September 2006 Archives

Ouch. UBP Leader Wayne Furbert hits back hard...very hard...and deservedly so, in response to the Deputy Premier's dishonest claims to the African Heritage Conference:

"The problem with this government is that it has lost its way. For them, it’s not about empowerment; it’s about enrichment. It’s about putting themselves first."

Enrichment not empowerment. Those 3 words sum it up so well.

"Dr. Brown’s inference that white Bermudians are blocking the Government from meeting the needs of black Bermudians is the worst form of scapegoating. It is a pathetic attempt to shift attention away from his Government’s principal responsibility to help people in need.

"It is important to remember that the PLP Government has been able to exercise total control of the Legislature for nearly eight years now. It has enjoyed the position, the means and the power to make serious progress in areas where people are hurting. But in that time we have been treated to words without meaning and actions without result."

Well done Wayne. Dr. Brown and his colleagues should be called out after his blatantly dishonest speech yesterday.

Full release below:

Statement by United Bermuda Party Leader, the Hon. Wayne Furbert, JP, MP.

It is the style and habit of the Progressive Labour Party Government to use words, slogans and false argument to deflect attention from its continuing failure to meet the needs of the people.

Deputy Premier Dr. Ewart Brown’s comment before the African Heritage Conference that a large segment of Bermuda regards efforts to empower blacks as “evil” is just the latest example.

Not only does his language divide people, but it also puts out a new twist on the Government’s strange and disappointing lack of will when it comes to meeting the needs of the people.

Dr. Brown’s inference that white Bermudians are blocking the Government from meeting the needs of black Bermudians is the worst form of scapegoating. It is a pathetic attempt to shift attention away from his Government’s principal responsibility to help people in need.

It is important to remember that the PLP Government has been able to exercise total control of the Legislature for nearly eight years now. It has enjoyed the position, the means and the power to make serious progress in areas where people are hurting. But in that time we have been treated to words without meaning and actions without result.

I challenge anyone outside the Government to explain in what way “The Social Agenda” empowers people. I challenge anyone to say that this Government really believes in Sustainable Development in the wake of the hospital decision. And what about “Bermuda Homes for People” that left dozens of Bermudians holding a raffle ticket instead of a key to a house?

The reality is that this Government has been more interested in serving its own needs than those of the people. One only needs to look at its record to see that it has no problem mobilizing its will and using its power when it comes to serving itself.

· Perhaps the best demonstration of the Government’s power to get what it wants took place this summer when it steamrolled through Parliament pay rises up to 80% for Ministers and Government MPs; at a time when seniors and single moms struggle to make ends meet.

· When PLP leaders came to power in 1998, the total travel budget for the government was $2 million. Today, it is over $12 million – that’s $1 million a month – a massive and indefensible increase that has virtually nothing to do actually helping people here at home.

· After eight years in power, Bermuda is still in a housing crisis. Yet this Government had no problem finding hundreds of thousands of dollars to renovate the now-sumptuous Laurels for its first Premier and $1.5 million on Clifton for the current Premier.

The reality is that any opposition this Government faces in implementing their plans is due not to the intent of the plans but to the poor planning and management of them.

The United Bermuda Party, for example, supported the Berkeley School project but we did not support the PLP’s inept management of its construction, which led to an astronomical cost overrun of at least $70 million. With better management, tens of millions of dollars of that overrun could have been used to meet housing needs, to help seniors, to hire new teachers…

The problem with this government is that it has lost its way. For them, it’s not about empowerment; it’s about enrichment. It’s about putting themselves first.

When the UBP in 2004/2005 put forward legislation designed to specifically help people who had been excluded from economic opportunities because of institutional racism, Government ministers and MPs dismissed it out of hand.

The proposed Bill, if it had passed, would have committed the Government to an extensive programme of empowerment for small businesses, including

* Allocating 20% of government spending on goods and services to small businesses – that’s $60 million that could be flowing to small businesses now.

* Training small businesses in bidding for Government contracts.

* Requiring businesses winning government contracts greater than $5 million to sponsor small businesses through a mentoring programme.

* Helping secure financing for small businesses with government contracts from local banks and other institutions.

The United Bermuda Party wants to solve problems. It wants unity in this country and we are prepared to do what it takes to empower people so that we can finally live our lives together moving forward.

This government has been a major disappointment. More and more Bermudians daily are waking up to the fact that they are being let down, taken for granted and played like a fiddle by PLP language that inflames but does not solve.

We need positive leadership. We need to build on what brings us together.

September 29, 2006

| More

Another perspective from a reader on Dr. Brown's comment to the African Heritage Conference where Dr. Brown said:

"In 2006 we are still forced as a government to defend policies that are aimed at empowering a majority of the population and made to consult with representatives of the minority to reverse years of economic injustice against the majority."

The reader says that it "Gives a warm fuzzy feeling on Doc's commitment to public consultation."

Which is a good point.

Even if the PLP had attempted to implement policies at empowering the majority (read black) population - which they haven't - defending proposed policies and consulting with 'representatives of the minority' (read the UBP) is part of the democratic process.

People who don't blindly follow Dr. Brown and the PLP (a growing number by the way) are such an annoyance aren't they?

