Column: MP Dunkley On ‘Throne Speech Lite’

November 19, 2018

[Opinion column written by Michael Dunkley]

The first Throne Speech of this Progressive Labour Party government, which was delivered in September 2017, made many promises and, while many items have been addressed, much remains to be done in spite of one Minister at the time, who was fired or resigned and recently returned to Cabinet, saying: “Everything in this Throne Speech will be completed in the year.” Yes, this was an exact quote.

The Minister is known for bold and unsubstantiated statements, however the boldest statement of the last Throne Speech was this – ‘The Government’s plans will grow the economy.’

In 14 months we have seen few signs that the economy has grown, in fact, crucial economic indicators, such as retail sales, show the reverse is taking place…the economy is shrinking.

Jobs for Bermudians are scarce but one thing that has grown is the size of the Cabinet and associated expense to the taxpayer. The Premier does not wish to talk about this but many Bermudians find it incredulous that there are two Ministers drawing a nice paycheck of $150,000.00 per year with little Ministerial responsibilities and few staff, if any, to help them do whatever they might have to do.

Some would be green with envy! Many question the justification.

While the PLP will attempt to spin that progress is being made, the man in the street, the people who elected the PLP, certainly do not see the progress or feel better about where they are this year as compared to summer of 2017. Yet the Premier, for whatever reasons, feels it appropriate to have a Minister without Portfolio and a Minister in the Cabinet Office to support a Premier who is no longer the Minister of Finance.

As the Throne Speech has been delivered it is wise that we look at what has not been done from last year, as the Government is keen to tout progress, it is important also to note what was promised but not delivered; so here is my list:

  • There has been no financial assistance reform, which the government call “a displaced item”.
  • No update of pension legislation. Another displaced item.
  • No word on the commitment or an update regarding the Washington DC office however, talk about interns at Bermuda offices overseas in 3 locations!
  • No progress on a commitment for a Bermuda Event Authority, a displaced item from last year. Yet the PLP continually bash the event that highlighted the success of an event Authority conceived by the OBA.
  • There has been little public update on much needed immigration reform but a Minister has been removed and in this Throne Speech we read a call for “mature debate on reforming and progressing immigration…” let’s hope it is not like when the PLP had protesters close down the first meeting on immigration reform at the Anglican Cathedral Hall! However, the Government talks about a “streamlined immigration reform for those that are good corporate citizens”…well what does this say about efficiency and best practice?
  • Where is the Police Authority? A displaced item.
  • Where are amendments to the Police Complaints Authority?
  • There has been no progress on health care costs, in fact health costs have risen under the PLP and we have seen a $1.2 million payout to a private health firm owned by a former PLP Leader and Premier.
  • Where is the Code of Conduct for Parliamentarians? We still have at least one member who has not filed in the Register of Members Interest.
  • Where are the 3 Oversight Committees of Parliament?
  • Where is the Green Paper on the future of transport in Bermuda?
  • Where is mandatory recycling ? In this Throne Speech there is a charge on single plastics in 2020 but why wait for change? How about starting in April 2019 with a charge on certain plastics and all take out food packaging? How about putting in place a mandatory recycling system that is run by a private company with a tender put out to bid?

I could go on as there are many commitments that remain outstanding and likewise there is much to be done to deal with the many challenges Bermuda faces.

However, I have clearly highlighted that the Burt Government has failed on many promises from Throne Speech 2017 and have delivered Throne Speech 2018 — or Throne Speech Lite as dubbed by the Leader of the Opposition — that is two pages shorter and written in larger print.

While it appears evident that the economy has turned in the wrong direction under the guidance of the PLP, it is also clear that education still has big challenges and both principles and teachers are not happy; health care costs have risen under the PLP and we know of the aforementioned $1.2m payout without accountability and transparency; the struggle of seniors is increasing; putting Bermudians first has not equated to job opportunities for anyone other than a select few in Cabinet; public transportation issues have deepened under the PLP; once a week trash collection seems to have bread a public health hazard with rats running all over the island.

Not a pretty picture and not a good record for the PLP Government.

Still painting the picture, it seems that the only capital projects supporting the island started under the OBA Government and at the time the PLP went to great lengths to impede progress or even stop the project. The PLP touts 322 more people working however it appears the only jobs created have been as a direct result of the OBA leadership at the St. Regis project and at the airport redevelopment.

Mr. and Mrs. Bermuda should not be fooled again by PLP rhetoric; the “big bad OBA” was in fact making our island home a better place and all the issues some people blamed the OBA for are in fact still on the table and in most cases in worse shape. I repeat, the “big bad OBA” as falsely appointed by the PLP, made great progress under difficult conditions and many manufactured Opposition headwinds.

