Column: I’m An Airport Convert & Here’s Why

January 30, 2017

[Opinion column written by OBA MP Suzann Roberts-Holshouser]

Many people know that I was once a critic of the airport project.

I was resistant to the details of how this unique concept was going to work for Bermuda and how we were going to earn a return. I said as much to my colleagues in the One Bermuda Alliance.

But I’m not the kind of person who will let questions sit around unanswered. When you do that, your imagination tends to make it all worse than it really is. So I went to the man in charge, Finance Minister Bob Richards, and asked him to explain it to me, more than once.

I’m not going to tell you I came away from our conversations with a comprehensive understanding of it all, but I know enough now to feel comfortable in supporting the airport project wholeheartedly.

Like just about all Bermudians, I can see that something urgently needs to be done about the condition of the airport. Quite frankly, it’s a mess.

Holshouser Suzann TC Bermuda January 29 2017

So the question is, should we repair it or replace it?

Again, like just about everybody in this country, I know that things have a shelf life. Whether it’s a car, a boat or a facility like the airport, there comes a time when “patchwork” no longer is “cost effective” and as a taxpayer, I want to know that when money is spent, we are not putting good money on bad.

Our airport reached the stage of “no return” some years ago. The experts say so, and most important, the men and women who work there say so.

As the daughter of a man that made his living at the airport, who supported his wife and family of five, I am compelled to ask myself, would it be acceptable to want my father working in such an environment as the airport stands today?

This leads to the next question: Do those individuals who live in my constituency and who work at the airport not deserve to work in a healthy work environment as my father did? As a legislator, the answer is not difficult. It is my responsibility to do the best I can to work for them and to try to make their lives easier and better.

So I went to talk to them. I went around the airport with them. Listen, Bermuda, these individuals, our family members, friends, neighbours, work in conditions that you and I would do anything to avoid. Dampness, mould, constantly having to clean up one crisis after another and on some days the smell of sewage permeating in the air can be stifling. They deserve better, and the faster the better.

We delayed the opening of Parliament due to “mould” in a room that we sit in for only a fraction of a year in comparison to the hours spent 365 days a year for those working at the airport.

That, for me, is a key fact. We must do the right thing by those airport workers.

There are other things that helped change my mind. I understand the financing much better than I did. I was surprised to learn, for example, that when the airport operation begins to turn a profit, Bermuda shares in that profit.

Like others in the OBA, I have confidence that Bermuda’s tourism has turned a corner, and that although it may not be a straight line of growth [see, I’m learning the lingo!] as long as we continue to work together, it is going to generally trend upwards for the foreseeable future, so profit-sharing is a safe bet.

Here’s another big plus in my mind. The economic activity that is going to be generated, not just by the building of the airport, but by the operation and the maintenance of it in the future is going to benefit the East End of the Island, which has difficulty these days keeping up with the prosperity of the Central and Western Parishes.

My constituents, and the good citizens of the rest of the East End, are going to be able to find jobs in the construction of the new airport terminal. They’re going to be able to find jobs in the operation of the new facility. They’re going to be able to be trained in skills that aren’t now available in Bermuda. East End landlords are going to benefit. East End businesses are going to benefit. East End craftsmen are going to benefit.

In all, I believe this new airport terminal is going to benefit our country in a big way. The way it’s being financed is creative and guarantees that we’re going to be able to avoid the overruns and delays that have plagued big projects in Bermuda before. It is paid for by airport users, not taxpayers, and it has been endorsed by people who know what they’re talking about.

I trust that all Bermudians, like me, are going to make up their minds about the new airport in an open-minded way. It’s a project that has become very political, rather than a project that puts Bermuda and her people first.

Politics is not a good reason for us to turn our noses up at a project that ensures our friends, relatives and neighbours work in a healthy environment as my father did.

- Suzann Roberts-Holshouser

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Comments (14)

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  1. Say Whaat? says:

    Hmmm. First Jeff Sousa changes his mind about SSM and now this. How come you guys all change your mind at the last minute?