The aspiring Premier's autocratic tendencies are showing through again.

| More

The howler of the day goes to Dr. Ewart Brown for his ridiculous speech to the African Heritage Conference:

"Ours is a curious nation...In 2006 we are still forced as a Government to defend policies that are aimed at empowering a majority of the population and made to consult with representatives of the minority to reverse years of economic injustice against the majority."

The truth of course is very different. In their 8 year term the PLP Government have neither implemented nor even tried to implement one policy or piece of legislation aimed at empowering the [black] majority. Not one. That's a fact.

Throwing contracts like the Berkeley one at your cronies doesn't count as a policy, and the Premier himself rejected the idea that it was given to Pro-Active on the basis of empowerment. He argued they were the best candidate.

I emailed Dr. Brown this morning asking him to point out one policy or piece of legislation that supports his statement. But he won't be able to. Because they don't exist.

In fact, the PLP rejected out of hand the UBP's draft Economic Empowerment Bill, with Finance Minister Paula Cox calling the Economic Empowerment Bill "a trifle patronising and condescending to small businesses."

It's a good thing that Dr. Brown was speaking to an audience who would have been largely ignorant of our local politics. His speech might have gone down well, but as usual, he's misleading people because he has to.

| More

It's reassuring to see that our National Cricket Team players have embraced their newfound professional athlete status so well that they're already in contractual disputes and boycotting training.

Covering themselves in tattoos and physically assaulting reporters and fans can't be too far away at this pace.

| More

Fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on your perspective, I stumbled into the 30 minute broadcast on ZBM this evening on the Sustainable Development.

Bermuda Sun columnist Tom Vesey (who has delivered some good blows lately against the Premier) was the host, and his guests were Premier Scott and the Chairperson of the Sustainable Development Roundtable Malcolm Butterfield.

Predictably, the hospital controversy took centre-stage, with Tom Vesey bringing it up early and the Premier himself repeatedly returning to the topic.

My overall summary would be that the Premier was doing his best impression of a duck: on the surface he was calm and composed but below was furiously backpaddling.

Tom Vesey's prepared questions were good, but his follow-up was severely lacking. The Premier's redirections and re-writing of history were constant, but Tom didn't go after them; he should have been much more aggressive in pointing out his inconsistencies and mis-representations with follow-ups.

The Premier's overall mission was without a doubt to give the impression that the idea of building on the Botanical Gardens had arisen from public consultation; and now, as a result of that consultation, Government was listening and may potentially adjust (perhaps lending credence to one of my readers trial balloon theory). A weirdly contradictory position but intended to position the Government as still being in listening mode and that everyone else was jumping the gun.

Which is - of course - total nonsense.

Mr. Butterfield also gave this impression when questioned on the Hospital plan, and said that (paraphrasing) "people are responding to public consultation". That's an odd comment from the Chair of the Sustainable Development Roundtable, which recently stated that it was 'deeply disturbed' over the hospital decision.

The Health Minister's press conference - hurriedly held after the Sun broke the story - wasn't suggesting that the Botanical Gardens be used, it was announcing that it would be used. Big difference.

The Premier said several times during tonight's show that Cabinet makes the final decision on issues after consultation, trying to give the impression that they had not yet made the decision on the hospital.

But it was the Health Minister herself, who speaks collectively for Cabinet on health issues (aka The Hospital), who several days after the annoucement resurfaced to advise the public to 'accept this decision' - aka 'get over it' - before (just 9 turmultuous days later) the Premier announced that Government might change course, but that we'd likely see the wisdom of the decision (evidently he got the message that people weren't going to get over it):

“We now invite the community to hear all the facts and figures that were given to the BHB.

“When this information has been presented to people they rethink the $100m more and the extra time and they seem to move to the position the BHB has taken.

“Let the folks have that information. As a country we may do something else. We may say that $100 million extra is warranted or not.

“The public may say that two or three years longer to build the hospital is warranted once all things are considered. This Government will listen.”

So the PLP's version of consultation is: make a decision, defend it as the best choice, realize no-one agrees, and then announce that meaningful consulation ("Let the folks have that information") will begin.

Moving on to other absurd statements by the Premier during tonight's broadcast, and there were many.

Mostly the Premier went to great lenghts to give the impression that Government was always listening and came up with this gem (again paraphrasing):

"People don't need to march and wave flags anymore. Government adjusts once the community gives its feedback"

Except with independence that is. And that's just one. There have been plenty of marches to get the Government to pay-attention.

The head of this Government which 'adjusts' refuses to commit to a referendum in the face of a 15,000 person petition calling for one, nor will he drop the whole independence initiative in the face of consistently massive opposition - opposition which has in fact grown during his ongoing and now multi-year campaign of disinformation.

Unfortunately Tom didn't press on that.

Perhaps the most annoying statement, for me at least, was this one from the Premier, addressing the issue of the current KEMH site being turned into green space (paraphrasing):

"Government can use legislative tools to ensure that the old KEMH site will have to be used for green space."

I'm stating the obvious here I know, but previous governments used legislative tools to protect parkland from development; it's known as the Parks Act and states that parkland cannot be developed on. This Government, the PLP Government, Alex Scott's Government, is prepared to remove the Botanical Gardens from the schedule of parks so that it can bypass the current legislative tool protecting greenspace.

Aaarrrgh. He is so disingenuous it drives me to distraction.