But, the PLP did pass a Sugar Tax. A regressive tax, poorly thought out, badly targeted and leaving out many sugar filled foods, lacking real consultation, that will harm business and jobs, especially small black Bermudian businesses while not having the intended consequences of reduced obesity and a healthier population. I guess they wish to take credit for a platform item delivered!

Meanwhile the fridge in the House of Assembly kitchen is still full of soda!

Perhaps you will recall the PLP in Opposition talked continuously about emigration; people leaving Bermuda. Now there is little comment from the PLP on this matter, but emigration appears to show more people leaving the island than ever; because they can, because there is a lack of opportunity here and because there is a lack of confidence in the future by many Bermudians.

Recently I was approached by a young teenage Bermudian lady looking for a job and she wanted to work to earn and to get off the island as she did not see a future at this point for herself here and the environment was too toxic.

I believe this view is shared by many young people, it is shared by more and more seniors who find it hard to survive on the island and it is a sentiment that is growing in our community and one that will not help Bermuda going forward.

Over the last year many wonder if the PLP have forgotten about putting Bermudians first. This PLP Government is becoming known for higher taxes and more regulation which is not conducive to fostering confidence or an environment for opportunity, growth and jobs.

So in conclusion, here are some suggestions for the Government:

  • stop sowing division; all people are important and count.
  • create an Education Authority similar to the successful Bermuda Tourism Authority. Let’s take politics out of education and put accountability back into education. Let’s have qualified professionals run education and hold them accountable. Our current setup is top heavy and ineffective. It is not the system we teach, it is the structure of organization we have in place.
  • Make financial assistance reform happen. One change could be that if a recipient of FA can find a job, even a part time job, empowering them to take the job but only lose a corresponding part of their monthly FA payment.
  • If we are serious about our environment we should quickly draft a plan for mandatory recycling run by a private company with a bid seeking tenders. The taxpayer paid for a recycling facility a few years ago and we have gone backwards.
  • We must continue to build and revamp the tourism infrastructure. The OBA had success and it must continue as we need more beds, more quality product, more great experiences and to create more opportunity and jobs for Bermudians. Building on the tourism success started under the OBA does not consist of more Government control of the BTA.
  • We must move gaming forward, to date under the PLP there has been no visible progress. Heck there has been no executive officer for over a year and gaming regulations have just been laid.
  • We must make amendments to Rent Control and look at the housing market as with the introduction of Airbnb, which I support, we have a lack of rentals for Bermudians and the rental costs have increased greatly meaning Bermudians are being seriously challenged.
  • We must actually have immigration reform including for those who have been in Bermuda for years, who are part of our community and have raised families here. We must also look to grow our population in an appropriate way as, now with Bermudians leaving and the birth rate lower, our population will slowly continue to fall. This is unsustainable in many areas and must change. We must have more people contributing to our economy which in turn allows opportunity. Opportunity for Bermudians! Time is not on our side and in the world of 2018 and beyond people can travel and live anywhere. Bitcoin is not a third pillar and we better be sure we prop up and always pay attention to our first pillar, International Business, and our second pillar, Tourism, or we will magnify our problems.
  • We must be serious about government reform. The SAGE Commision and the COI submission into the Auditor Generals report have provided a clear blueprint of many potential changes. Under this Government reform appears to have been put on the back shelf when there is much work to be done. While we are blessed with many very capable and hard working civil servants, it is clear our current system can be improved and it was a high priority of the OBA Government. An effective government system is not possible without 21st century reform.
  • The PLP Government should discontinue costly court action fighting same sex marriage and human rights. In my humble opinion the government has no chance of winning and is wasting taxpayer dollars while the world changes.

- Michael Dunkley is the former Premier and current MP for Smith’s North


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Comments (25)

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  1. watching says:

    Umm, so the Leader Cannonier issues his Throne Speech reply, and now the other Leader Dunkley issues his Throne Speech reply. Will the real OBA leader stand up? This is getting tiresome.
    “I’m the leader!”
    “No, I’m the leader!”
    Mr. Dunkley, please take a seat. Your failure to realize your political time is over is getting a bit embarrassing.

    • chart says:

      Actually – his points are all pretty valid.

      • watching says:

        He should then let his leader articulate them!

        • chart says:

          Is that how your feel about Famous as well?

        • kevin says:

          Actually all 60,000 of us should be screaming this out the plp cant fix this ……simple

        • Infidelguy says:

          And who are you to determine that? The last time I checked, everyone in this country has a right to express their own thoughts, even if they are as dumb as the yours.

      • Symonds says:

        If his points are all pretty valid, he should have been productive when he was the premier in regards to these points. A lot of I should have or should have talk is always after the affect. Dunkley just can’t believe he isn’t on the stage anymore!!!!

    • 2 Bermudas says:

      Stand strong MP Dunkley, the titty milk drinkers will be out in full force attacking the messenger. Meanwhile Dr. Brown is sipping champagne after receiving $1.2m and Mr and Mrs Bermuda are paying the bill!! But carry on Pee El Pee!! Take us to Wakanda!! Ha ha ha!!

