Legislative tools

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.

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