Cannonier wins. Now what?

Congratulations Craig Cannonier on being elected as the soon to be leader of the opposition.  Now what?

Mr. Cannonier needs to show the people that there is action behind his big words.  He needs to deliver on his claims that he can bring new people into the OBA.  He needs to deliver on bringing something new and different to local politics.  Can he deliver on the claims that OBA will be something very different from the UBP it evolved from?  Can he show he’s more than just talk.  Mr. Cannonier needs to get his message out there, ensure it’s heard and attract those who can help him achieve it.

Mr. Cannonier is still a relative unknown and this can work either for or against him.  In his media coverage he’s shown he likes to talk big but hasn’t shown he can deliver when push come to shove.  He needs to change this.  He’s claiming that he’s the broom to sweep new faces from the sidelines into the party.  He failed to bring in significant numbers when he led the BDA so what is he going to be doing differently as leader of the OBA?  A great first step would be leading by example by instituting direct democratic reforms within the party to restore confidence in our leaders.  If giving the people a say in the leadership of the party doubled membership then what kind of impact would giving people a say in far more issues have?

Mr. Cannonier need to work on reigning in his abundance of confidence and focusing on delivering on his claims and promises.  Some still remember his claims that the UBP should “switch off the lights”, that the UBP cannot succeed, that the BDA is the "most vibrant political movement this Country has seen in recent history" and that "The Alliance is ready to assume the role of the official Opposition of this Country".  These were big claims, claims to which he then led the BDA into a by election in which they attained less votes than the UBP.  Mr. Cannonier failed to deliver and needs to do what he can to sidestep this in the future.  We’ve certainly had enough of leadership who are big on talk and short on action, especially when most action was achieved by throwing money at the problem.

Mr. Cannonier remains a relative unknown and needs to up his political profile.  The OBA shouldn’t be relying on media outlets to do their PR work if they can manage otherwise.  The OBA should take every opportunity they can to publish every political word spoken by Mr. Cannonier up on their website and promote him as much as possible.  If he’s to be the face of a new opposition they need to ensure his face is everywhere and the first place to start is their website.  Beyond relying on Bernews to record their speeches, the OBA should be recording and publishing as much as they can on their own.  Their website needs to be a hive of activity with new content posted any and every time there is new content made.  Similarly with twitter and facebook.  People thrive on consuming new content and a good way to rope them in looking for more is to regularly provide new content.

So where does the OBA go from here?  Show their leader can deliver, chart a new course in local politics that involves the people, reign in the undeliverable rhetoric and do more to get their message out there (and not by robocall!)

People have lost confidence in our leadership

The UBP’s legacy isn’t the problem.  The problem is that people have lost confidence in our leadership.  If the OBA wants to succeed they need to focus on regaining confidence, not new names, faces and radical new leaders.  The OBA needs to offer something different, not just new window dressing but a new political process that involves the people and restores confidence.  The OBA could take a deep look at existing forms of direct democracy and find ways to adapt them to work here.

Tom Vesey sort of gets it when he suggests that in order to succeed “the OBA needs to offer something genuinely new”, though like many others he then gets caught up in the UBP's legacy as the issue.  The UBP held power for 30 years because they held the support of the middle class swing vote, which they then lost.  None of the elections since have been landslide victories but instead won on the basis of handfuls of seats.  The PLP has done such a brilliant job of painting the UBP’s legacy and race as the core problem that old UBPers believed it, BDAers separtists believed it, newly formed OBAers believe it as do former and current newspaper editors.  It is falsely shaping the driving force behind the OBA's strategy and yet it may be off the mark because people want more than new faces, they want a new approach.

Here’s where I think Mr. Vesey is spot on:

[The OBA] has to be promoting and presenting itself as something new — a new party, a new idea, a new way of conducting politics in Bermuda.

As the OBA positions itself for the rough election road ahead, it needs to make sure it is more than just a critic and more than just an “alternative government”

It must at all costs offer something genuinely new — an alternative WAY of government.

The OBA sort of gets it in that they’ve committed to increasing democracy, though their implementation could go further.  People need to be able to regain faith and confidence in their ability to lead and a likely route to success is to give more power to the people. 