You can't be using legislative tools to destroy greenspace while claiming you'll put in place inviolatable legislative tools to protect greenspace. It's just not credible and it doesn't take a genius to see through that nonsense.

We don't need new 'legislative tools'. We've got enough legislative tools already, first among them the Premier himself.

What needs to happen is for Government to respect the current legislation and not target parkland for massive developments.

Finally, for tonight, the Premier ended his campaign of disinformation with the following statement about the next step in the Sustainable Development process (paraphrasing):

"The next step is for the public to sign on to the principles and concept of sustainable development."

The hospital controversy should make it clear that the public has embraced the concept, it's the PLP Government which has not.

| More

Followers of US politics, or those who enjoy watching political aspirations implode, will get a kick out of this. Presidential hopeful Senator George Allen, or maybe more accurately former Presidential hopeful Senator George Allen, has had a rough couple of months after he directed an obscure racial slur at an opposing campaign worker at one of his rallies. His excuse was even better: that he made up the word and had no idea it denoted a monkey. Talk about bad luck, huh.

This has led to a constant trickle of news articles suggesting he's - shall we say - not the most racially/ethnic/religiously sensitive person in the world, which have led to Slate magazine creating The George Allen Insult Generator.

It's safe to say that once one of these is created for a politicians, any presidential hopes previously held should be gone.

Bermuda needs one of these for Senator Burch. Unfortunately I lack the graphic design and programming skills to create it myself.

| More

Interesting article on the front page of the Royal Gazette today, with talk of Michael Dunkley switching seats to challenge Patrice Minors and John Barritt potentially taking on Glenn Blakeney in constituency 13.

The article has the air of breaking a big story with the "Dunkley versus Minors" headline, but this talk has been around for awhile. The John Barritt move has been rumoured in the press before, but the RG must be confident of at least Michael Dunkley's move to give it the lede.

Patrice Minors didn't work hard at the last election, and Michael works as hard as anyone out there. If the PLP sticks to the Botanical Gardens site for the hospital, it could be an added problem for the Health Minister, although it won't play as bad in Constituency 10 as others.

[Note: I am privy to no inside information here with respects to who is running where, just the usual rumours.]

Shaking things up would be a good thing; Michael and John are two of the UBP's most gifted and hard-working MP/candidates. The UBP needs to take some risks, get out of their comfort zones and let the big dogs loose in the right areas. Moving strong MPs around will shake the whole dynamic up.

Comments such as "It's all or nothing now" are what I like to hear. A little fire in the belly is a good thing for a group that has tended to be outwardly restrained and hasn't shown enough hunger to win.

| More

I won't be posting this week, but should be back by the weekend.

| More

A reader floats a theory on why the Botanical Gardens has been targeted for the new hospital:

I’ve been thinking a bit about the Botanical Gardens / BHB debacle and government’s insistence on destroying open land and have concluded that in the end they won’t do it and will instead redevelop the existing site. However, they deliberately floated this unsustainable trial balloon as a future escape clause for the inevitable miscalculation of costs (a la Berkeley) associated with what will undoubtedly be government’s most massive capital expenditure to date. In a roundabout way it will end up being a tacit admission of their inexperience and complete lack of financial planning (save of course when it comes to spending tax dollars on themselves).

I don’t disagree that a new hospital would be nice but our first investment should be in the doctors & nurses and all other primary care givers and related service providers rather than a fancy building which isn’t going to improve the patient experience as much as an informed, caring and excessively able staff will.

While I don't rule out - and hope for - an about face on this, everything I hear tells me that they're serious about building on parkland. But I don't entirely rule out what the reader suggests.

The grapevine holds that the Premier removed (she didn't resign) Neletha Butterfield from the Environment to Education in favour of Rubber Stamp Randy Horton after Ms. Butterfield rightly refused to sign off on the Botanical Gardens site.

I think the decision is largely driven by difficulty in figuring out how to finance the project after the corporate crowd reportedly gave Government the cold shoulder when they did the rounds with their hands out some months ago.

Mismanaging Berkeley was more than just a public relations problem (the rehabilitation of the Berkeley name has been in full swing with the school finally opening (click here, here and here); it had real repurcussions.

Our historically generous corporate donors aren't willing to throw their shareholders' money at fraud and mismanagement. And I don't blame them. The fallout will be a greater tax burden for you and me; higher taxes and/or borrowing it will be.

| More

Note to Premier Scott: Tropical Storm Helene has formed and is moving in our general direction:

"The long-range GFS model shows a more westerly track and an eventual threat to Bermuda late next week, and it is not out of the question that TD 8 could make it all the way to the U.S. However, the odds are against this."

It's a long way out I know, and track and intensity forecasts are extremely unreliable more than 3 days out, but you might want to start making contingency arrangements to return for this one, seeing as 4 or 5 days of warning about an almost direct hit from Florence didn't warrant interrupting your vacation.

| More

A reader provides an interesting (and insurancy/actuarially driven) analysis of the need...or lack thereof...for replacing the Causeway:

With the Hospital, I can at least see the need for work to be done to improve facilities. I don't know why anything non emergency in nature needs to be in a central parish - so why doesn't the St George's or Sandy's ends get consideration. Anyway, as I said I can see need for money to be spent on the hospital. What drives me insane is the plan to spend money on completely unnecessary projects - top of my gripe list is the idea to spend $60 million on the Causeway.