    I like MP Roberts-Holshouser, but this is suspect.

    • 32n64w says:

      Perhaps because they’re open to reviewing and digesting information and reaching an apolitical conclusion as opposed to certain opposition MPs who put the party’s interests ahead of the electorate and go out of their way to spread lies, disinformation and innuendo solely to advance a selfish agenda.

  2. watching says:

    Supporting a new airport is one thing, supporting this deal is another.
    Mrs. Holshouser hasn’t gone into any detail regarding the deal itself. All she seems to talk about is that we need a new airport.

  3. Dumb and dumber says:

    Election definitely coming. As it’s only when an Election draws near that people pen OpEds that are desperate and make absolutely no sense.

    After reading the MPs piece twice, I am yet to find any original or factual points that would change anyone’s mind, let alone even explain this in a clear manner.

    Please have Mr Henahulph re-write this using bullet points and facts to sell this $200,000,000 piece of fiction

  4. Pastor Syl says:

    At this stage, since no other body has come forward and offed to pay for the construction of a new airport, our choices are 1)continue to patch what we have and see how to afford to build later; 2) put the job out to tender and take out a loan to build,

  5. Pastor Syl says:

    Sorry it posted before i was finished
    Which would have negative consequences in a couple of areas. Because of the current state of our finances, our credit rating well be negatively impacted and we’d have to accept a higher rate of interest. Plus, every Bermudian will have to pay for the loan; or 3) go with the offer on the table which means not only will we not have to find the money up front, but the loan gefilte paid by the folks who use the services and amenities at the airport

  6. clearasmud says:

    I have to disagree with you when you say “So the question is, should we repair it or replace it?”
    I agree we need a new airport, however I dis agree that now is the time to do it. Additionally even if I accept that the PPP is the best way to finance it I am not convinced that the present deal represents value for money. So unless you are able to tell me that you have run the numbers, done comparisons of us building versus them building then your opinion is of no help to me.

  7. Justice says:

    How much more information on the deal would you like? This government has bent over backwards to impart information to the public! Couldn’t say that about the hospital project under the PLP ! In fact , pertinent info on that protect is STILL not privy to the public! Smdh!

  8. Pastor Syl says:

    Sorry it posted before i was finished
    Which would have negative consequences in a couple of areas. Because of the current state of our finances, our credit rating well be negatively impacted and we’d have to accept a higher rate of interest. Plus, every Bermudian will have to pay for the loan; or 3) go with the offer on the table which means not only will we not have to find the money up front, but the loan will be paid by the folks who use the services and amenities at the airport

  9. sage says:

    I again ask why the roof isn’t covered in photo-voltaic panels being as we are on the hook for the electricity bill ?

  10. ian says:

    Daft!!

  11. Jus' Askin' says:

    I would Love to know how old the members of the OBA are.
    How many of them will even be around in 30-35 years?
    At 60+, I am pretty sure the banks will not give You a mortgage for 30+ years ;-)
    Very easy to sign Bermuda up for something that these members will not be around to see to the end :-(
    I call on the children of the OBA members to speak up, as You will be on the hook for this like everyone else as well as Your children :-(

  12. What?? says:

    “when the airport operation begins to turn a profit, Bermuda shares in that profit.”

    The airport (when the departure tax is included) turns a profit now. It will turn a much larger profit for Aecon the minute the deal is signed since all the fees will increase, 70% of expenses will be retained by Government and 100% of revenue will go to Aecon. According to Aecon’s plan, $100 million of the construction costs will be paid for by profits from the current terminal over the 3 1/2 years of construction.

    The fact is Bermuda will only begin sharing profits after all equity investors have recovered their invests and all loans are paid off. Even then the share of profits is 50% of those profits in excess of the guaranteed return on investment to Aecon. So Bermuda will only receive a share when everything is paid for AND IF the airport the airport has an exceedingly profitable year.