If we look back to the example of the declaration of American independence, people were hungry for a change in how they were governed. They were tired of Monarchist rule and unjust taxation, they’d lost confidence in their leadership and wanted more say in governance. The founding fathers turned to the inspiration of William Penn, founder of Pennsylvania and his idea for an amendable constitution.  Penn understood that people are more easily governed when they feel they have a greater hand in governance.  He said as much in Fruits of Solitude.

If the OBA hopes to succeed they need to provide new and modern means of accommodating dissent and embracing new ideas.  Our current representative system just doesn't go far enough for it was designed for a colonial age long past.  We live in an age that travels at a far faster pace and is far more connected than during Penn’s time and thus we need to offer modern approaches.  We need a system that offers the people not only representation but also a more direct hand in governance.

The OBA deserves considerable credit for setting the bar higher with their pledges for referendums and intent on allowing internet voting for their upcoming leadership election.  However can they be doing more to make people feel heard and like they can make a difference?  Can they enable people to have a greater hand in governance and can they do more than talk about it but also demonstrate how they can deliver on it?

We're told things like:

“One of the core elements of the OBA’s better governance platform is to engage the public more directly in decision-making. One aspect of this objective is the use of referenda to measure public opinion, particularly on controversial issues”

These pledges are excellent, though part of the problem is that people don't really understand what the OBA is talking about when they say better governance.  Some might wonder if the OBA themselves even understand it.  What is meant when the OBA calls for a referendum?  Do they mean “Gambling:  tick yes or no” or are we talking about something far more substantial?  Most Bermudians have vague ideas of what referendums are and thus we have no idea what it will look like.  We need samples and rather than talk about it the OBA could make more of an effort to provide clear working examples by enshrining them in the foundation of their party function.  Referendums and direct democracy should be placed at the core of how their own party operates as a demonstration of how they would work.

This leads us back to the question of whether people understand what better governance really means.  One example of better governance would mean developing our legislative framework such that the people are provided the opportunity to be more involved.  Referendums are a likely answer, though it is important that people understand what referendums are and the process which could be followed.  Certainly one would be well advised to avoid the California model, it has been an disaster.  The Swiss model on the other hand has been a shining success that has worked well for over a century.  What is the Swiss model and how could it work here?   The OBA could be reading and borrowing liberally from the Guidebook to Direct Democracy for ideas.  Here’s a short summary example of how Bermuda could be approaching it (with parathensis for party specific examples).

  1. Start with an initiative to institute a new law.  It could be a law (policy or position in the case of the party) to resolve any issue (eg. gambling) of which the initial trigger can come from individual voters (party members) or interest groups.  These individuals would file a petition to start an initative which has the support of a certain minimum number of signatures.  An initiative could also be triggered by parliamentary (or caucus) representatives.
  2. Work out a preliminary draft.  Appoint a bi-partisan committee (or interested party members) composed of those who have interest in the initiative law to put together the preliminary draft.  Put this draft out for consultation and request formal opinions and proposed changes from related organizations and interest groups.  On the basis of the feedback, revise the draft and send it to a national council (Caucus) for review and consideration.
  3. Debate the draft.   In parliament, open the draft for debate (within the party, perhaps assign groups to openly debate the draft in a town hall format) and request a formal opinion to be compiled by each side to be presented alongside the original draft.  Revise the draft according to the opinions gathered and resubmit for debate.  Continue revising and resubmitting and if after three rounds of debate there are still differences seek to call an agreement conference comprised of members of each side to seek a compromise solution.  Put the final solution to a national council vote.
  4. Seek open public feedback.  For issues triggered by parliamentary (or caucus) representatives, make the law (party policy or position) subject to an optional referendum by setting a reasonable timeline (100 days?) for the people to petition for a binding referendum to be held on it.  For issues triggered originally by petition, make a referendum a binding requirement.  Ensure constitutional changes are binding to decision by referendum regardless of the source.
  5. If supported or unopposed put the new law into force.   If 100 days pass without enough people petitioning for a referendum or a referendum being called and the majority approves it (or their is not enough turnout) then put the new law (policy or position) into force.  If a referendum is held and the majority oppose it, scrap it.  

