Starling: A Critique Of The OBA’s Throne Speech

November 9, 2013

[Opinion column written by Jonathan Starling] There are actually quite a few policies within this Throne Speech that, on the face of it, I support and I’m excited to see going forward.

Indeed, there are some policies in there which I explicitly advocated in my 2012 election platform or in my SAGE submission, so I’m glad to see them going forward. I look forward to learning more about the specific details of these policies however.

Specifically, I’m happy to see movement towards decriminalisation of marijuana, the abolition of conscription (although I’m concerned about how they intend to maintain our post-hurricane abilities), the National Gender Policy, the National Agriculture Strategy, moves to encourage renewable energy uptake, an LED street lighting pilot project

Nonetheless, I also feel that the OBA has not put forward as ambitious a Throne Speech as I think they could have.

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Cost of Living

While any moves to reduce the cost of living for our people is welcome, it remains to be seen how the exact proposed mechanism of the 10% discount on groceries at most supermarkets on Wednesdays will work, and whether a more appropriate policy could have been implemented.

Specifically, the introduction of a junk-food tax, with subsequent subsidisation of ‘healthy’ foods, could help reduce food costs and increase diets overall, leading to longer-term cost savings for healthcare – as well as having other potential benefits, such as increased productivity.

In these hard times the importance of instituting a statutory minimum and living wage is underlined. This will help reduce the unfair exploitation of labour and lead to long-term increases in productivity and social equality.

Seniors & Differently Abled

The increased focus on the plight of seniors and differently abled is welcome. What would have been more welcome is increased funding and commitment to helping seniors and differently abled residents to modify their homes to facilitate greater independent living. Similarly, funding and policies to retrofit the built environment to increase accessibility for all, ending the on-going system of segregation that pervades our society.

Furthermore, our public transport system continues to fail to accommodate adequately for seniors and the differently abled, condemning too many of our people to social isolation and barriers to productive employment.

There is also a need to provide carers legislation to empower and support both the paid and unpaid carers who are all too often the unsung heroes of our community.

Environment & Planning

I am disappointed that no moves have been made to amend planning legislation, specifically to make both environmental and equality impact assessments mandatory for all developments and plans (be they national plans, municipal plans, local area plans or transport plans). There is also a need to critically review our existing land-use zonings, with an emphasis on developing mixed-neighbourhoods (including affordable housing), rather than maintaining a zoning system based on our segregation era.

While I certainly welcome the moves to better control invasives, I would also have liked to see incentives to encourage the planting and protection of native and endemic species. I am also disappointed to see no mention of moves to ecologically restore the Pembroke Dump site, which would produce a valuable ecological and community amenity in one of our all too deprived areas.

Crime & Punishment

I welcome the move to decriminalise marijuana. I am disappointed that there are no initiatives mentioned to deal with the scourge of heroin and cocaine that continues to cause problems in our society.

I welcome the review of the Criminal Code, but I hope this review is focused on transforming our justice system to one based on a restorative justice ethic rather than a retributive ethic.

While I welcome the relaxation of liquor sales on Sundays, I feel they could have done more to encourage more responsible alcohol consumption in Bermuda.

Specifically, the government could have reduced the blood-alcohol limit to 50 milligrams per 100 millilitres of blood (it is currently 80 milligrams), legislate mandatory ignition interlock devices for all drivers convicted of DUI, provide incentives to all drivers to install ignition interlock devices, and expand the public transportation system to reduce the temptation to drunk driving.


I welcome the OBA’s commitment to holding a referendum concerning gambling, although I wonder if they have left enough time to fully consult and inform the people of the options available in relation to gambling.

I remain opposed to gambling, as I believe it brings more negatives to our society than what few positives it may bring in the way of jobs and income. Nonetheless, I believe it is important that we have an informed and inclusive discussion and that the vote be transparent and fully democratic – the referendum option seems ideal for those purposes.

Bermudian Status

I welcome the move to ‘provide pathways to status for persons born in Bermuda or persons who have been adopted by Bermudian parents’. This is the right thing to do. I think it is also necessary to take it a step further and ‘provide pathways to status’ for all PRCers.

Questions & Political Reform

I look forward to learning more about the proposed ‘Good Samaritan Act’. Its purpose ‘to provide legal protection to those who donate food to people in need’ seems, curious.

The move to institute absentee balloting and to extend the days for advanced polling is welcome. I would have liked to have seen also a commitment in this Throne Speech to also institute fixed-term elections, as was in both my own and the OBA’s election platform. I would also like to see a green paper on campaign financing to improve the transparency of our political system and reduce the risk of corruption.

