their own space or guest workers who are not interested in purchasing a car. This new type of unit can provide additional income for homeowners with smaller properties who previously were unable to create a rental unit.

Protecting our Environment

Mr. Speaker, our environment is a precious resource and we must be sure that we do all we can to protect it. The next PLP government will introduce a charge on single-use plastic bags. Other jurisdictions have implemented this charge and it has successfully reduced the number of plastic bags entering the environment, and particularly the marine environment, where they pose a threat to marine life.

In keeping with our pledges made in Vision 2025, the next PLP government will establish a mandatory recycling programme, which will result in economic benefits for the island.

Additionally, we will produce a Green Paper on a Beverage Container Deposit system.

The full PLP response to the 2016 Throne Speech follows below [PDF here]:

click here Bermuda 2016 Throne Speech 1

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Comments (26)

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  1. Justin says:

    Bermuda Fund: “This fund, which will be seeded with a small portion of the pension funds that are under the control of the government…”

    So these guys are proposing taking money from an already under-funded pension fund. Wow…..

    • hmmm says:

      Not just that, but then he expects people to put what little savings they have and invest in it.

      Double hit on the tax payer.

      Would the money be given away or earn interest. Surely the Govt would then be in direct competition with banks, which would increase bank costs which would hit Bermudians.

      Treble hit on the tax payer.

      This investment would need to be accounted for, regulated and have much professional work done on it…As it is Govt run, who would pay for that? The Bermudian tax payer !

      Boom…. Quadruple hit on the tax payer.

  2. 2MorePlease says:

    Interesting…

    I like these ideas.

    Necessity truly is the mother of invention.

    I’ll vote for innovation that will benefit ALL.

    • truth says:

      Well, i doubt you will find anything ‘that will benefit’ all here. The PLP is only about friends and family, did we not learn last time?

      • 2MorePlease says:

        Yeah, I learned it again this time – ALL politicians are full of ish so I didn’t bother to read into it, but I guess you did.

        I admit I’m biased – but hey, I think Burt is a SEXY man.

        • aceboy says:

          Well, that is a great reason to vote for him and his party. He’s sexy.

          Good lord.

      • The Original Truth™ says:

        Maybe they’ve learned from their and OBA’s mistakes since both parties have been only about friends and family. Maybe Burt has learned to do things differently. It’s apparent OBA hasn’t.

      • the truth will set you free says:

        Truth: And the UBP (now known as the OBA) are about the rich and those of European descent

    • Build a Better Bermuda says:

      There really is little innovation here.
      Taking money from an underfunded pension fund, while at the same time promising to provide more for seniors is counter intuitive and will only serve to propagate the issue that is there now.
      The establishment of a technology incubator… well this is something that is ridiculous for a government to propose as it would have to be a private venture, and there is nothing for stopping a private venture from doing this… that is nothing but the hinderances that this island presents. Limited internet connectivity, high operations costs, high employment costs,… one of the highest cost for any data farm operation is going o be power, and Bermuda’s power costs are double, triple, even quadruple the costs of established juristictions, we also do not have a large and readily available supply of innovative expertise, i.e. interns from tech universities.
      They have also completely failed to mention just how we got so far into this ‘Tale of 2 Bermudas’, one with jobs and one without. It was under the PLP’s policies that saw so many Bermudians lose their jobs and their continued failure to either understand, or if they do understand they aren’t willing to acknowledge, how so many Bermudians lost their jobs. This continues as the PLP is trying to lay where we are today as being the fault of the OBA. In some fashion they are correct, because where we are today is still better than where we were 4 years ago, and where we would have been under continued PLP administration. We here how debt is doubled under the OBA, how they haven’t managed to get rid of the government deficit, but what is constantly missing from this entirely onesided falsification of our reality is how we got there. Who left us with such an enormous deficit and government expenditure, who put on this path to ever growing and expanding debt… and who is promising to return us to those unsustainable levels of expenditure, and thus deficit, that will eventually see foreign creditors in charge of our financial future… the PLP. The PLP set us on these paths of massive debt, spiralling unemployment, lower investor confidence and more, and has been the OBA that has cauterized the hemorrhaging that was bleeding us dry, and it this continued attempt by the PLP to dismiss their role and their failure that means I cannot vote for them in this state. They have not changed, they have not learned what they really needed to learn.
      Have the OBA meet their ambitious goals, no, but then no government ever does, however, opportunities are returning again, tourism is up, and despite what the PLP try to paint in their ongoing electioneering, the OBA has managed some success in righting this boat, and all signs are that progress will continue… that is unless the PLP try to run things their way again.