Assume the gvt can borrow for 5% (optimistic over the long term, but easy on the math - if we do this on budget (he, he!), the cost is equivalent to paying $3 million every year for the benefit of the improved Causeway.

As shown by Florence, in years with either no hurricane or a maximum of say Cat 1, there is negligible damage to the Causeway. This scenario probably accounts for (even assuming a ramp up in hurricane strikes) about 95% of years - i.e. I'm saying Fabian is a 1 in 20 year event rather than the historic 1 in 50+.

For Cat 2-5, Let's look at Fabian - Causeway out for about a week, and
slow for a couple of months. We now have fast ferries from the East end which alleviate most cost to average citizens, so the issue is contact with (1) the airport, and (2) the oil docks.

If the Causeway is majorly damaged, and takes time to be repaired, chances are the airport is the same (ref: Fabian), so the lost week won't matter since planes won't be flying in either! The oil docks is a bigger issue, but let's be pessimists, and assume the lost time is a
month, which costs the island in lost productivity, and some extra costs to get gas to the rest of the island in a different manner - I can't see the cost of creating a temporary barge system to get gas trucks over being more than say $250,000 per day, even if the current Gvt got Terrence Smith of BHC to run it! Add in a hefty $2.5 million to rebuild, and the cost of this 5% of cases equals $10 million.

Overall expected cost = 95% * $0 + 5% * $10 million = $500,000.

I don't want to pay at least 6 times the expected cost to build some new "solution".

While I appreciate Burch's activity, I regret that he can't do a simple analysis such as this to realize what a completly idiotic waste of $60 million this is.

The other big issue with an out of service causeway that the reader didn't mention is emergency access for ambulances etc.. But after initially being ambivalent on the causeway project I've come around to the position that it is unnecessary, for the reasons listed above.

| More

I couldn't help but notice that with all the pre-Florence warning and preparation, our esteemed "strong leader", aka "The Man", couldn't be bothered to drag his sorry ass back from vacation in the US.

The Premier did manage a phone interview where he did his best job at pretending that he was directing the preparations from his hotel room, when the reality is that the civil service swings into action pretty well in these events; dust the disaster plan off and everyone does their thing.

Instead we had everyone running in front of a camera trying to look statesman-like, first among them the Deputy Premier Dr. Brown doing a rather bad job of acting as the acting-Premier. At his press conference he looked distincly like a deer caught in the headlights, reading a pretty useless and overly-dramatic statement, beginning with the very American "My fellow Bermudians..." and a few Hurricane Katrina references; a completely inappropriate comparison as we don't build houses out of sticks below sea level.

That aside, Deputy Dawg looked decidedly uneasy with the storm bearing down. I had a hard time listening to the statement he was reading because his spectacles were crooked, which he realized and tried to fix halfway through. Maybe he was rattled by the prospect of his swanky digs getting flooded out again, as they did during Fabian. I don't know, but it wasn't the usual smooth operator we're so accustomed to when the cameras start rolling.

But the mission of one-upping Premier Scott was probably completed.

| More

The Royal Gazette
Opinion (12 Sept. 2006)

As the battle for the future of the Botanical Gardens begins, one thing seems certain: the Premier has decided to single handedly produce enough manure to fertilise the old hospital site. Take this absurd and insulting statement for example, delivered at Tuesday night’s Sustainable Development meeting:

“…the greenery will be incorporated into the design. You won’t just walk up to the door and the green stops. It may go into the building. If there’s a tree that needs sustaining, you may find that tree next to your hospital bed in the future.”

Got that? The Parks Department will be mowing the lawn in the lobby and newborns will be swinging in hammocks from that lovely Indian Laurel (covered in ants) which grows through the middle of the maternity ward.

Is the Premier so self-deluded that he actually believes his own nonsense, or does he think we’re absolute idiots? Which one is it Mr. Premier?

With the word ‘national’ on the rise in conjunction with the Premier’s never-ending independence obsession it seems only appropriate then to wonder if Premier Scott is intent on becoming our National Disgrace.

Ironically though, the Premier has two major legacy building initiatives underway; the first no-one is interested in (Independence), while the second (Sustainable Development) he isn’t interested in. Funny that.

So here we are, with the proposed and unnecessary desecration of the Botanical Gardens poised to become not only the largest capital project in Bermuda’s history, but also the most bone-headed; and that’s saying something after Alex Scott and his colleagues’ shameful legacy with the Berkeley project.

Which leads to an interesting study in priorities: while money is reportedly the driving issue for the new hospital it certainly wasn’t at Berkeley.

The difference though is simple; one is about saving the environment while the other was about saving face. And when it comes to saving face, no expense is to be spared, with the Berkeley project running $50 million over budget…and counting…with a secret and no doubt large legal settlement looming. That’s about 100% over-budget in case you’re counting.

Alternatively, when it comes to preserving Bermuda’s most iconic park, an additional 20% or about $100 million over ten years is too much.

You should be cautioned at taking those figures at face value however. A crafty accountant can do a lot with a few numbers, let alone a shifty politician. It doesn’t take much of a leap to believe that the amounts being used to justify the new site versus existing decision are little more than a shell game.