The important factor is to provide a binding means for the public to start an initative and have it put to a referendum.  This gives the people faith that they can require our leadership to address and resolve an issue by way of referendum.  It also gives people the faith that any new law can be placed under the requirement to be put to a referendum.  It also provides a valid process that can avoid the pitfalls of people simply petitioning for “free beer” or against any and all tax increases without consiquence while empowering any individual or group to feel like they have a say.  Further it provides people a valid means to petition against a new law to which the people disagree with.  Other requirements such as big budget expenditures crossing a certain threshold could also be required to be supported by way of a referendum.  Such a structure would go a long way to offering “something genuinely new — an alternative WAY of government”.  It'd be far more encouraging than a new name and new lead for the same old boring play.

Those interested in knowing more would be wholly encouraged to read the Guidebook to Direct Democracy, it is a relatively short read which covers the history, successes, implications and successful implementation of direct democracy in Switzerland.

How do we get our economy rolling back?

Regarding my previous post Monaco style exemption zones could rejuvenate our economy Kathy writes:

Sounds like another Jamaica in the making.  Shove some Monaco type high wealth individuals behind a guarded gate at Southside and make sure the shanty towners outside don’t break in.  I think his idea was well served in the 1930’s but in 2011 Bermuda has to get its crime under control, put the average blue collar worker back to work and get the economy rolling back.  I do like the idea of residency certificates, but not to the elite…Bermuda is and never will be a Monaco I am afraid!

Now certainly it was not my intention to suggest the creation of gated communities.  Instead the implication was to use zone restricted residency certificates as a means to encourage investment which results in job creation.  Perhaps I failed to make my point clear enough or Kathy would be kind enough to clarify why she thinks this idea would be unsuccessful.

Kathy raises an interesting point “Bermuda has to get its crime under control, put the average blue collar worker back to work and get the economy rolling back”. 

How exactly do we do that? 

Contrary to what union officials believe, we can’t simply require companies to hire people when they can’t afford to do so.  Bermuda is reliant on attracting foreign wealth to sustain itself.  Long ago we exported our natural resources in the form of agriculture and ship building, then we leveraged our natural beauty and good natured people to develop tourism and finally we leveraged our tax friendly nature to heavily increase our employment base so we could attract foreigners to live here as “long term tourists” and spent considerably in our local economy year round. 

Today, we don’t have enough natural resources, our good natured attitude has disappeared and we’ve been driving away our “long term tourists” with xenophobic policies and attitudes.  If we sit around and wait for things to magically right themselves it would come as no surprise if we do follow in the footsteps of Jamaica.  We cannot put the average blue collar worker back to work if we lack demand for unskilled labour.  Unless someone has a revolutionary new idea of how we can expand our tax base without driving it away we can’t simply continue the trend of expanding the civil service. 

We have little choice but to do everything we can to reverse the trend of declining spending in our local economy.  How can we do this aside from reversing the trend of driving away guest workers and foreign investment?   Beyond this, we should be doing whatever we can to reduce our cost of living to make Bermuda more affordable and retrain Bermudians with the skills necessary to earn a manageable living.  If we can do this, we’d be on our way to getting our economy rolling back, putting average blue collar workers back to work and hopefully putting a dent in crime instigated by the jobless and those who’ve lost hope in Bermuda’s future.  Creating Monaco style zones could offer considerable leverage to help expedite the process.  Otherwise, what solutions are there?

Monaco style exemption zones could rejuvenate our economy

In the mid 1930s Sir Henry Tucker discovered that exempting foreign dealing companies from Bermudian ownership restrictions could create wealth and prosperity for Bermudians.  Today, as our debts have grown and we face prospects of a prolonged local recession can we return to his idea for inspiration?  Are there restrictions we could look to relax today to rejuvenate investment and encourage capital flows into our island to get our economy back on track?  Rather than simply exempting a company from Bermudian ownership requirements, perhaps we could create special exemption zones that exempt the requirements of Bermudian status on business and property ownership as well as residence restrictions while saving the rest of Bermuda for Bermudians? 

What Bermuda needs most is to provide for Bermudians.  We’re facing dire times with increasingly greater numbers of unemployed and many finding themselves without the levels of education necessary to succeed in our prime industry.  We’ve relied heavily on high paying jobs with low skill requirements as a means to survive Bermuda’s low education levels, high cost of living and bridge the wealth divide.  During the boom times, construction offered a great many such opportunities.  Now that the bubble is bursting, many are finding themselves without opportunity and some are turning to crime.  Our most important task is to ensure that we can adequately employ Bermudians, ensure a reasonable cost of living and make it sustainable enough for Bermudians to continue to prosper.