      • The Original Truth™ says:

        Ahh yes! It was very innovative to come up with the idea of encouraging the build of a bunch of hotels around the island that that middle class tourist can’t afford… BACK IN THE 1890′s.

        • Build a Better Bermuda says:

          Its seems you have missed what the new multi layered tourism strategy now entails, by trying to dismiss that we actually have a return in investor confidence in the tourism market we are targeting. It would be flawed and wasteful to go after the mass market middle class tourism market, as other juristictions can beat us hands down in rates, due almost primarily to them paying their staff pennies to our dollar. instead, marketing has been redirected to the middle and upper class market looking for luxury and willing to or has the extra to spend, the youth looking for adventure, the sport teams looking for a more habitable training climate, the conferencing circuit, cruise shippers (mass in Dockyard and luxury in St. G and Hamilton). So yes, under the OBA, even tourism has taken a more innovative approach than the PLP ever tried or are even proposing.

      • aceboy says:

        Very well said. Unfortunately those who support the PLP will not read or dismiss what you have said out of hand.

        This Bermuda Fund appears to be a means of getting ahold of the key that unlocks a big cookie jar….to people who fail to see how bad our internet service is in Bermuda but who are proposing a Technology Incubator. Would I invest in one in Bermuda given that the company would be hamstrung by internet service that appears to be coal fired? Hell no! Would the PLP? Apparently, with money raided from the already underfunded pension fund.

        That is NOT the PLP’s money. It is OUR money.

        WORST IDEA EVER.

        What happened to sea bed mining? Internet gaming? Fin Tech? No good any longer? I thought they were going to be the savior of Bermuda?

  3. Ringmaster says:

    Nothing about Education? Surely the most important matter that needs to be improved yet not a word. Maybe the PLP has no ideas on how to improve Education.

    Lower payroll tax? The PLP decries hotel concessions then proposes a payroll cut. Surely less income equals less available to be spent or more debt, or is this Burt maths?

    What is the need for an assessment number apart from having a car? Why would such a new dwelling be needed, or why can’t it be built today?

    Please provide expected timeframes, revenues and costs for the Vision 2025 ideas. Without those, it is merely a Vision not a viable plan.

  4. Noncents says:

    “To those who are tired of the bickering and fighting, we pledge a new phase in Bermuda politics. We must offer constructive criticism and many times we will disagree. We must not, however, be disagreeable in our disagreement but handle ourselves in a respectful manner”

    If only I believed him….

    • Build a Better Bermuda says:

      Yeah, that kind of flew in the face of his barrage of attacks on the OBA failures to have fixed all the problems the PLP left behind… course he leaves out that all the ‘failures’ the OBA are trying to address, were inherited from the PLP.

  5. Val says:

    ‘Vision 2025′ is if memory serves me correct, Burts 10 year plan to turn the economy around. Not only does he not really have a plan, but if it is already 2016, and the PLP won’t be government until earliest 2017, would this vision not be 2026, or 2027 instead of Vision 2025? Even if it was first brought up last year (2015)? Things like this may seem minor but highlight the lack of competence and foresight that are needed in both a Premier and Finance Minister.

    • hmmm says:

      Burt Maths where 8 = 10 and 10 equals 7

      • Build a Better Bermuda says:

        Don’t forget that Bermudians would see over 1$b from the airport. Burt mathematics only work when you look at less than half the equation.

  6. Swing Voter says:

    How will you attract $$$$$$ to the island. the last time you were king, the $$$$$$$ was flowing out, nothing in. Its all about influence, not strikes, jobs for the boys, and contracts for your friends

  7. wahoo says:

    This is sooo bad, sorry but really? Putting this guy in charge would be like riding your bike down the yellow line with your eyes closed.

  8. Hmmm says:

    Haven’t I seen most of these ideas before? Oh yes, Bean delivered the same ideas last year, which Burt has just repeated minus the gaming and anti-corruption parts.

  9. hmmm says:

    Internet Incubator sites has already been done. I don’t know quite why anyone would want to set up next to an airport in shared space vs where they are today.

  10. Derek W says:

    I need a Swizzle

  11. Build a Better Bermuda says:

    Remind me again, maybe I’m missing something, but shouldn’t the reply to the throne speech be an actual reply to the throne speech. Every year, all we seem to get is a propaganda message, how can they be considered an effective opposition if they can’t even offer a reply to the throne when they are supposed to. It’s there responsibility in the house, not waste time making political speeches on taxpayer time.

  12. James H says:

    Why doesn’t he just say “let’s make Bermuda great again”. Or “we’ll build a wall”. “We’ll end Isis” would be similarly unbelievable.

  13. Suffrin likah boa constrictah says:

    Our pensions are not a tool for your disposal!
    You do not dispose our money…you need to walk the plank in shark infested waters….