For starters, does the $500 million ceiling estimate for a new site include the cost of tearing down the old structure? It doesn’t look that way, although it certainly is a part of the 20% increase for the existing site proposal. Reality dictates of course that the old structure is going to have to come down regardless. The only difference is that Cabinet can bury the demolition cost elsewhere in the budget and not in the Bermuda Hospitals Board proposal.

Which leads to the next accounting and public relations gimmick: the 14 acres of the existing KEMH site will which (in theory…for now) be returned to the Botanical Gardens - an increase over the existing 10 acres.

Setting aside the two obvious problems – being the absence of any access roads to the new hospital in the middle of the Gardens and the unlikelihood of this ever happening – there will be a large financial cost associated with rebuilding 14 acres of new and immature Botanical Gardens and replacing the lost buildings.

Was this included in the $500 million? Nope, because that cost can be shifted over to the Parks Department budget, not the BHB’s; creative accounting 101.

These are the same gimmicks which the Corporation of Hamilton used in its proposal for the Hamilton Waterfront redevelopment; the projected $600 million cost ignored the cost of relocating the container docks – a massive undertaking and hence an absurd exclusion.

If the sketches of the proposed new hospital were scratch and sniff, the stench would be overwhelming. So little information has accompanied the decision that it’s hard to know what is included. But that’s probably the point.

What would be useful is an all-in estimate and cost comparison between the proposals on a like to like basis. The final costs probably won’t be too different at the end of the day, and far within most of our tolerances to save the Botanical Gardens.

Cost isn’t the only issue at play however; there’s also credibility, but this Government has none of that.

The Botanical Gardens will have to be removed from the schedule of parks (which can’t be developed on) to be placed completely under the auspices of the Bermuda Hospitals Board.

So the suggestion that the actual footprint of the Botanical Gardens will increase is a tad dishonest when you consider that the Gardens will become the property of the BHB, with future expansion on the table.

At its core, bulldozing the Botanical Gardens is just too dangerous of a precedent to set. We can’t allow the few remaining large tracts of green space to be earmarked as fair game for future development. If that’s the case, what’s the point in having a Parks Act?

Sustainable development is about making the hard choices, accepting some of the inconvenience and additional costs that comes with that and not taking the easy way out. Isn’t that what the Premier’s dog and pony show – not the Ag show, that’ll be a thing of the past, I’m referring to the Sustainable Development show – has been preaching?

A little more honesty and a lot less spin from Cabinet is a good place to start this discussion.

| More

I've now moved house, and have it all shuttered up, however my DSL connection does not appear to be working although the phone does.

So I won't be posting during the storm due to the lack of an internet connection. I'll try and take some photos and post them afterwards.

www.bravozulu.bm looks like he'll be.

Take care.

| More

First Fabian, now it could be Florence (see RG story here).

What the F is going on?

I'd like to thank Florence for inviting herself as the first potential guest to the extremely exposed house on South Shore which I'm moving into tomorrow morning.

So, I'll be signing off for a day or two while I move house. Back on Saturday or Sunday, when we'll have a better idea as to what Sunday/Monday holds for us.

| More

This quote from the Premier at last night's Sustainable Development meeting plumbs new depths of insincerity, even for a Premier who has made that his trademark:

“This means that the greenery will be incorporated into the design. You won’t just walk up to the door and the green stops. It may go into the building. If there’s a tree that needs sustaining, you may find that tree next to your hospital bed in the future,” he said.

The man will say anything. Does he really think voters are this stupid?

What an ass. I'm ashamed he's the Premier. I really am.

| More

Following up on the cabinet shuffle of last week, and my speculation as what it all could mean, the one thing that I think can now be safely ruled out is a Terry Lister leadership challenge.

After listening to Mr. Lister being interviewed on the Friday evening news shows, he gave as equivocal an "I'm not running for Premier" denial as you'll get. The rationale was that he was tired of 8 years in Cabinet and needed to step back, which could of course be the case, although the rumour mill has settled on another explanation that I won't touch and is nothing to do with politics. But you can't claim exhaustion and then 3 weeks later challenge the party leader.

I imagine Mr. Lister has been preparing for this for some time, but wanted to wait until his increased cabinet salary (and hence pension) was implemented, before stepping down. Always the accountant.

That doesn't mean that Premier Scott is off the hook however. The appointment of former BIU President as Minister of Labour, right before Labour Day, suggests he isn't sure of his footing and needs to shore up the labour base of the party and has abandoned appealing to the centre.

Also a few people had mentioned to me that the only union speaker at the Labour Day festivities yesterday was Bermuda Industrial Union President Chris Furbert, which probably confirms that the rift between the BIU and other unions isn't resolved. The stage was apparently packed with PLP representatives to make up for the other unionists' absence.

And I've also been told that PLP politicians and PLP executive stayed very late and worked the crowd very deliberately...election style.

Couple that with their political consultant's arrival on the island (which I was looking for confirmation of in my Election Fever post of 16 May, 2006) and we could be headed into some interesting times.

| More

Hmmm, what should we read into the PLP's (infamous and controversial) political consultant arriving on the island on Sunday night? Hot on the heels of a sudden cabinet shuffle and the hospital furor.

Coincidence?

| More

The more I think about the sudden Cabinet shuffle, and in particular the appointment of Derrick Burgess as Minister of Labour and Home Affairs, the more it becomes apparent that there is some real internal turmoil in PLP-land.

