A new democracy

Bermuda needs a new democracy, one which better represents the needs and desires of our people and once and for all ends this Us vs. Them battle that has ensured stagnation in the progression of our nation.  On October 10th, 2007, the Canadian province of Ontario will be holding a referendum alongside a general election to put the question of electoral reform directly to the people.  The choices shall consist of sticking with the existing winner take all system referred to as “First-past-the-post” or adopting a proposed “Mixed member proportional” system.  The decision of which best fits the needs of the people of Ontario will be placed directly in their own hands.  Could such an initiative benefit Bermuda and what could you be doing about it?

In tackling the question of how to improve the electoral process, the Ontario government resolved to create a “Citizens’ Assembly on Electoral Reform” to address the questions of how to improve governance.  The composure and purpose of this assembly are best described on the assembly’s own website:

The Assembly was independent of government. It was made up of 103 randomly-selected citizens – one from each of Ontario’s electoral districts. With the Chair, 52 of the members were male and 52 were female. At least one member was Aboriginal.

Together, Assembly members examined Ontario’s electoral system – the system that structures how votes get combined to elect Members of Provincial Parliament (MPPs).

Members of the assembly met twice a month for 8 months to examine Ontario’s existing electoral system.  They learned about systems in place elsewhere and consulted with the public through meetings and written submissions.  Using what they learned they recommended that Ontario adopt a new electoral system and submitted a report to the government.  The government is now putting the assembly’s recommendations directly to the voters in the referendum scheduled for October 2007.

What were the recommendations?  The citizens’ assembly considered many different electoral systems and compared them to their existing “first-past-the-post” system, which is very similar to our own.  In brevity, the “first-past-the-post” system is a winner take all popular vote of candidates representing Ontario’s 107 districts (comparable to our own constituencies) with winning candidates each being allotted a seat in parliament.  The recommendation proposed by the citizens’ assembly is that Ontario should adopt a “mixed member proportional” electoral system similar to that which has been used in Germany since 1949, New Zealand since 1993 and Scotland and Wales since 1999. 

What is a “mixed member proportional system”?  A mixed member proportional system is an electoral system where every eligible citizen is provided two votes on election day.  One vote is for a representative of their district and the other vote is a vote for a political party.  Winning representatives of the district votes then make up 90 seats of parliament.  Votes for political parties by contrast would be used to comprise a remaining 39 seats in parliament according to the proportion of votes made for each party with candidates being preselected by each party for this role.

Consider this in comparison to our own island where there has been a growing call for much needed changes to our electoral system.  More and more individuals are losing faith in our colonially inherited system and are desperately seeking change.  Bermuda needs to undertake a similar initiative to that of the people of Ontario by creating a Citizens’ Assembly on Electoral Reform of our own.  One that can independently recommend the changes that will best benefit Bermudians with the question of whether to implement those changes being put to the people. 

The real tides of change rest in the hands of our people.  What can you do?  Write a blog post about it.  Write a letter to the editor.  Write your representative.  Write on facebook.  Call the talk shows.  Call your representative.  Tell your friends.  Convince every single Bermudian that it is time for change and that our leadership needs to embrace and be the catalyst to make it happen.

Take action today.



Further info:

Referendum Ontario


Ontario Citizens’ Assembly on Electoral Reform


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A revolution in education

What impact would there be if we were able to offer one-on-one tutoring for every single Bermudian child?  Could it revolutionize our education system?  Could it help us achieve the standard of education that we so desperately seek for our children?  What if it were not only possible but also cost effective?

World globalization is making the world a smaller place. While it may make it easier to outsource jobs, it is also making it easier to buy skills from around the world for a much cheaper rate. What if globalization could be used as a means to give our children a better education? What if we could hire tutors from the other side of the world to work one-on-one with every Bermudian child as a means to assist our in-classroom teachers?  A radical idea that just might work.

Online tutoring by the likes of companies like TutorVista is an incredible concept and may well be a tremendous solution for revolutionizing our education system.  It’s premise being to take graduate degree level tutors in India and have them tutor children one-on-one over the Internet, unlimited, 24/7 for $100 a month.   Skeptical?  Check out the video clip of it from the Today Show or the articles in the New York Post, CNET News, or the San Francisco Chronicle.

How would we achieve such a thing?  We could begin by taking a hint from the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) initiative and endeavor to equip every child in Bermuda with a laptop capable of communicating with a tutor.  Combine it with island wide high speed wireless networks and change the format of the Bermudian classroom to incorporate assisting with both in-class work and homework with online tutors.  Top it all off with standardized testing across the board to ensure that all students are achieving the levels required for progression.