  2. J Austen says:

    I think he honestly believes he’ll be Premier again. His points are perfectly valid and shared by thousands of other Bermudians, especially better off ones. But a guy who is a proven vote loser, has led two parties to electoral disaster in general elections, is not the guy to be spreading the message. There are far more effective communicators out there with a lot less baggage. Mr. Dunkley, time to hang em up.

    Too many chiefs.
    Small wonder they aren’t the leaders anymore.
    After Shaun Crockwell, their direction was lost anyway. Bermudians stood firm in ousting the oba.
    Super happy that they are removed.
    Looks like they will be scrambling for decades.
    Poor leadership from Dunkley and Cannonier had oba spinning around, DIRECTIONLESS!!
    Pitiful, actually!!

    • Anbu says:

      And the plp have a direction alright…… sending every citizen beaides themselves to the poor house. U legit cannot see that? Cant make this crap up can we? U are “super happy” that they are out and your taxes have gone up. This here says it all folks. King of the ashes mentality at its finest. Carry on. Lol

  4. Anachronism Walking says:

    Sort of like Ross Perot and his “You people,” comment, delivered with absolute sincerity and ignorance. Perhaps Mr. Dunkley could rephrase that to ‘small Bermudian businesses’ before he becomes a total anachronism…

    “But, the PLP did pass a Sugar Tax. A regressive tax, poorly thought out, badly targeted and leaving out many sugar filled foods, lacking real consultation, that will harm business and jobs, especially small black Bermudian businesses while not having the intended consequences of reduced obesity and a healthier population. I guess they wish to take credit for a platform item delivered!”

  5. watching says:

    “much remains to be done in spite of one Minister at the time, who was fired or resigned and recently returned to Cabinet”

    any and every time Dunkley refers to this, people should remember he was the one who brought Craig cannonier back into the cabinet after he resigned due to Jetgate. Dunkley’s judgment is questionable.

    • question says:

      So bringing Roban and Furbert back into the cabinet after their resignations would be a questionable decision then, according to your criteria. Burt’s judgment, according to your analysis, must be questionable.

  6. mixitup says:

    And they shrugged us off when we said OBA/UBP.. I swore the reply to the throne was made….Have we revived the UBP? (Not that it ever went anywhere)…

    Maybe we need to spell it out……Mr. Dunkley, people are over you, do you not get it? Everytime you surface there is an uptick in the sale of Pepto Bismol.

    • Question says:

      So when is the PLP getting rid of the ex-UBP old guard among its MPs?

    • Blankerchief says:

      The UBP has gone somewhere, it’s in the PLP.

      • REAL TALK says:

        Yes and we enjoyed the 25 to 11 beating we gave you by taking back the voters. You should place more thought into trying to discover why so many black Bermudians departed from the UBP MPs & Voters……………. or do you like being the opposition for the next 20 plus years with Jet Gate Premier as your only choice of a leader. LMAO

    • 2 Bermudas says:

      Ya ya, what about ya mate Ewart Brown? He shows his face and gets $1.2m – that’s a lot of titty milk!! Ha ha ha!!

  7. Joseph says:

    Michael Dunkley is maligned for bringing back Cannonier butPLP leader Cox brought back Raban after the the Planning drama of him Desilva and Furbert


  8. rodney smith says:

    Pray for Craig. Michael is back and won’t leave the stage . He had a great chance to make all these changes that he has just suggested . So what happened ? The OBA won’t press flesh with everyday Bermudians . Case in point . Michael stood afar off when the statement was read to end the strike .2016 .He agreed to it , he signed it , BUT NEVER KNOWN IT . Stop attacking the PLP . 2017 says that the majority of Bermudians support them .Where are the plans , goals , ideas , and vision of the OBA ? This is what Bermuda wants to see . Pray for Craig .

    • RIP oba/UBP says:

      Mr. Smith you speak the truth so many times. Sour Milk Man is the very reason why the People stopped voting oba/UBP. He really thinks he helping the OBA but he’s only hurting Craig’s progress. It’s almost like he believes he will be Premier again.

      One thing that is true it shows that Craig and the rest of the oba are trying to distance themselves from this disgrace of a X Premier.

    • Anbu says:

      They tried to give it to u and u shouted them down stupid! Why is the plp comstantly asking the oba what Their plans are?! Bie stop it!! The oba WILL NOT tell u how to do it this time. Figure it out yourselves if u even can. I hope u do or we are all truly screwed. Plp is gov now. Get on with it. Stop asking how its done. You should know as your supporters seem to think you do. Lets have it.

      • Aw says:

        And we are doing it! Making sure that the 40 Thieves which includes the Milkman are kept at arms length from us hard working people! Our time to play!