As someone said to me today, when a party suddenly lurches to the right or left abandoning any pretext of centrism and moderation, it confirms that even they are aware that they are shedding support and have to throw the base a bone.

And when you start catering to your radical base, as the appointment of Mr. Burgess does, the more you alienate the political centre. That's not to say elections can't be won that way, the Republicans won the 2004 Presidential election by dragging out their Christian conservative wing, but the UBP should be able to capitalise on this.

Anyway, I'm signing off for the day (and night). That was a busy news day today.

| More

Sadly, recently elected Mayor of Hamilton Jay Bluck who suffered a heart problem several days ago, passed away today.

The Corporation has sent out an announcement.

My condolences to his family, friends and colleagues. He'll be missed, and he seemed on a good track as well.

Sad.

| More

The Royal Gazette gets up a more substantial story than the one from the Bermuda Sun on today's Cabinet Shuffle.

That's a first. Usually the Sun beats RG on the web. Get a blog boys.

| More

One other thing that I meant to mention with respects to Alex shoring up support for the delegates conference is that putting Derrick Burgess in charge of Labour and Immigration pretty much makes that Ministry a wholy owned subsidiary of the Bermuda Industrial Union, which is as important as shoring up Parliamentary support.

The PLP leadership process involves more than just elected MPs, but also PLP delegates, which is again over-represented by BIU members. It's fair to consider the PLP the political arm of the BIU.

So from a purely self-preservation perspective this could turn out to be a shrewd move by the Premier; but I reiterate that the business community will be in shock today. And that's shock won't fade any time soon.

Mr. Burgess will have a speech to deliver on Monday (Labour Day) on his home field, let's see what type of tone he sets.

| More

By the way, the mike that Gary Moreno was wearing picked up lots of good stuff, not as good as the CNN anchor who forgot to turn hers off in the bathroom and called her sister-in-law a 'control freak' (see video here) but it did catch reporters gasping, and mouthing "Amazing", "Unbelievable" to each other at the end of the press conference (presumably the Derrick Burgess appointment), with Premier Scott acknowledging the shock and awe with the parting words of: "It's a new day."

| More

It will take a bit for the dust to settle on this unexpected cabinet shuffle. But here's my early and probably slightly uninformed but probably not that far from the truth interpretation.

Firstly, Terry Lister's resignation from Cabinet can only be a move to clear his path to challenge the Premier at the approaching PLP delegates conference in Oct. Judging by his reaction at the RG reporter, which you could hear in the background of the ZBM radio broadcast with Gary Moreno, Mr. Lister went nuts at the Gazette reporter for not asking the right questions.

What was the wrong question? The one about whether this cleared the way to challenge Alex Scott. An obvious question that he obviously didn't want to answer.

Secondly, Neletha Butterfield leaving Environment on the heels of the Hospital announcement can only be interpreted as an unwillingness to come onboard with the plan to build on the Botanical Gardens, her careful denial notwithstanding. If that's the case I respect her for being an advocate for her Ministry and the environment.

Thirdly, Randy Horton's move to the Environment is clearly a demotion, and his disappointment in his voice was evident on the radio.

Fourthly, putting the radical recently retired head of the Bermuda Industrial Union Derrick Burgess at Labour & Home Affairs will shake the confidence of the business sector...to its core. There is no other way to say it. The Premier acknowledged as much in his prepared comments:

Over the years we have had outstanding businessmen serve as labour Ministers and we did not see it as a problem for labour or the country. Therefore, now that we have appointed an outstanding native son with labour roots, we too, should not regard it as a potential problem for business or the country.

So why would the Premier make such a move with Mr. Burgess?

All of this comes back to the first point, which is that Mr. Lister is positioning for what must be an imminent leadership challenge, although he did say to ZBM's Gary Moreno that he didn't see it in the near term (5-10 years - which is more like the long term in a political timeframe).

When one part moves in a precariously stitched together Cabinet, other parts kick in as well. Alex Scott needs to keep his Cabinet members' interest aligned with his when it becomes time for any leadership challenge(s) and not Mr. Lister who would be going trying to line up support and cutting deals.

The Premier kept Neletha Butterfield happy with Education, a decent fit for her although a tough portfolio; he made Derrick Burgess extremely happy by putting the power over work permits in his hand; while keeping Randy Horton on board but obviously less happy, but presumably content to keep his recently increased Cabinet paycheck.

The big unknown now is what does the ever-present Dr. Brown do now? Derrick Burgess used to be in his camp by all accounts, but now seems to have his future tied to Beam me up Scottie?

Dr. Brown recently declared that he would not challenge for leadership at the pending Party conference.

This will be fun to watch.

If anyone has any other insights/interpretations I'd be happy to post them - anonymously of course.

| More

In an unprecedented example of Government efficiency, the Premier's statement has been posted on the Government website:

CABINET APPOINTMENTS

Press Statement (060901)

by:

The Hon. W. Alexander Scott JP, MP
Premier of Bermuda


Good morning:

The very essence and nature of Government is that it is an ever changing, ever evolving institution. This is true for all areas of the administration - from the Civil Service to the Cabinet.

Consequently today, I wish to announce that the Hon. Terry E. Lister JP, MP, Minister of Education and Development, has stepped down from his position, effective today. Minister Lister has asked to step down from the Cabinet, for personal reasons – and, most reluctantly I have agreed.