In a May opinion piece in The Royal Gazette John Jeffries recalled Sir Henry’s idea and suggested it could serve as inspiration for how we could salvage our economy.  Mr. Jeffries pitched the ‘Monaco Model’ of offering residency cards as an illustration of what we could do here.  His suggestion was for casinos and while we can be wary about the positive or negative impact casinos could provide, we could instead focus on Mr. Jeffries suggestion that we examine Monaco’s residency card program.  A large part of Monaco’s success is in their ability to offer residency to individuals of very high net worth and encourage significant capital investment from these individuals.  Would Bermuda change for the better if we could encourage the same?

The largest issue with offering residency and ownership rights to non-Bermudians is the fear that Bermudians will be priced out of Bermuda.   It’s a valid concern, the average Bermudian cannot compete with the wealth and prosperity of the world’s rich and famous.  One question however is whether we could leverage it to our advantage?  Much like how we exempted a certain kind of business from Bermudian ownership restrictions could we do the same with certain designated zones?  Could we take areas like Hamilton, Morgan’s point and Southside and create special exemption zones that encourage foreign investment while leaving the rest of Bermuda for Bermudians?  Could we take that foreign investment and turn Bermuda into a leading business traveler destination not only for our existing industries but to expand to better cover the trade shows, conferences and incentive travel that we're best suited for?

Using capital from foreign residency card holders we could develop these exemption zones into major business tourism centers.  They could serve as an economic pillar not encumbered by the need to be low tax nor the seasonality that plagues our leisure tourism industry.  Further we could develop the area with marinas, conference centers, meeting spaces, hotels, spas, entertainment and housing, all while freeing up more of the rest of Bermuda for Bermudians.  In the interim we would return growth to the construction industry while in the long term create more diversity in the jobs available for less skilled Bermudians.

The brilliance of Sir Henry’s model was that reduced restrictions created opportunities for Bermudians and largely put us on a path to considerable economic success.  The only problem was that if you were not riding the wave of prosperity you were likely to eventually get caught simply trying to stay afloat. We need to find ways to return prosperity to Bermudians without pricing ourselves out of Bermuda.  We need to find a path to success while creating new jobs for Bermudians and a stable new economic pillar.  Leveraging special exemption zones to develop our ability to target business tourism could make it happen. 

May the best man win… or not.

One of the big complaints waged against the old UBP was that while they preached a colorblind approach to racism though in practice they had primarily black candidates and seemed to push unqualified black candidates to the forefront.  It struck at least a few as a bit hypocritical as really a colorblind approach should strive to put the best man in the job regardless of race, color or creed.

The new opposition incarnate, the One Bermuda Alliance, championed themselves as great change in our local political spectrum.  Unfortunately, in trying to distinguish themselves as different from the old UBP, they may well have shot themselves in the foot with their upcoming leadership contest.  The founding of the OBA was that they were different.  They were to be a party that put the people first and gave the people a greater say, removing the potential old UBP carryover notion that there were powerbrokers behind the scenes pulling strings.  The problem is that they seem to be repeating the UBP's mistakes.

Rather than encouraging all able to stand for leadership and allowing supporters to choose the best candidate, they've managed to convince the two white old guard UBP members to stand aside in favor of two black faces.  There's nothing wrong with this except that when you preach a colorblind approach to racism, it comes off just as hypocritical as it did with the UBP.  

As the former Limey in Bermuda blogger accurately put it, Craig Cannonier "has too much of a sense of entitlement and lacks experience" and Bob Richards "would be a good finance minister but lacks the charisma to be a good leader".  This just doesn't strike me as a contest where the OBA is putting their best in front of the people and letting the people decide.  Don't get me wrong, there's certainly validity in the old guard standing aside in favor of a younger and newer generation, however shouldn't the choice of who is best of old and new go to the people themselves and not be made behind the scenes?  

Really, the OBA should have encouraged rather than discouraged Michael Dunkley to take a shot at leadership, even though he has come up with his own reasons for why he'd rather not lead.  While Mr. Dunkley and I haven't entirely seen eye to eye when it comes to some things, the man not only deserves, but commands great respect for his willingness to sacrifice himself (even give up a safe seat) for his pursuit of the betterment of Bermuda.  