One of the biggest surprises of this Throne Speech is that once again there is no commitment to moving ahead with PATI. The OBA, in their platform, committed to moving ahead with this in their first legislative session. They didn’t. And if this Throne Speech is anything to go by, they’re not moving ahead with it in their second legislative session. One is left questioning why this was neglected once again.

- Jonathan Starling has degrees in Ecological Economics and Urban and Regional Planning, and is well known in the online community through his Catch-A-Fire blog, which he has maintained since 2007. He ran as Independent candidate in C#20 Pembroke South West in the 2012 General Election.

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Comments (44)

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  1. godson says:

    There was no mention of our young people And how we are going to distract them away from a life of crime. One example would be the upgrading of our community centres, community clubs/programs, and the use of some of our direlect bldgs for social programs. While the intellectual population is focusing on how much $$$ we bring into Bda, many of our young people are falling through the cracks. Our reputation as a safe, people-friendly island is what drew tourist and IB to Bermuda in the first place, now we have robberies, break-ins, anger and violence that has creeped into the minds of our young people, who will be the leaders of our island in the future…..
    as long as we keep focusing on trying to capture the attention of the rich (the have’s), the poor (have nots) are getting poorer and impatient…..peace

    • Reas0n says:

      Exactly. And decriminalization of Marijuana actually will deter the rich and hinder the youth. Just a thought.

    • jt says:

      The “intelluectual community’s” focus on bringing money to Bermuda can pay for the things you are asking for. At the moment there is no money for any governement to utilize.
      I like your ideas, but frankly I think that problems need to be dealt with first at the family level and second at a community level. Governments, social workers, social programs, teachers etc. can provide helpful, second line support, but in the absence of effective parenting and family guidance they are largely ineffective measures.

      • godson says:

        TBH..I don’t believe that there is NO money in the Gov’t accounts..We spend hundreds of thousands of dollars promoting Bda to outside influences, hire consultants at the drop of a dime and take trips to all parts of the world. I believe there is money to spend on what we want to spend $ on…Finance Minister Richards burrowed millions of dollars to supposedly keep us afloat…how do we take from peter to pay paul…trust and belive that we have access to the funding that we need if we really want it…Its called politircks- peace

        • Hmmmmm says:

          Yes the Govt gets income….
          Yes the government has expenses

          Yes the expenses are much more than the income
          Yes the government borrowed money to cover the shortfall over the next number of years.

          The PLP Spent Spent spent creating this need to borrow JUST to pay expenses….

          The foolish thing would be to continue that because borrowing is getting more expensive interest expenses are going to put us under if we continue to do that.

          That is reality.

          It’s like working for nothing as all your earnings go to pay someone else, then having to borrow more from that same someone else to live and then having to pay them more for the priviledge of doing so.

        • jt says:

          Any money saved will have to pay the debt. Money for the items you speak of has to come though increasing revenue….and there is truth to the saying you have to spend money to make money.

          • godson says:

            Honestly, can we keep saying that the PLP put us into this financial chaos..My belief is that 1 man (the Dr.) Was hell bent on “looking good”, and spent his way (via public funds) into history. OUR EXPENSIVE CAPITAL PROJECTS (eg. Berkeley, court Bldg, the wharf) coupled with the worldwide recession is what put us in this position (financial discomfort).Prior to the Dr’s reign, Alex Scott and Dame Smith were not spending out of control, so let’s stop playing political football. The Dr. Was a very intelligent man who wanted Bermuda to be a financial capital of the world, and that is very similar to the idea that our current gov’t have. Please, let’s put some of that promotional money into upgrading our youth/social programs, so we can create more AMBASSADORS, not intellectuals for Bermuda, then we can all feel as if we are on the same level… That’s how we got to the point of being successful, everyone was an Ambassador!! Trying to impress the have’s, so they can feed the poor doesn’t work…just ask the Dr..I repeat, the poor will get impatient and violent, then the have’s will not want to be in Bermuda…Peace

            • Sandy Bottom says:

              I think a lot of people would agree with this. The PLP recklessness didn’t happen until EB was PM and Cox was Finance Minister. But the 7 or 8 years after that absolutely destroyed our financial position.