However, in wishing Minister Lister well and pledging our support to him … I pointed out that at some time in the future when he may choose to make himself available to serve once again in the Cabinet, Bermuda would be well served to have him return as a Cabinet Minister.

Meanwhile, I wish to emphasize that Minister Lister has conscientiously served the Government and people of Bermuda since his appointment to the Senate in 1993. In 1998, at the beginning of this Government’s first term, he was appointed Minister of Development, Opportunity and Government Services. He continued his service to the community as Minister of Labour, Home Affairs and Public Safety and Minister of Works and Engineering, and culminated his service with the portfolio of Minister of Education and Development.

Minister Lister delivered many legislative reforms during his tenure, from oversight of the passage of the CURE Amendment Act, with a particular emphasis on the annual review of the workforce; the implementation of the Consumer Protection Act and the tightening of immigration work permit requirements. For these significant initiatives; and much more, we are extremely appreciative, and extend our thanks for his dedicated service.

For personal reasons, Minister Lister has decided that he wishes to stand aside, and it is with sincere regret that I have honoured his wish. He has assured me that, should I see fit to consider him for a return to Cabinet at some time in the future, he would be pleased to do so. We certainly wish him well.
I wish to both acknowledge his contribution and thank him for his stewardship in this most important ministry.

The portfolio of education and development is one of the most essential in any Government. It is the Ministry responsible for setting both the framework and the tone that shapes and encourages young minds to aspire to greatness.

It is also responsible for developing self esteem, providing examples of success through hard work, and teaching that one of the greatest achievements is in giving back to the community.

This morning it gives me great pleasure to announce the appointment of the Hon. Neletha D.I. Butterfield JP, MP as the new Minister of Education and Development; a true example of the tenets we have ascribed as requirement for leadership in education.

Minister Butterfield has long been a proponent for the education of both the privileged and the underprivileged. Since 1983, she has championed education with her founding of C.A.R.E. (Children and Adults Reaching for Education) – an Alternative Learning Centre in the basement of her home.

She brings an almost unmatchable personal passion and dedication for the education of our young students and Bermudians in general. She herself possesses a Bachelor of Science Degree in Business Administration and Computer science; has been an English, Mathematics and computer technology lecturer at the Bermuda College and can proudly stand as the driver behind the success of over 400 adults obtaining their high school diplomas; with a number going on to undertake university courses.

But there is another notable for Minister Butterfield. In this time when we seek solutions to the plight of young Black males, Minister Butterfield can boast that she is ahead of the curve in that she has already provided educational instruction to over 250 of those incarcerated in our prison system. And to her credit, 150 have received their high school diplomas.

In 1994, Minister Butterfield was distinguished with the Best of Bermuda Gold Award for her work as an educator.

Today, the baton has been passed to one who is committed to providing a vision and a framework for achieving the goal of educational excellence – for all our students and educators.

Today we present the new Minister of Education and Development, the Hon. Neletha D.I. Butterfield, JP, MP.


Minister Randolph Horton

It is said that one has arrived when you can recognize them by only one name.

Horton.

Even from other outstanding families and family members, there can be little argument , and no question that Minister Kenneth, Howard, Randolph Horton ‘has arrived.’ He is an outstanding individual from an equally outstanding family; further, he has the managerial skills required to take the Planning and Environment Ministry to the next level.

He was elected to Parliament in 1998 and immediately began to make his mark in Government as he had throughout his life.

In sports, education, tourism promotion and political circles, his name is synonymous with achievement. He began his Cabinet career as Minister Without Portfolio in February of 2001 and by November of that same year became the Minister of Community Affairs and Sport. On being returned to Parliament after the 2003 election, Minister Horton took up his current portfolio as Minister of Labour, Home Affairs and Public Safety.

In looking for a replacement for Minister Butterfield, I felt that it was important to choose someone with depth, experience and maturity so that a smooth transition could be assured as the Government addresses challenges such as staff shortages, succession planning, and the preparation and presentation of a Planning Statement.

I am pleased that Minister Randolph Horton has accepted this new challenge.

Keeping within the doctrine of the Government’s Sustainable Development initiative, he will bring a renewed perspective to the Ministry of the Environment; a Ministry that has a significant impact on every aspect of our society.

One of the most significant tasks that we believe Minister Horton will accomplish is the realization of a more ‘user-friendly’ culture at the Department of Planning in regard to the public that they are mandated to serve. I have every confidence that Minister Horton will do extremely well in this new post.

The Ministers of which I have spoken already have a proven reputation within Government. However, as I introduce you to our newest Cabinet member, you will know that he too, has a reputation that precedes him.


To say that Mr. Derrick Burgess is well known to the community may be an understatement. As the former President of the Bermuda Industrial Union, he has been the front runner in labour affairs and has represented labour issues in both the Caribbean and international markets.

His work on behalf of labour speaks volumes about the character of the man and his labour reputation will move some to criticize his selection. But in fact, it is the very reason why he was appointed.

Over the years we have had outstanding businessmen serve as labour Ministers and we did not see it as a problem for labour or the country. Therefore, now that we have appointed an outstanding native son with labour roots, we too, should not regard it as a potential problem for business or the country.

