Opposition anger over political mail-out

  • Opposition backbencher Trevor Moniz

    Opposition backbencher Trevor Moniz

Opposition backbencher Trevor Moniz has accused the Government of “sleazy” and “Trumpian” behaviour for spending public funds on a flyer touting its own achievements.

Taxpayers forked out more than $5,000 for the four-page pamphlet, according to a press release issued by the Department of Communications on Tuesday evening.

Mr Moniz said it was “entirely inappropriate” for public funds to have been spent on the flyer, particularly in the run-up to the Pembroke Central by-election on November 21.

“It certainly looks like a party political piece of publishing,” said the former attorney-general.

“It talks about promises that were made but, of course, they weren’t made by the Government. They were made by the PLP (Progressive Labour Party).

“It seems like a piece of propaganda for the by-election that should have been paid for by the PLP and not the taxpayers.”

Mr Moniz added: “They are using a government publication to criticise the OBA (One Bermuda Alliance). It’s a very sleazy way to behave. It’s very Trumpian.

“It’s a way of saying ‘we don’t care what the rules are, we are just going to do what we want’.”

The front page of the flyer is marked “On Her Majesty’s Service” and “Government of Bermuda”.

Titled Two Years Working for the People and signed by David Burt, the Premier, the flyer describes how “we have made progress in delivering on our promises to you” after “a period when austerity was imposed on every aspect of public services …”

Mr Burt writes: “Two years ago, the people of Bermuda decisively gave your government a convincing mandate for change.

“Hardworking men and women saw in us the promise of a brighter future for their children and a clear vision for a more just society.

“Thus far, my colleagues and I have been humbled by the opportunity to serve the people of Bermuda.

“We promised to work hard every day to create opportunities for economic growth and to move Bermudians from an era of exclusion from the prosperity that Bermuda can provide, to one where success is determined through equal access to opportunity. That work has begun.”

The Premier goes on to list 25 achievements of “your government”, including the creation of 144 jobs, lower unemployment, higher pensions, tougher immigration policies, and the decriminalisation of small amounts of cannabis.

Mr Burt writes: “There is so much more to do. There are so many more Bermudians in need of a helping hand … Your government is determined to do all we can to deliver on our promises and govern in a spirit that allows Bermudians to do more than just make it …”

A press release issued on Tuesday night announced that Bermudians should “expect to receive a mailer providing an update on government activities”.

It stated that the “two-year review document” provided an “easy-to-read bullet overview on some highlights from each ministry” and cost 19 cents per household ($5,719 in total) to produce.

Mr Burt said: “This document is a summary of how we have delivered for the people of Bermuda over the past two years and acknowledges the continued mission to change the status quo that has failed so many of our fellow Bermudians.”

Nick Kempe, the OBA leader in the Senate, also accused the Government of “wanton misuse of taxpayer funds” over the flyer, which he said “conveniently arrived in mailboxes at the time of a by-election”.

Mr Kempe told the Senate: “If people check their mailboxes they will notice what seems to be a thinly veiled political communication that has been funded by the taxpayer and sent out to everyone.

“It is a turn for the worse and I am hoping that we can see a shift towards a more accountable use of political capital and taxpayer funds.”

The Opposition Whip, Susan Jackson, accused the Premier last month of “anti-democratic behaviour” by “manipulating how and when the houses of Parliament conduct the people’s business”.

She said Mr Burt argued with the Speaker about introducing legislation without warning and held a vote to overrule him, in a session she said was “conveniently” not broadcast live or recorded by Hansard.

Mr Kempe also noted how Mr Burt had replaced the Throne Speech with a speech at the PLP delegates’ conference.

A Government spokeswoman said last night that 30,000 flyers were printed and confirmed the cost of $5,719.

She added: “There was no cost for postage.”

The spokeswoman also said that the flyer was paid for by the Cabinet Office and the Department of Communications.

She then added that governments around the world “regularly update the public on things that matter to them, this government will be no different.”

The flyer can be found at www.gov.bm/year-two-accomplishments

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Published Nov 7, 2019 at 8:00 am (Updated Nov 7, 2019 at 9:45 am)

Opposition anger over political mail-out

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