Could we achieve one on one education for every single Bermudian child?  Could it revolutionize our education system?  Could it help us achieve the standard of education that we so desperately seek for our children?  What if it really is cost effective and if so, whats stopping us?

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Will the real drama queen please stand up

The quick words of Deputy Opposition Leader Patricia Gordon-Pamplin with regards to her husband’s arrest have left her looking like quite the fool and inspired many to question how she would react as a leader of our country if the scenario were changed.

Going on the immediate offensive and throwing the notion of “innocent until proven guilty” out the window, Ms. Gordon-Pamplin launched a preemptive assault on her husband’s credibility by referring to him as “worthless” and a “Drama King”.  This when he was expressing concern for the embarassment that may be born for her and the UBP.

With charges having now been dropped, Ms. Gordon-Pamplin has been made to look quite the fool in proving to be the real source of embarassment for her party and proving who the real drama queen is in this scenario.  Is this the kind of response we’d want from a leader of our country if the situation were a less personal one?

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“What is the best way to empower black Bermuda?”

Silencedogood has written quite a brilliant comment in the discussion for my “token black guy” of the boardroom? piece.  Portions of which I found worth sharing for those who don’t follow the comments.

the United States is not Bermuda.   …  The differences in the economics of the US and Bermuda are some of the most significant. The Bermuda economy is skewed to knowledge worker jobs, i.e. those where the individual needs to be highly educated or trained. Think about it—accountants, lawyers, IT professionals—these are all jobs where you need to go away, study, work, acquire those skills before coming home. This shift has occurred at the same time public education has taken a nosedive in quality. This is why [so many people are] focused on education … and why quotas won’t work. If you put someone unqualified in a job that requires skills you can only get by going away to study you are never going to see success and it will undermine those who have invested in themselves.

We also can’t ignore the population size and demographics. To expect a population of 60,000 to produce numerous high level executives for companies drawing human resources from around the globe is presumptuous at best regardless of colour. Therefore if we are going to compare colour we need to do so using only Bermudians not Black Bermudians vs. White Bermudians and White Expats. There probably is a disproportionate split there which needs to be addressed, but it will be smaller than a flat black/white split and more representative of the problem.

Which brings us to the original discussion of “What is the best way to empower black Bermuda?”

My personal opinion is that education is the foundation of everything. It gives you options. It gives you self-esteem. It’s something that, once you accomplish it, can never be taken away. To me that IS empowerment and that is what all Bermudians, but especially black Bermudians, need to realize and embrace.

To really address the issues this island faces we need to have higher standards in the public education system, we need to work our butts off as teachers and parents to make sure our kids meet and exceed those standards, we need to have a fully functional student loan program and we need to encourage our kids to go to the best schools they can get into. This will benefit everyone, but will disproportionately benefit black Bermudians who represent the largest demographic of public education customers.

Unless we start valuing education, and believe me we don’t right now, we will always lag behind. Setting up a quota system is the worst possible thing we can do. We are already seeing the outsourcing occurring from the restrictive immigration policies (which act as a quota-lite type system). The more restrictive and artificial the system, the worse it’s side effects will be. Fix the biggest problem first and then we can see what else needs to be done.

Very well said.

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A walk-in medical clinic?

Why is it that there are no walk-in clinics on the island?  If you’re ill or injured enough to warrant not waiting for an appointment with your doctor, but not so ill that you need to visit the emergency room, what do you do?

While kiteboarding this morning I landed badly on my side while jumping and injured my ribs.  So now I find myself in the predicament of figuring out what to do about it.  I’m uncertain as to whether I broke or dislocated a rib but I’m quite certain that there is pain when I move.  What do I do?

Considering my options I think there are really only two given that it’s a Saturday of a long weekend.  Those being to take a trip in to the hospital to get looked at by the emergency room or wait out the weekend and try to get an appointment with my doctor early next week.

Given my last experience with the hospital in a vaguely similar situation left me with a $200 bill, I’m reluctant to go there.  I’m also doubtful that there is much that can really be done aside from ensuring that I didn’t do any unseen damage to my spleen so I’m more than likely to just wait out the weekend.  That is unless there are any signs that things get worse.

This leads me to wonder why there isn’t a third option.  Why are there no clinics on the island where I can walk-in and be looked at that isn’t dedicated to “emergencies” and hopefully won’t cost me a fortune?

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