The cost of government gone wrong
By Craig Cannonier, Opposition Leader, February 12, 2012
It is apparent that a lot of people are confused by Premier Paula Cox’s pay and pension cut proposals.
As the Opposition, we have limited options to work with, but we will do what we believe is the right thing to do.
OBA MPs and Senators have agreed to take a 5% salary cut, effective March 1, 2012.
We will set up an escrow account into which we will deposit that 5% of our parliamentary salaries on a monthly basis. We will contribute these funds to charity until the Premier sorts out her Government’s course of action.
After careful consideration and having had the chance to talk with members of the community, we do not support the plan to forego pension contributions over the next year for both the civil service pension fund and the pension fund for Ministers and Members of Parliament.
- The Government is proposing to break a promise to help workers build a safe and secure fund for their retirement. That promise should not be violated.
- If the current proposal to the unions goes through, the government workers pension fund will lose more than $60 million in contributions this year – $30 million in worker contributions and $30 million in the 8% matching contributions from Government.
- Although the Government has cleverly softened its 8% pay cut proposal to union members by proposing to forgive their normal 8% pension deduction, the net result is will keep more than $60 million that is supposed to go to building pensions for government employees. The Government will put it toward other government spending. It’s simply more debt in another form.
- Failing to support the civil service pension fund for a year is a raid on the future and it’s not right. It will create a ‘deficiency’ that will more likely affect younger taxpayers.
- The government workers pension funds are already underfunded and, by law, any deficit must be covered by the taxpayer – or in the medium term through potentially higher contribution rates by both government and its employees. This already happened once in 2006 when government raised the contribution rate from 5% to 8%.
- A one-year pass on pension contributions will not alter the Government’s serious financial problems. It will only push the problem further down the road. Indeed, there is no reason to believe the same situation will not rear its head again next year.
It is important to remember that these pay and pension cut proposals are being driven by significant shortfalls in the Premier’s impending budget. They have nothing at all to do with making things better for working families.
The Ombudsman’s Systemic Investigation of Special Development Orders
By Senator Michael M. Fahy, Shadow Minister for the Environment, Infrastructure Strategy, Planning and Housing, February 12, 2012
People who read this report must surely be struck by three things:
- First, what an excellent report it is! It is thorough, comprehensive, easy to read and as logical as 2 and 2 make 4. Credit must go to the Ombudsman herself, Ms Arlene Brock, whose credentials as a courageous, independent champion of the people’s rights are enhanced by it greatly.
- Second, what an indictment it is of a Government that says it is committed to transparency, but behaves as if the public cannot be trusted with information.
- And third, with how little care and thought this Government actually carries out its obligation to protect Bermuda’s environment on behalf of the Bermuda public, whom it was elected to serve – despite self-congratulatory statements on their apparent credentials.
Ms Brock quotes an unnamed Bermuda official as having said “Bermuda may be the first place in the world to reach an absolute limit of development – we have the highest density and the lowest protected space…”
Yet, we must constantly balance the need to protect our extremely limited natural resources with the need to protect our tourism industry. There is no question we face that is of greater importance to Bermuda’s future.
Bermuda Regiment – Inquiry Needed
By Michael Dunkley, Deputy Leader One Bermuda Alliance, February 10, 2012
The recent conviction of former Bermuda Regiment Quartermaster Major Glen Brangman, together with information that he was able to keep his job in the Regiment for several years before he was asked to retire, strongly suggest that a thorough, independent inquiry should be held.
How or why was he able to stay in the Regiment? Did he have help, and if he did, from whom? Who were the others who were suspected of sexual impropriety in the Regiment, and was there any connection between their cases and those of Mr. Brangman?
These are questions that must be answered if the Regiment is to regain the trust of the young people who are serving now, the young people who will serve in the Regiment in years to come, and their families and loved ones. Answering these questions might also bring some closure and comfort to those who have brought these allegations to the fore.
Mr. Brangman’s conviction was for a non-Regiment related sexual assault on a teenage clerk at the Bermuda Housing Corporation. How did a man about whom there were such doubts that he was asked to leave the Regiment manage to segue into a very senior Government position, especially a position in which he held such power over people who had none?
Something is not right here. Something smells bad. The people deserve answers.
Even if an inquiry finds no fault – finds that people behaved in good faith from start to finish – it would clear the air. It would at least remove the suspicion currently held by many that there was a cadre of like-minded predators in the Regiment at one time, who were able to keep each other out of trouble, and who were able to minimize the difficulties suffered by Mr. Brangman, when he was caught.
Pay cut - Better late than never
By Craig Cannonier, Opposition Leader, February 9, 2012
From Day 1 as a political party, we said we would cut ministerial salaries by at least 10%. We restated that position in our Reply to the Throne Speech last November because of the need to “lead by example.”
I said: “We cannot expect Bermudians to tighten their belts without their leaders doing the same. Sacrifice must be shared.”
Shortly after, when questioned on this point, the Premier said a pay cut would be “an empty gesture.”
That refusal was not acceptable then and it became more unacceptable as Government cutbacks continued to pile up on the backs of working Bermudians.
The final straw, it appears, was last week when the Premier asked workers to take an 8% pay cut without offering any similar sacrifice by her colleagues. It was unacceptable then, and became moreso as the arrogance of such a one-sided request sank in. Indeed, the pay cut proposal may go down as the low-point in the history of the PLP in power – illustrating how much the distance had grown between workers and their government.
That being said, the move for a pay cut, no matter how late in the game, is fundamentally right for Bermuda in these tough times.
The One Bermuda Alliance supports a pay cut for ministers – because they are the people in charge of the government – from policy to operations. It is Cabinet Ministers who run the government, no one else. They are where the buck is supposed to stop.
We will agree to a 5% cut for MPs and Senators plus a one-year suspension of pension contributions if Cabinet Ministers:
- Agree to a 10% pay cut; and
- Suspend their use of credit cards and expense accounts – an area of personal spending that has been allowed to spiral out of control in recent years.
We have one final point to make clear: The Premier’s move to get workers to take a pay cut is a desperation move to get her government off the hook for what is shaping up to be the worst budget in Bermuda’s modern history.
The workers’ pay cut has nothing to do with making things better for people. It has everything to do with making her budget look better than it is.
Worker acceptance of the pay cut will allow the Premier to bury the hard reality of the Government’s extremely poor financial position and to postpone the consequences that she and her colleagues should confront as a matter of honour and self-respect.
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