McTaggart appointed financial services councillor
Cayman Islands Premier Alden McLaughlin announced Thursday that he had appointed Mr. McTaggart as a councillor in the ministries of finance and financial services, to assist PPM government ministers Marco Archer and Wayne Panton.
“Mr. McTaggart has indicated his willingness to serve the country and his constituents as a member of the government and in the spirit of inclusion that has characterised the Progressives government, we welcome him to the team,” Mr. McLaughlin said in a statement released Thursday afternoon.
The move means that all three independent legislators backed by the Coalition for Cayman political advocacy group have now joined the PPM’s ruling government.
During the first sitting of the Legislative Assembly following last month’s election, Mr. McTaggart had taken a seat on the opposition benches, between independent legislators for North Side and East End, Ezzard Miller and Arden McLean.
Mr. McTaggart, who was last week elected by fellow lawmakers to be chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, said he had initially been reluctant to join the government because the PAC chairman role is traditionally held by an opposition member.
“As days passed, I think they realised how much work has to be done here to try to get Cayman back into shape financially and also in dealing with the financial services sector internationally,” said Mr. McTaggart, who added that he believed his experience and skills could be well utilised by the government. Mr. McTaggart is the former managing partner of accounting firm KPMG.
He said he had been in discussions with Mr. McLaughlin’s government during the past few days. “They again asked if I would come on board and help with some of this. I wanted to do what is right for the country,” he said.
His Coalition for Cayman colleagues Tara Rivers and Winston Connolly had both earlier accepted government seats. Ms Rivers has been appointed minister of education, employment and gender affairs, while Mr. Connolly was given the role of a councillor for education and employment.
Mr. McLaughlin said Thursday his party was confident that Mr. McTaggart’s experience in the financial services industry would provide additional support to ministers Archer and Panton “at this critical juncture”.
“Mr. McTaggart has said that after careful consideration, in the face of the threats to the Cayman Islands’ financial stability from a new round of tax compliance regulations and the challenges which the country faces with respect to its finances, he believed his professional experience would be better employed in a proactive way from the government benches.
“He looks forward to serving the country and his constituents in this new capacity and remains committed to the role of independents within the government,” the statement from Mr. McLaughlin continued.
Mr. McTaggart’s move from opposition to government is likely to have a knock-on effect on the composition of the Public Accounts Committee.
Following a secret ballot vote in the Legislative Assembly on 29 May, Progressives party members Alva Suckoo and Joey Hew, independents Mr. McTaggart and Mr. Connolly, and United Democratic Party leader and West Bay representative McKeeva Bush were elected to the Public Accounts Committee. Mr. Bush objected to the committee consisting of a majority of government members. Typically, Public Accounts Committees have consisted of more opposition members than government members, with its chairman being drawn from the opposition side. With Mr. McTaggart now a member of government, that leaves Mr. Bush as the only opposition member on the committee.
“As a consequence of Mr. McTaggart’s decision to join the government, the composition of the Public Accounts Committee will have to be changed to ensure proper balance and the necessary steps to effect this will be taken when next the Legislative Assembly meets,” Mr. McLaughlin said.
Mr. McTaggart agreed, saying that at this point, he did not know if he would remain on the committee. “No decision has been taken on that at this point in time. It will be something that will have to be dealt with at some point,” he said.
Like his two colleagues, Ms Rivers and Mr. Connolly, Mr. McTaggart said he has no intention of joining the Progressives party and that he remains an independent member of the assembly.
The Coalition for Cayman candidates had campaigned during the election for a coalition government. Following the election, the group had pushed for its members to hold Cabinet positions, but Mr. McLaughlin had insisted that only one independent member – Ms Rivers – would be offered a role as minister within his government. Mr. McTaggart said it had been “very clear there would not be any ministerial role” for him.
Asked if he would have preferred a ministerial role rather than that of a councillor, Mr. McTaggart said: “Any person looking at that would probably say yes. I’m willing to put my skills and experience to use wherever they are needed.”
With Mr. McTaggart’s move, there are now 12 government members – not including House Speaker Juliana O’Connor-Connolly, who joined the PPM last month following the general election, but does not have a vote during House proceedings – and five opposition lawmakers in the 18-member Legislative Assembly.