The OBA really should have put forward John Barritt as a leadership candidate and that goes for two reasons.  The first is that he was a clear favorite in the polls and it was to their advantage to lead with a favorite.  Yes, he made a pledge to not run and yes by going against it, it may look bad.  However, with that said, again the people should be the ultimate decision makers.  The second reason is that the OBA should realize that we, the people, have grown rather tired of leadership who put forth a stupid idea and then stick to it to save face rather than admit a mistake and make the right decision.  Frankly, we've seen enough of this in politics worldwide, let alone locally.  Rise up, admit that you made a mistake and then put it to the people to do the forgiving.  Mr. Barritt should have been placed back in the race and if I were a BDA a member, I'd cross out the alternatives and write him in on Sept 10th.

The OBA has reestablished one of the stigmas that stood heavily against the UBP in their days.  We're once again seeing where we're going to have an election of inadequate leaders who seem largely to have risen to the post not because of their qualifications and overall ability but instead seemingly because of the color of their skin.  This is unfortunate as both Mr. Cannonier and Mr. Richards seem to be great men who likely could contribute greatly to the betterment of our island, they just may not be the best man for the job of potential leader of our country.  For a party that preaches a color blind nature and strives to be so different it is rather unfortunate that this may be seen as largely hypocritical and rather than striking out a new path it seems like they've reinforced the old one.

 

Jobs don’t grow on trees

Union officials don’t seem to get it, businesses can’t simply hire if there is no demand for their services.  How do we know there is less demand?  Well, let’s look at estimates of consumption of non-Bermudian households shall we?

We’ll start by combining the earlier approximations of the number of households per non-Bermudian and match that against the 2004 Household Expenditure Survey to get an approximate idea of the average amount of spending per household. 

What we can note is that since the survey doesn’t distinguish between higher earning non-Bermudian and lower earning Bermudian households, we’ll also need to approximate an adjustment to account for this.  In order to create such an adjustment, we can take the percentage breakdown of average expenditure of non-Bermudian households and apply that across the various expenditure categories.

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Using these numbers gives us a better approximate of the weekly expenditure of non-Bermudian households.

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Next up we can look at the changes over the year and note that in 2010 there was approximately $800,000 less spent in our local economy each week than in 2009.  That’s a great deal of money no longer flowing through our economy.

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It is amazing to watch as clueless union officials chastise businesses for not hiring during the downturn.  Demand has plummeted, people aren’t spending because there are far less people to contribute to our economy.  Undoubtedly there are a great many businesses that would love to do what they can, however unfortunately if sales are plummeting (like they have for a couple straight years now), it simply isn’t possible for companies to hire on more people.  Perhaps unions should prove themselves by doing their own part and hiring on extra people, that and publishing up to date budgets to prove that they can do so without going heavily into debt.

All these statistics tell us is that our own local recession has been exasperated by a flight of expats, perhaps due to term limits and immigration policy.  We can blame the global recession all we want, but let’s remember, insurance isn’t the kind of business that is as heavily recession prone.  There are bigger implications and it is time we take a close look at our own policies and attitudes (aka. the “Go home Filipino” crap) we’ve created through stirring the xenophobic pot as the cause of all our problems.

Impact of non-Bermudian job losses on housing demand

Remember back in 2009 where we examined the impact of expatriate job growth on housing demand?  Let’s revisit that shall we.  Recall that we used data from the 2000 Census to approximate the number of non-Bermudian households as a percentage of non-Bermudian jobs.

 

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Let’s use these approximations by applying them to the 2011 Employment Brief and start by charting out the approximate non-Bermudian household demand according to the current employment figures.

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Not clear enough?  Let’s take a look specifically at approximate growth.

 

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Note the incredibly sharp decline in demand that is attributable to the decline in jobs.  Those 867 less expat jobs in 2010?  They equate to 43 fewer studios rented, 190 fewer one, 164 fewer two, 86 fewer three, 17 fewer four and 4 fewer five bedroom apartments rented, approximately.  Still wondering why the housing market is in a rapid decline and we are seeing far less “executive” and far more “price reduced” monikers on rental ads?  This is part of the reason why.