              • Come Correct says:

                I agree to that but I don’t agree that the Dr. Wanted Bermuda to b a a financial capitol. He had scores to settle, remember? He didn’t care about us, only about payback. I do agree he was very, very smart, and dangerous too. I believe he could have put this island in a really strong place despite the recession, he just chose not to. The sad part is, those that supported him now suffer too.

                back to the topic, well done Mr Starling. He did not attack the oba and simply shared his constructive opinion. Some of it may not be feasible at the moment or even at all but at least he’s putting ideas out there without attacking anyone. This is a step to the progression of our island and I don’t feel like I wasted my time reading it, unlike some other opinion columns, good job.

            • Family Man says:

              What a joke.

              “put some of that promotional money into upgrading our youth/social programs, so we can create more AMBASSADORS, not intellectuals for Bermuda,”

              That’s Bermuda’s problem in a nutshell. Too many people just don’t take education seriously. Having helped out in a few of Bermuda’s public schools I can tell you for a fact that Bermuda is NOT creating too many intellectuals. The teachers just want to get through the day. The good ones have learned that it just doesn’t pay to insist on high standards and the students quickly learn that not much is expected of them. Most of them will barely exert themselves to reach those low standards. Then they wonder why they can’t get a job. But, yeah, now you can call them “Ambassadors” just don’t ask them to spell it.

            • Hmmm says:

              They all towed th party line, they were all in on it.
              They all could have stopped it, but none did. PLP, They are all WEAK or all benefitted from it…Sorry but the whole party are to blame.

            • jt says:

              I dind’t see or hear a single member of the PLP standing up to him. The party is responsible.

    • swing voter says:

      young people fall through the cracks because of dis functional families my children are successful because they were watched, encouraged, tutored, corrected, guided, instructed and rewarded by their parents….both parents.

    • Hmmmmm says:

      Get organized as parents and start things. If kids see their biggest role models putting in the time to organize training, events, activities, clubs, groups for the kids, then the kids will prosper.

      This is where you can have the biggest impact on your kids lives. Don’t wait for someone else to do it. Get up and do it yourselves.
      You need some organization and activity and people willing to put in some time.

      Even if you don’t do it yourselves, there are plenty of other activities for kids already organized, Tennis, squash, Mountain biking, running races, swinm clubs, football clubs, cricket clubs, martial arts, art based activities, triathalons, sailing, softball, theatre and Baseball, basketball and more.

      • Sandy Bottom says:

        Actually, for this reason it’s a pity to see the problems at Sandys 360.

    • Betty Trump says:

      Very insightful Mr Starling, and good read. I too share some of your same concerns. I was expecting a more aggressive agenda in this Throne Speech as well. It is interesting that PATI was not addressed as well. Keep it up and I look forward to reading more of your thoughts.

      • Supergood says:

        Yes but yours isn’t constructive criticism Betty. As ever your agenda is pro-PLP, rather than progress.

        • Question says:

          This is just down right stupid. B Trump gives Mr. Starling a compliment and YOU STILL ATTACK!?!

          You people are so damn toxic – and completely useless!!

          Think before you post such crap.


  2. O'Brien says:

    “it remains to be seen how the exact proposed mechanism of the 10% discount on groceries at most supermarkets on Wednesdays will work, and whether a more appropriate policy could have been implemented.”

    It’s simple – you shop at Lindos, Marketplace or Supermart on Wednesdays, you get 10% off. What’s so hard to understand?

    • jt says:


      Define “more appropriate”.

      • Family Man says:

        For Comrade Starling, ‘more appropriate’ would be state controlled pricing.

    • media says:

      Just like it is now with 5% off on Wednesdays. As of December it will be 10% off with cash.

    • Betty Trump says:

      Not too much of a great discount, as BELCO is still very high, and folks are still struggling. Is it a REAL enough discount to make a significant difference? A small step forward maybe !!

      • Ringmaster says:


        Please list each initiative that the PLP implemented in their 14 years in power that reduced the cost of living.

      • Tee hee says:

        It’s simple. If people can’t afford electricity, they don’t get any. Welcome to the real world.

    • Rhonda Neil says:

      What is this policy stops the Grocers from raising prices prior to Wednesday…

      I had an experience, where I purchased an item one week for $5.00, the next week it was on sale for $5.70. with a tag save 70 cents…. when I brought it to the attention of the store Manager…. I was told the new shipment was $1.40 more, so it was indeed a 70 cents discount…

      you decided….

      • Derek A. G. Jones says:

        @ Rhonda Neil, what was the specific item you purchased? As someone who supplies food products to Bermuda I can attest that prices will fluctuate on a regular basis for a variety of reasons, especially when it comes to perishables. I seriously doubt grocery stores would spend any time and effort trying to go around their stores raising prices one day just to discount it the next. If it were the case it would have been figured out a very long time ago.

