In his first speech from the Throne, Bermuda’s Governor John Rankin reaffirmed the new Progressive Labour Party’s pre-election pledge to put Bermudians first by “ensuring social mobility and removing social inequality”.
Said Governor Rankin: “This Government will face the issues of division in our country head on, and will overcome them.”
The 26-page legislative agenda set out by the new Progressive Labour Party government for its first parliamentary year back in power, includes plans to establish a new policy on what constitutes a living wage.
“To ensure that workers can live in dignity and are not working simply to remain in poverty, the Government will support a new parliamentary committee to complete the work that was started in the last Parliament to examine the living wage.
“This committee will present Parliament with recommendations for a living wage in Bermuda,” said the Governor.
The new administration also plans to set up a tax reform commission, including MPs from both sides of the House, business and trade union representatives and the Bermuda Bar, to present reforms “that enhance Bermuda’s international competitiveness and increase tax compliance”.
The PLP will initiate plans to reform Bermuda’s financial assistance system with new rules that will require able-bodied recipients to use aid to improve their skill sets by upgrading “their education and skills to facilitate their return to the workforce”.
“Financial assistance should encourage people to find work; therefore, people who take a part-time position will not find themselves penalised,” said Governor Rankin. “This government will reform financial assistance to reduce abuse, discourage dependency and ensure that work pays.”
Legislation will also be introduced to decriminalise the possession of cannabis under seven grams. “The criminalisation of our citizens for minor, non-violent possession of cannabis is an open sore on our society, damaging the lives of hundreds of Bermudians, young and old.
“This is also an issue of fairness as black people in our society are for more likely to be arrested, charged and convicted for cannabis possession than white people,” he said.
The Government is also set to crackdown on impaired driving by legislating sobriety checkpoints with increased penalties for people operating a vehicle while over the legal limit.
Other initiatives include the introduction of a “sugar tax” on the sale of some foods and sugary drinks, with plans to look at the high cost of food in Bermuda.
“While unhealthy foods are often appealing due to their lower prices, the cost of treatment is significantly higher than the cost of prevention,” said the Governor.
“Food prices are too high in Bermuda and the high cost is even more evident when one wants to feed their family healthier options.
“Bringing down the cost of food will require a collective effort and original thinking to be successful and sustainable. Accordingly, the Government will grant the Price Control Commission additional powers and scope to find innovative ways to reduce the cost of living in Bermuda.”
The 2017 Throne Speech also singled out “debt collection agencies, as well as legalised loan sharks”, soon to be policed under new consumer protection legislation. Banking services will also governed by new rules.
With plans to introduce a new loans guarantee scheme, both community and sports clubs will have options to “upgrade their facilities, develop programmes to serve our yeouth, spur entrepreneurship and ensure greater community outreach in their parishes and neighbourhoods”.
Another new change will see the ACBDA – the America’s Cup Authority transformed into the Bermuda Event Authority.
“This new authority will be constituted to utilise a far more diverse and inclusive approach to finding, attracting and managing events,” said Governor Rankin.
“Bermuda is more than golf, rugby and sailing and there exists the capacity to grow events that attract, younger, more cosmopolitan and more diverse visitors to our shores.”
- We’ll have more on the new legislative agenda set out in The 2017 Throne Speech in subsequent reports
- Featured Photo of Premier David Burt on the Floor of the House of Assembly Courtesy of DCI Photographer Stephen Raynor