Mid Ocean News (10 Nov. 2006)
UBP MP John Barritt's 'View From the Hill'
IT WAS like I said last week, Mr. Editor: Been there, done that. Several times. All the pomp and the pageantry and the promises that typically accompany the opening of our Parliament , and the reading of a Speech from the Throne, can wear a little thin after a time. This was afterall Throne Speech No.14 for me as MP, for those of you who are also counting, and the ninth under the PLP, although it was the first under their latest leader and now third Premier in four years, Dr. the Honourable Ewart F. Brown - or, as they now prefer to describe themselves, which they did in the Throne Speech: the third Progressive Labour Party administration.
Third time lucky, Mr. Editor? Or third strike and you’re out? That’s the question.
But first things first. We need to spot the difference between the third and the second and the first administrations, although we were warned in the lead-up to the run-off at the Wreck not to be on the look-out for that much in the way of innovation.
The warning came from Minister Paula Cox, and now Deputy Premier, who was supporting the Other Guy at the time. “It seems to me extraordinary”, Ms. Cox was reported as having said in The Royal Gazette, “that someone who served at the Cabinet table, not just as Minister since 1998 but in the role of Deputy Premier for the last three years, to see the fleshing out of ideas which in many ways replicated those already discussed and or actioned by the Cabinet in which he served.”
I am not sure that I could have said it better myself, Mr. Editor. But the fact is that we will never know what was in the first draft of the Throne Speech that was written under the Most Recent, Second Former PLP Premier, and how that compares with the words which the Governor read for the New Guy.
But we can guess.
I am sure that, like everyone else, you noticed that which was missing. Gone were the words, Social Agenda, Sustainable Development, and Independence, which had featured so prominently in the Second PLP administration in which, as Ms Cox rightfully pointed out, the Doctor was the Number Two Man.
We were meant to notice.
Old Premier, old words.
He went, they went.
In their place, we didn’t so much get new words but a grab bag of goodies, some of which we have heard before and some of which will be need to be fleshed out, if not thought out. Costed out too, I hope; although you have to wonder where the money is going to suddenly come from to fund this latest rash of new programmes and ideas. It’s the speak now pay later plan, I suppose.
Social Agenda may have been replaced by Social Rehabilitation, but it seems to me that some of the same initiatives remain – or ought to. They are being dressed up differently. New Premier, new words.
But nothing can change the fact that the country has been crying out for a housing plan for eight years. Promises have not provided shelter.
For a majority of Bermudians, education has always been about more than bricks and mortar. But bricks and mortar, and more and more bricks and more and more mortar, followed by claim and counter-claim and a secret arbitration, and a bill of $120-million and still counting, and now eight years later the PLP wants to shift their focus (finally) from concrete and glass to teaching and learning.
For those who have been following, the Shaggy “It wasn’t me” defence was once again trotted out on the proposed new hospital. We were told that we were wrong to focus on location, we should have been focusing on healthcare priorities first. Well, excuse me, Mr. Editor, but who is we? It was the PLP Cabinet afterall that led us down that garden path when they went along with the choice of the Botanical Gardens as the best site. Oh, I forgot: I am supposed to remember that was the Second PLP administration this is the Third.
Hundreds of thousands of dollars later, and after many lost months, and now a change of leader, they tell us they think they have it right now. The PLP Government is now going to focus on what services the KEMH should provide before deciding costs and location. Sounded like a plan to me. Finally.
Hundreds of thousands of dollars later and no mention of Independence. Not a word unless you count the comment in the Throne Speech that Bermuda is “constitutionally advanced”. Nice of you to recognize that. But what people want to know is is we or ain’t we going to let the people decide the issue now?
A couple of portfolio changes, a couple of recycled Ministers, and the return of a couple of Ministers from the First Administration, and suddenly everything old is new again. Mistakes are also meant to be forgotten. I don’t know about you, Mr. Editor, but as one senior politician whispered to me at the conclusion of the reading of the Throne Speech (and he shall remain nameless so as to protect the guilty): we’ve seen it before and heard it before.