  3. Dreadlocks says:

    Is this guy dreaming or what?he constantly attacks the OBA,who are going to ban conscription,possibly decriminalize Mary Jane and bring forward more legislation which his PLP did not do.
    Congrats to the OBA who are taking on unpopular but vital issues,as they try to make Bermuda a wonderful place for all.
    Hopefully all of Bermuda see the good the OBA are doing,out of a hopeless position they were left in!

    • Concerned Citizen says:

      Cookie dread talk my friend! Dutty dread nonsense

  4. Voter says:

    I voted for the PLP in 1998,never again!

  5. Another thief says:

    This critique is simply taking realistic OBA ideas and making them more expensive – the money has been spent.

  6. Hmmmmm says:

    “legislate mandatory ignition interlock devices for all drivers convicted of DUI, provide incentives to all drivers to install ignition interlock devices.”

    Wouldn’t that be discrimination and in breach of the Human Rights act?

    You are a dangerous mind.

    People can circumvent those things very easily, they are not a deterrant.

  7. Concerned Citizen says:

    So you are all for granting status hey starling? Smh! Left wingers ate crazy

  8. Lebron says:

    Fully agree JS that being born here doesn’t go far enough, minors who have lived here for most of their lives (a colleague has a son who is 16 and moved here aged 9 months) should also be included.

    Expats are leaving more than they are coming, and so are Bermudian jobs.

  9. S Smith says:

    I love how people take “consultation paper on marijuana” to be that they will actually decriminalise. They made no such promise.

    As for gaming. They said they would do it last summer. Find it hard that Starling would “welcome” that move without mentioning this is the same promise that was made in February and not kept.

  10. GOD1ST says:

    @ Concerned Citizen Why?

    Cookie dread talk my friend! Dutty dread nonsense

  11. bluebird says:

    Comrade starling forgets the SHARED sacrifice,let us not forget the SHARED sacrifice.Goverment borrows $300million dollars per year and shares it between the Civil Service and we the people SHARE THE DEBT.
    Now that is shared sacrifice.

  12. Victor says:

    A Graeme Outerbridge in the making…

  13. Alvin Williams says:

    Dr.Browne keeps on getting the statement ‘a score to settle’ hung around his
    neck. I hope his up coming book puts that statement in it’s proper contexts just like the one hung that was hung around the neck of the late Dame Lois Browne Evans; ‘fornicating in the bush’ a statement made by herself which was put in it’s proper contexts in her autobiography ‘Lois: Bermuda’s Grande Dame of Politics’ written by Randolf Williams. For those who want to take Dr.Browne’s statement literally than I will add myself to
    his sentiment; for this country did not give me or my generation reason to have a great love for it during the time we grew up in. Where it was clear that the powers that be in a political situation where a white minority was bound and determine to keep political and economic power to
    it’s self at the expanse of Bermuda’s black majority. That also manifest itself when this country refused to use the full potential of it’s people and insisted in continuing bringing in foreign residents and putting them above the native Bermudian population who happen to be Bermuda’s black majority. Is it any wonder that we would still remember those time especially when we had to mount a civil and human rights struggle to both liberate ourselves and Bermuda from that state of affairs. It is therefore no surprise when I see the return of such sentiments in this current government that I would call it;’Anti-Bermudian and consider that a score is yet to be settle.

    • Mike Hind says:

      Yes. We know you would call them that. You do so every chance you get, even if you have to talk complete, off-topic nonsense to do so.

      What you haven’t done, however, is said why, leading many people to believe that you are simply slinging mud because you’re mad that your party didn’t win the election.

      • Ya got me Rollin says:

        Lay down Mike. You know absolutely nothing off which this man speaks . That’s why you can simply ignore the substance if his contributions with you first generation Bermudian arrogance. Fall Back Mike .

    • jt says:

      Proper context or another context? Writing your own book makes sure your position is read as you wish it to be.

  14. Winner says:

    Keep plugging OBA,the people like what your doing .

  15. Legal Eagle says:

    I agree with JS that the time for granting PRCs Status is long overdue–in particular PRCs of Bermudian children! Failure to do so both contravenes International Legal Conventions on Citizenship–but has lead to PRCs leaving BDA–resulting in the brain drain of educated BDN children-AND the LOSS of their BDA based $$–+local spending- as BDA economically loses due to it’s dwindling poulation! Granting parental PRCs Status is actually to BDA’s benefit!