It has now been two years since the One Bermuda Alliance was elected to office.
Our goal from Day One has been to get Bermuda moving forward again –growing jobs and opportunities, restoring financial stability and making the Island work better for one and all.
We were elected, in short, to reverse downward trends that were hurting so many people.
We focused hard on laying the groundwork for recovery and renewal – rebuilding the foundation of the economy and restoring confidence in the Island as a place to invest and do business.
Economic recovery remains the primary focus because of its potential to improve the lives of more people more quickly than anything else, but we’ve also taken care to bring forward commonsense, progressive reforms to improve quality of life.
The just finished six-week Parliamentary session reflects our many-sided approach to the people’s business.
I was particularly pleased with amendments to the Children’s Act, which will help parents, who are separating, to remain involved in the upbringing of their children. Government must do what it can to ensure the well being of children and this legislation helps achieve that.
I am also pleased with the passage of new Fire Safety Regulations, which put in place a regime of standards and oversight that will keep Bermudians safer in their homes and businesses.
Also during the session, the Government announced the selection of a consultant to help develop a new regulatory regime for energy. This is a key step in our strategy to build toward an energy economy based on secure supplies, reduced fossil fuel dependency and lower costs through competition. A stable and affordable energy environment will help family life and help the Island to remain competitive in a very tough world.
We also amended legislation to allow for the use of approved cannabis-based pharmaceuticals, allowing doctors to introduce a new element to assist their patients. This was a good first step in a phased approach toward the commonsense reform of our cannabis laws.
We were also pleased to announce an extension of 10% discount Wednesdays through the holiday season – a measure that will provide continuing relief to the many families still struggling to make ends meet. The Minister responsible will have more to say on this matter in the days ahead.
Another step to help people – this time Bermuda’s cognitively and physically disabled – was made with the decision to merge the Opportunity Workshop and Orange Valley Centre into one operation. This will provide their clients with a full range of therapy services that were not otherwise available to them. It’s the kind of reform that did not get much notice but is one that will reap big everyday rewards for clients and caregivers alike.
As mentioned earlier, our efforts to get Bermuda’s economy working again has occupied much of our time, and I believe this last session of the House will stand as an historic turning point in that effort.
Virtually all of this work has been about creating jobs for Bermudians and setting the stage for a more secure future for all our people. Bermuda came close to the edge of economic disaster in recent years, and that close call has motivated our efforts to get the Island back onto safe ground.
In tourism, that meant not giving up on the industry; it meant energizing our approach to selling Bermuda’s great potential to investors and visitors alike. And this last Parliamentary session showed what that kind of commitment and can-do spirit can achieve.
Tourism Minister Shawn Crockwell announced a start date in May for the first-phase construction of a St. Regis-Starwood resort at the St. George’s hotel site – a $120 million project that will create jobs and career opportunities for Bermudians.
Minister Crockwell’s simultaneous legislation to allow casino gaming in Bermuda was no mere coincidence, given that we wanted to use gaming to drive hotel development, enhance the tourism product and create new sources of employment for Bermudians.
Elsewhere, the session saw the Government provide a guarantee to enable the completion of first phase work at Morgan’s Point, ground-breaking for a new resort at Ariel Sands, and new construction and new jobs coming on line at the Hamilton Princess Hotel and South Beach in Southampton.
The announcement of a plan to rebuild Bermuda’s airport complements these developments and much more.
The Memorandum of Understanding Finance Minister E.T. Richards signed with the Canadian Commercial Corporation to build the airport sets the stage for a project that will create jobs for Bermudians and support the overall economy going forward.
The fact that we will do this without adding to our national debt represents an innovative approach to working around our financial difficulties while achieving something that will benefit the public for many years to come.
Perhaps nothing underscores the serious work that goes into the people’s business more than Bermuda winning the 2017 America’s Cup – an astonishing achievement by Bermudians from all sectors of Island life.
The announcement in New York followed by tabling of the America’s Cup legislation by my colleague Dr. Grant Gibbons cemented this Parliamentary session as historic and one of the most memorable in many, many years.
The accomplishments are a testament to what collaboration, confidence and commitment can achieve. They show us that working together works.
But big challenges remain. Many families continue to struggle and their well being remains our number one concern – getting them back on their feet, working again, putting food on the table. This Government will continue the forward push for their sake.
Thank you to all the people who are helping us out. Good things are finally starting to happen. At long last, the Island is starting to move forward again.
It is a good time to celebrate all that we have to be thankful for and the brighter future that’s taking shape.
Merry Christmas Bermuda.