Feelings vs Facts

I spent 3 hours tonight at the term limits public forum and came away with the clear conclusion that the room (and presumably the island) are divided into two camps on this issue: Feelings vs Facts.

The OBA, via Michael Fahy, were presenting facts, an analytical fact based approach to public policy to an audience that was largely interested in their feelings. The majority of the questions/statements were feelings of being excluded in their own country but were reluctant to acknowledge that term limits has nothing to do with jobs but residency.

Both sides were talking at cross purposes.

Michael Fahy and the OBA took a lot of flak that was really the PLP's to own if we're honest. There was a lot of anger about Bermudians not getting jobs they were qualified for over non-Bermudians.

That's a work permit issue and an enforcement issues, and that is wholly owned by the PLP for the past 14 years. Michael really didn't do a good job of pointing out that he inherited these policies and 3,000 unemployed Bermudians. He said he was working to fix it, which he is, but he didn't seize the opportunity to put it squarely in the lap of the PLP which is where it belongs.

Easy to say sitting in the audience and not on the hot seat, but that was my biggest takeaway. Walter Roban was adept at presenting an impression that this mess was created by the OBA. The moderator - who did a pretty good job with a lively crowd - called him out on it directly, but generally he and his party got a free pass while stoking the fire they lit.

Interestingly, if you had judged by the questions, tone and audience reactions you'd have felt that the room was overwhelmingly pro-term limits. But at the end when a show of hands was asked for in favour of term limits it was at best 50-50, more like 40% in favor. Not the most scientific, but was perhaps the biggest surprise of the evening for me.

I do think that the OBA are going to have to figure out how to connect better at a personal level over work permits and immigration, because the PLP have done a great job at dumping their legacy of work permit granting and unemployment into the OBA's lap. The PLP are very good at this kind of thing, pushing buttons and tugging on heart strings, and the emotions are raw with so many unemployed.

But that is not an issue for term limiits.

And it's clear that if you look at the data that Bermudian employment has steadily declined during the term limit era. Chris Furbert presented employment data to refute the idea that term limits had cost jobs, but what he presented was total employment. Not Bermudian employment.

That tells a very different story, and one that makes it clear that term limits presided over an era of a massive reduction in Bermudian jobs. Total employment peaked right at the point that term limits kicked in (around 2007/08). Coincidence?

The truth is that Bermudian employment and non-Bermudian employment are much more mutually beneficial than they are mutually exclusive. Work permit abuses can be dealt with, but the problem today is not allocating out how much of an increasing pie, but dividing up a shrinking pie.

The former is a much better problem to be trying to solve.

That's the real story.

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