OBA outlines plan for ‘fair’ Bermuda

  • Michael Dunkley speaks at OBA press conference (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

Social commitments in the One Bermuda Alliance’s election platform were highlighted by Michael Dunkley this morning.

The Premier, who was joined by St George’s West MP Nandi Outerbridge and Pembroke West Central candidate Nick Kempe at a press conference, outlined programmes “to progress Bermudian life”.

“At the highest level, the OBA mission is to protect, support and progress the lives of Bermudians from one end of the island to the other,” Mr Dunkely said.

“We are working to build a Bermuda that is all about equal opportunity and fair treatment because that is a foundation of a Bermuda that works for everyone.”

He counted passing tax exemptions to encourage the hiring of Bermudians, negotiating food price discounts with grocers and expanding financial assistance as some of the OBA’s achievements.

“The overriding priority was to get the economy working again because it certainly had potential to help more people more quickly than anything else that we can do.

“But we know there are still many Bermudians struggling — many Bermudians have not yet been touched by the recovery and it is our mission with this election platform to finish the job.”

He added: “One of our most exciting programmes is this Jump Start Savings plan, setting up a savings account for every newborn Bermudian.”

This would be seeded with $2,500 dollars and invested to grow over time, he explained.

“The money would be available on their 18th birthday for continuing education, starting a business, making a down payment or for any venture that helps pursue their dreams.”

He also reiterated that it is time to “take the politics out of education” and that the OBA believes an education authority could be a successful approach.

This would involve broad consultation with all stakeholders, he said.

Mr Dunkley also reiterated plans to tie increases in social insurance benefits to the cost of living, “so we can stop our seniors losing grounds”.

And licence renewals would be pushed back five years to 70, while caregivers would also receive more support through a caregiver resource centre.

“Helping those who help our seniors is going to be good for a lot of people and good for our community,” he said.

He also pointed out that “road accidents and tragic deaths persist year in and year out at levels way too high” and that can only be limited through “stricter law enforcement and more community involvement”.

Mr Dunkley said the OBA would “take steps to reduce alcohol and drug related crashes by providing police with roadside sobriety testing devices. We would also install speed cameras and red light cameras.”

Ms Outerbridge, meanwhile, highlighted the success of the Cashback programme, saying: “Since its inception in 2014, Cashback has distributed more than $650,000 to communities across the island, and another $350,000 is ready for distribution.

“That is more than $1 million of seized criminal assets going back into communities to build a better Bermuda.”

She also said the OBA would commit $2 million to support the Salvation Army’s transformation of the Bishop-Spencer building into an emergency and traditional housing facility.

And a Let’s Fix It App would enable people to alert Public Works about problems such as illegal dumping and roadside growth, she said.

To eliminate unfairness in employee compensation, she said, “specifically unfairness as it relates to companies that offer housing benefits to their international employees but not to their Bermudian staff”, the OBA would introduce an employer-based home loan that incentivises companies to offer interest free loans to their Bermudian staff for the purchase of a first home.

And Mr Kempe said the OBA is working on “employer incentives so that apprenticeship programmes are not an economic burden on the employers”.

They are also looking to expand the dual enrolment programme at Bermuda College to include technical education and the City and Guilds curriculum will start in the Middle School system in the autumn.

“This is the same certificate standard we require through workforce development and the immigration board when we are vetting foreign tradesmen coming in,” Mr Kempe said.

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