Call it a gesture, call it an extended hand, call it an olive branch, but we don’t want to let pass, without recognition and approbation, Opposition Leader McKeeva Bush’s recent remarks in the Legislative Assembly during the opening of the budget debate.
Mr. Bush, who can be a fiery, bombastic (admittedly often amusing) orator, elevated his rhetoric in reaching out to the new government and his successor as premier, Alden McLaughlin.
“We are here to offer good ideas and not mash down whatever is being attempted,” Mr. Bush said. “My purpose here is to work. I am a worker and if I can’t be given a chance to help, I won’t be a hindrance.”
Perhaps one must have been a premier to understand and appreciate the duties and the pressures another premier must contend with, and it is that shared experience that gives us hope that this temporary offer of détente might become permanent.
In truth, the direction of the Progressives now in power does not appear to diverge significantly from the policy initiatives begun by their UDP predecessors.
Both governments agree on partnering with the private sector to stimulate the economy; both agree on keeping public sector spending in check but not dramatically downsizing the civil service; and both agree on the need for a cruise berthing facility for George Town and an expanded airport for Grand Cayman.
Obviously there are differences both in substance and style. The most salient issue of disagreement, of course, is immigration reform. The government’s proposed legislation extends the “rollover” period while making it, on paper at least, more difficult for work permit holders to gain permanent residency.
That’s a far cry from Mr. Bush’s proposal, contained in the UDP’s 2013 campaign manifesto, to do away with the rollover policy altogether. We would be surprised if Mr. Bush and his back-bench team could support the new government on this issue.
In matters of style, the Progressives seem to have taken note of criticisms levied at Mr. Bush and the UDP for ministerial travel expenses and public confrontations with the U.K. Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
Accordingly, elected officials say they are adhering to a new set of travel policies for civil servants, and thus far Cayman Islands political leaders have gone out of their way to make peace with U.K. budget advisers and to make new Gov. Helen Kilpatrick feel welcome.
(This newspaper has noted that it is uncomfortable with our premier, or his ministers, flying “tourist class” when traveling on official business. It may save a few dollars, but we believe it overly egalitarian for our country’s top leaders to act as if they are “just one of the boys [or girls].”)
On one issue, in particular, we would advise the Progressives to take a page from Mr. Bush’s playbook: the solution to the national embarrassment known colloquially as “Mount Trashmore.” Minister Osbourne Bodden, who has responsibility for solving the problem, spoke far too quickly and parochially after the election when he proclaimed that the current landfill must be remediated in its current location. Mr. Bush and the ForCayman Investment Alliance had a far better plan in place, and the new government would be well advised to revisit it.
Regardless, we don’t expect successive governments to be clones of the ones they replaced. That’s not what the people voted for.
Nevertheless, we think Mr. Bush summed up the reality well when he told the House: “We are one Cayman, and we have nowhere to go.”
We would hope that the Progressives, led by our new premier, would embrace the overture that Mr. Bush extended in the assembly.