Having looked at the candidate and aspects of Mr. Butler’s formal launch in the previous post, I know address the policies touched on by him in his two launch speeches. I am using Bernews’ copy of his first speech and the RG report on his second speech as the sources for my writing.
The First Launch Speech
The first part of this speech further underlines the main message of Mr. Butler’s campaign, that he is going to focus on the social issues facing Bermuda, a change of focus from the perceived ‘bling’ driven leadership of Dr. Brown. Basically he summarises the good work the PLP has done since 1998 concerning these social issues, but acknowledges that more needs to be done in this area and this would be the focus of his Leadership. He is also placing an emphasis on the original ideas of the PLP, an obvious attempt to garner support from the more ‘old labour’ wing of the Party. He is also making quite a few statements speaking to bringing in support from outside the Party, a reference to both his external popularity and a message that with him as Leader the PLP could receive an increase of electoral support beyond its traditional base.
I personally take issue with increasing the union of Church and State with his idea of appointing a ‘spiritual counsellor’ to the Senate to serve as both a Homeless Commissioner and spiritual advisor to Cabinet. While I’m sure this will win support from the Church lobby (and should be seen as a gift in light of his otherwise liberal social views which the Churches find controversial), I think the Churches are too strong as it is and have too much of an influence on government policy. I am very wary of this idea.
One of the first policies he mentions is eliminating payroll tax for all workers earning less than $65k a year. I don’t have any particular problem with this policy, although I would like to see more detail about how much of a benefit this would really be to workers, and how much of an effect this would have on government finances.
On crime he really doesn’t say much other than acknowledging that its a problem (talk about stating the obvious). He does mention a greater focus on technology for combatting crime, which one presumes means more CCTV. Personally, I question the value of CCTV (I’m not saying it isn’t useful, but I think its use is over-hyped), and I do have concerns about privacy issues.
On the issue of handicapped peoples, he also doesn’t say much. What will his ‘action plan’ address, how and why? Why is this a priority over other issues? I have no problem with doing more in this area, especially when it comes to physical accessibility, but I would like to know more about his focus on it.
I am a bit surprised at his mention of setting up an all-boy’s school. At first glance this is something that many people will raise their eyebrow’s at, and he hasn’t done much to explain the pros and cons, or even the reason why such a project is needed. There is actually some arguments in favour of setting up an all-boy’s (and by extension, an all-girls) school, but one would have expected him to expand on it. I also question his reasoning concerning closing some primary/middle schools and converting them into community centers. I quite like the idea of more community centers, but I am wary about further centralising the schools. My own impression is that having more small schools is better than a few large ones, as it is easier for children to become alienated and fall through the cracks in the system in large schools. They may be cheaper in the sense of economies of scale, but I think they are more expensive in the long-term social sense. He needs to really expand on his ideas here, especially as education was seen as Mr. Butler’s particular strongpoint, and an increasingly important political issue.
His position as regards drugs is ambiguous. Is it more of the status quo, or is there something in particular he will do to ‘catch drugs importers’? Where does he stand on decriminalising marijuana for example? How will he improve customs abilities to police imported goods?
What exactly will he do to address the issue of underemployed/unemployable people? Why has this situation come about, and what does he intend to do about it?
I am surprised at his ‘Ideas Council’ idea. It was my impression that Party activists are already listening to public discourse and should be continuously evaluating the costs and benefits and relative merits of ideas. The Party membership is the vehicle by which these ideas are supposed to be identified and proposed as policy, and an Ideas Council seems rather superfluous.
His positions on lack of financial payments from fathers seem fine and something to be developed; this has a knock on effect on many social issues and needs addressed.
No issues with his desire to implement the Mincey Report.
I don’t know what his Hotline idea is all about. A hotline for what? Is this for crime, health issues, social issues, what?
I don’t have a problem with expanding sports beyond football and cricket. I personally think we should be placing a greater emphasis on track and field, tennis, golf, swimming and sailing, all areas where we have the capacity to develop world class athletes. I did find it surprising though that he choose to focus on Aquatics, and use an obscure word as well. Is he referring just to swimming, or is he including diving and synchronised swimming as well?
I would like him to be more clear on how he plans to reduce Government waste and spending, and how this differs from his positions on reducing Cabinet salaries and cutting consultants. On those two issues though, I have absolutely no problem with his positions on them. His focus on ‘growth in international business and tourism’ seems rather obvious though; I cannot think of any Bermudian politician who would say otherwise, although I would like to see someone advocate developing a third economic pillar to greater diversify our economy.