As Nomination Day wraps up and the confirmed list of candidates contesting the 14 April general election is formally drawn up, it’s open season on electioneering.
Tonight, three familiar faces will appear together at a public meeting at West Bay Dock: incumbents Eugene Ebanks and McKeeva Bush alongside challenger Rolston Anglin.
Last week, many other aspiring MPs held their own gatherings. Here are some of the highlights:
Contesting: West Bay West
Speaking at the official opening of Rolston Anglin’s West Bay North office, West Bay West incumbent McKeeva Bush said the Cayman Islands is in “a precarious situation” both with regard to the coronavirus pandemic and the economy.
Bush said COVID-19 would leave a lasting legacy.
“Safeguarding the country against the virus must be our primary priority as a government. Businesses want to open up and we have to consider that and do it as fast as we can, once more and more people are vaccinated,” he said.
Until then, “We must be careful and mindful of the dangers we could face in opening our borders too soon.”
Violence against women
Asked by a member of the public if he would support ending violence against women, Bush said, “You know I don’t believe in violence against women and I haven’t committed …” before trailing off.
Bush said, “If you want to come down here this evening, then sit down a minute and let me tell you what took place.” This was followed by a supporter shouting, “You don’t have to.”
Bush did not elaborate and switched the topic but later on said “I have nothing to resign for.”
He said he was accountable to God and the public. “They don’t want to vote for me? Now let’s see.”
Bush, who is running together with Rolston Anglin and Eugene Ebanks, said, if elected, “we are going to work with people that are like-minded”. This would exclude certain candidates.
“Don’t ask me if I support Arden [McLean] and Ezzard [Miller]. You know that’s not true. You know that’s not possible. You know that’s not going to happen, right?”
Bush said he was glad that Anglin took the initiative to open his office in West Bay, as until now he had been forced “to carry the load”.
Taking aim at his former ally, Bernie Bush, he alleged people were coming to him asking for help because the current MP for West Bay North did not have an office, despite collecting a $4,000-office allowance, and he was “not doing his job”.
In the past, Bernie Bush has shared a constituency office with McKeeva Bush and Eugene Ebanks.
McKeeva Bush said that was also the reason why [Bernie] Bush left the coalition, and “had nothing to do with any incident that I had”.
Ebanks, Anglin and Bush will open their campaign in West Bay on Monday evening. At the event they will announce their support of another candidate in West Bay South.
Because it was difficult to predict what the economy would look like later in the year, Bush said, the finance industry – as Cayman’s “only industry right now” – must be supported and protected.
He called on Caymanians and other residents to be tolerant.
“Most of the government finances come from financial services right now and, as we do not have any other kind of local industry, it comes from outside. Our national income comes from outside investment.”
Cayman’s finance industry relied on a safe environment so that people want to come and spend their money in these islands, he said.
In addition to focusing on the families that are suffering and the economy, Bush said there are other areas that need attention, such as the immigration law, and the planning law which has to be revised “because there is just too much bureaucracy”.
Contesting: West Bay North
Like McKeeva Bush, Rolston Anglin, a candidate for West Bay North, used the official opening of his constituency office as a platform to attack his political opponent Bernie Bush, repeating the accusation that he does not have a representative office in the district.
Speaking about COVID-19, Anglin gave credit to the current coalition government for taking the very difficult and widely criticised decision of closing Cayman’s borders.
“But they stood their ground, they made the right decision, and look at where we are today,” he said.
Anglin said there needs to be more help for small businesses and the current system of support for those who cannot afford private health insurance needs to be reformed.
“We are going to have to take a cold, hard look at public insurance in this country; that is insurance for the average man on the street, when they are no longer covered by a private health provider. We are going to have to look at that model, and really enhance it, because it’s falling short.”
With regard to the often-criticised education system, the former education minister said, “Very rarely do we talk about successes, successful cases, the children who make it to our system, and do quite well.”
At the same time, he suggested, it was unfair to expect the education system to solve Cayman’s social issues.
There were too many families at risk, whose children are underperforming.
Anglin said, “You cannot cocoon, a child and say, I’m going to help this child educationally without helping their family.”
He asked how one could help a child with its learning, when the child is abused at home, goes hungry, or the parents do not have the means to buy learning supplies or essentials such as eyeglasses.
“Those are real examples that I recall so well, during my stint as Minister of Education,” he said.
“We must offer a much more modern way in which the people of this country can access services.”
Contesting: George Town South
Working as a lawyer, Lindsay said, helped him understand how enforcement of the law and regulations and how turning a blind eye to both can impact all of our lives, prosperity, the environment, cost of living, and our overall governance framework.
“I decided to become a candidate to become more instrumental and more influential in how policy and regulations are implemented and enforced,” he said.
He added that, when it comes to infrastructure, he believed Cayman needed more transparency in projects and deals and better management of conflicts of interest.
He committed to explaining bills to his constituents in plain English and said he would call for 90 days’ notice for new legislation.
He pledged 25% of his salary, if elected, to either a charity or the district council of George Town South.
Lindsay said we have to change the definition of prosperity. “COVID-19 told us something very important: it’s not all about the money. It’s about our health and well being. We have to include our well being in the equation.”
Lindsay is challenging incumbent Barbara Conolly for the George Town South seat.
Contesting: West Bay Central
Vowing to help bring together a divided community and country, West Bay Central MP candidate Katherine Ebanks-Wilks told her supporters at a campaign event on Thursday night that she will ensure a “true democracy” where power rests with the people.
“Four years ago, I decided to run for office, not because I wanted to be a politician, but because I believed in every person’s democratic right to have a choice,” said Ebanks-Wilks, who is running as an independent against incumbent Eugene Ebanks in the West Bay Central constituency.
In the 2017 election, she lost to Ebanks by a margin of 93 votes.
“The more we find the common ground on the issues that matter to us, the easier for us to unite with a unified voice,” she said.
Her question “Are you all ready to be heard?” drew the evening’s most rousing applause and shouts of approval.
While recognizing that Cayman is one of the safest places in the world amid the pandemic, Ebanks-Wilks pressed for the need to educate the population, especially the most vulnerable, about the Covid-19 vaccine so that the islands’ borders can safely reopen.
“Speaking of reopening,” she said, “we need to ensure that priority is given to Caymanians first. When the jobs trickle back in, our people should be considered first. It’s crazy that we would even think about approving any more work permits until qualified displaced Caymanians are hired.
“We need to look at industries that need to be protected for the native Caymanians, just like our neighbouring countries have done in the Caribbean. I would be supportive of any legislation that is tabled which ensures that various roles within various industries are preserved for Caymanians.”
Other priorities she emphasised included: ensuring sustainable growth and placing a temporary moratorium on duty concessions, which she said could be allocated to “develop Caymanians”; addressing poverty and lowering the cost of living, with a consumer protection commission “to regulate price control”; raising the minimum wage in a tiered phase that does not cause mass inflation; more access to alternative energy, especially for lower-income homes; greater restrictions on land ownership and coastal development; greater consequences for breaching planning laws and free access to health care.
Whether in the government or as a member of the opposition, Ebanks-Wilks said she “will keep fighting for policies that help the people of Cayman, even if I am the only one fighting for them.”
As Ebanks-Wilks closed out her remarks, George Town Central MP Kenneth Bryan walked on stage and publicly endorsed her.
Compass freelancer Judy Isacoff, News Editor Caroline James and Business Editor Michael Klein contributed to this report.