Politics

Premier reaches out to young Bermuda

  • In the hot seat: David Burt, the Premier, answers questions from young residents in person and online last night at “Your Island. Your Voice”, organised with the social-media group Bermemes and moderated by Qian Dickinson (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

David Burt told an audience of about 85 young residents that he wanted a “smaller, more intimate” space to talk about his government and its priorities.

More than 500 watched last night’s online forum, aired by the social-media group Bermemes, as the Premier fielded questions about healthcare, housing, education and the economy.

Mr Burt faced tough opening questions via Twitter on whether the event at the Visitor Services Centre in Hamilton had been set up as “a PR stunt”.

His answers emphasised “caring about policies which are put in place” over politicians in either party.

Queries on the Government’s healthcare reform plans dominated.

Mr Burt told the audience: “I like my job. If there’s one sure way to lose your job, it’s to mess with someone’s healthcare.

“All doctors are not on board right now. We are not going to be successful if they are not.”

Under the plan, core benefits in the basic mandated health package would increase, Mr Burt told the room.

He acknowledged: “We have coverage gaps. This change is not going to fix that entire coverage gap.”

The biggest applause went to a man asking how young people could get into Bermuda’s high-cost housing market.

The Premier said he believed in getting more housing in the city, and that a new plan was forthcoming for the North East Hamilton empowerment zone.

He noted legislative changes allowing persons to withdraw from private pensions for a down payment on an apartment.

On homelessness, Mr Burt hinted at Budget announcements coming on Friday about extra services.

Responding to a charge of “empty promises” on fixing public education, he said he could not go back to the polls without acting on his promise to phase out middle schools.

He also said that the next school year would be “the last under our current system”.

Mr Burt’s reply to a question on courting external investment to the island included “doing things differently” on immigration.

“It’s a different age,” he said. “If we do not adapt, we will be left behind.”

Asked by moderator Qian Dickinson if there would be more forums, Mr Burt, 41, said he was “grateful to recognise people of the generation I used to be part of” had turned out.

“We need voices that support change,” he said. “We need voices who want to be part of that future to speak up.”