‘No requirement’ for bills to go to political caucus

Ezzard Miller
Ezzard Miller

A long-awaited effort to reform government’s statutory authorities and companies is expected to go to the Progressives-led government’s political caucus in April, Deputy Governor Franz Manderson said Wednesday.

Mr. Manderson’s statement during a meeting of the Legislative Assembly’s Public Accounts Committee prompted a question from North Side MLA Ezzard Miller: “Under what authority is there a requirement for legislation … to go to caucus for approval?”

The deputy governor responded that there is no legal requirement, but that it has been the political practice of the Progressives government to take legislation and initiatives to its political party meetings on Mondays prior to bringing those issues to Cabinet for formal approval.

“It’s a political procedure they’ve decided to follow, but it certainly has made our Cabinet meetings flow very well,” Mr. Manderson said.

Mr. Miller has previously expressed concern about government “running everything through caucus,” which is essentially two steps removed from the final decision-making process in Legislative Assembly. Caucus meetings can be attended by non-elected members of the political party; they are not open to the public.

Premier Alden McLaughlin addressed the concern publicly nearly a year ago, explaining that each Monday all members of the Progressives-led government meet and essentially decide what business will be carried forward on behalf of the government.

Mr. McLaughlin said the caucus meetings put all elected members, whether the premier or a backbench member, on equal footing.

“In caucus, we all have equal voice and vote,” the premier said. “If [a proposal] has no support in caucus, the bill, the policy … does not go forward in the first place.

“The Cabinet alone, even if [a proposal] goes to the House, can pass nothing. In many ways, Cabinet is a formal process … the real decision-making is done in caucus.”

Mr. McLaughlin stressed the importance of consensus-building in the current version of the Westminster political system adopted by the Cayman Islands. The system is based on a majority rule principle that one former Cayman Islands legislator described as “the minority must have its say, but the majority will have its way.”

“Politics, at the end of the day, is a numbers game,” Mr. McLaughlin said. “You can get absolutely nothing done unless you have the majority of the people in the House supporting what you’re trying to do. I would not be the premier if the majority of my team did not support me to be premier. The ministers wouldn’t be ministers if they didn’t have my confidence and support.

“There has to be some level of consensus and agreement on principles and policies among the majority, otherwise the government cannot begin to function.”