This appointment combining a background of both labour and business, places this appointee in the unique position of having valued experience on both sides and I believe it will bode well for the stakeholders and our country as a whole.

Prior to his presidency of the Bermuda Industrial Union, Mr. Burgess was the Personnel Director at the Grotto Bay Hotel and the General House Manager at the former Coral Island Hotel/Palmetto Bay Hotel.
His skill in handling human affairs is noteworthy and as he has lent these experiences to his constituency, he will now do the same for the country.
Mr. Burgess is an experienced Parliamentarian who has represented the interests of Bermudians at every turn. He has significant relationships with the business community, including the Bermuda Hotel Association, and has been a member of the Labour Advisory Council providing him with a familiarization of ILO Conventions.

Mr. Burgess holds a diploma in Hotel Management from Lewis Hotel School in Washington D.C., and has also studied at the University of New Hampshire, the University of Maryland and the City College of Chicago. He is most proud of his study at our own Bermuda College.

Mr. Burgess is a strong believer in the strength of the family unit and is committed to improving the lot for Bermuda’s youth. His concern for education is paramount and he has worked tirelessly to ensure that those Bermudians who have invested in a college education reap the rewards due them.

It is my pleasure to present the Hon. Derrick V. Burgess JP, MP, Minister of Labour, Home Affairs and Public Safety.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I end where I began. Our world, our community and our Government is every changing. We are living in times that require dynamic leadership, focused vision and a dedication to getting the job done. The individuals you see before you today will be steadfast in doing just that. They are loyal, unwavering servants of the people of Bermuda.

And so once again it gives me great pleasure to introduce the new and not so new Cabinet team members:

The Hon. Neletha Butterfield, JP, MP; Minister of Education and Development

The Hon. Randolph Horton, JP, MP; Minister of the Environment

And the Hon. Derrick Burgess, JP, MP; Minister of Labour, Home Affairs and Public Safety.

Thank you.

| More

Cabinet Shuffle details (and sheer speculation in brackets):

- Terry Lister resigned from Education and Cabinet to reflect (ie. run against Alex for Premier)
- Derrick Burgess appointed Minister of Labour and Home Affairs (Talk about scaring the life out of every business on the island - ok, that's not speculation, that's fact).
- Neletha Butterfield now at Education from Environment (could be tied to the Hospital plan)
- Randy Horton now Minister of Environment from Labour and Home Affairs

Things are tense. Terry Lister was chastising the Royal Gazette in the background and ZBMs Gary Moreno said in response after being asked to come back by Terry Lister: "Please don't judge me by the Royal Gazette's standards."

| More

From a reliable reader:

A cabinet shuffle has just been announced.

Neletha Butterfield - Min of education Randy Horton - Environment Derrick Burgess - Labour

Downgrade for Randy. Derrick Burgess as labour....oh no.

More to come when I know more. Anyone hears anything let me know.

| More

The Bermuda National Trust responds to the new hospital announcement:

Response by the Bermuda National Trust

August 30, 2006

Re: Government announcement that the new hospital will be built in the Botanical Gardens

As the specifics of the Plan have not been shared with the public or the Trust - at this time we can only comment on the process not the plan. It is unthinkable to us, especially in light of the Sustainable Development initiative - which highlights the critical importance of public involvement - that a project of this magnitude could ever reach the final stages without broad public input.

We agree that improving the Bermuda’s health care system should be of paramount importance to the people of Bermuda, but we cannot accept that the Botanical Gardens and the hundreds of acres of protected land under the National Parks System should be viewed as an exploitable resource – they are of incalculable public value in their own right.

The Government should lead by example and practice what it preaches regarding public input on the largest public project in decades – anything else presents the Sustainable Development process as a complete charade.

It is ironic that the Sustainable Development project which has been so successful in empowering Bermudians to consider themselves environmentalists should be set aside at this critical juncture.
Even if the plan proposes a net gain in open space from the existing hospital site – how can Bermuda be assured that this will happen at the end of the project.

By letter our dated July 20, 2006, the National Trust called on the BHB to develop the plan to redevelop the facility on the existing KEMH site between Point Finger Road and Berry Hill Road. We are disappointed that we have not received a response to date.

The Trust considers that Bermuda cannot afford the luxury of a total new facility on the greenfield site. We accept that this presents logistical, technical and economic challenges during the construction phase, but Bermuda has no choice but to overcome these and build on the existing site.

As the Cruise Ports Master Plan proved the Government is capable and committed to making the best decisions for Bermuda and plans can be reassessed and revised and we trust that the debate is not closed on this Plan.

Bermuda National Trust
August 30, 2006

| More

This trend has been creeping under the PLP, and appears about to go over the top with Government intending to name what appears to be one of our major public facilities after their former leader Freddie Wade.

I've got nothing against Freddie Wade, and quite frankly the PLP do a much better job at honouring their former members and trying to turn them into cultural icons than the UBP do (actually the UBP pretty much don't do it), but I don't like it.

I don't like the idea of naming public buildings after anyone, and definitely not politicians - of any party. It's very common in North America I know, but I can't get comfortable with it. If you want to build your own building with your own money and put your name on it, fine. Public facilities however should be above political games of legacy building and credit taking.

I know the argument will be that we need to honour our own people, but whose name gets put on what is entirely subjective..and can be divisive.

I don't like it.

| More

Archives