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Statement by Shadow Minister Michael Weeks

The name change for the Bermuda Day Half Marathon has created a great sense of anger and displacement among many Bermudians.  The historical and cultural nature of this event, the positive memories it evokes and the spirit of community it has created over the years, have been negatively impacted by the decision to change its name.

Culture means everything to a people.  In the interest of unity in the community, the preservation of an iconic Bermudian event and cultivating the spirit that Bermuda Day is intended to engender, we urge the sponsors to reverse this decision.

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Polls Are Open Until 8 pm. VOTE!

Polls are open across the island until 8 pm tonight. Vote solidly PLP. And, then, pick up your phone and call/BB/text your friends/family and remind them to vote PLP.

You must show a commonwealth passport, a Bermuda driver's license, a Special Persons Card, Voters Identification Card or an employee identification card with a photo, signature and date of birth to vote.

Find out where to vote here.

Stand strong, Bermuda! Now is the time.

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PLP Launches Our Vision 2K12: Moving Forward Together

Today, the Progressive Labour Party launched our vision for the next term: Moving Forward Together.

"Fundamentally, this platform is about building a fairer Bermuda," noted Premier Paula Cox. "It is about creating jobs and opportunities and ensuring that all Bermudians benefit. It's time to continue the sure and steady progress toward a fairer Bermuda that benefits all Bermudians - not just a few."

"Our platform continues several initiatives to connect Bermudians with jobs. The One Stop Career Centre and Job Corps Bermuda will provide career counseling, training and placement. The Red Carpet for Returning Graduates will help connect Bermudian talent with opportunities.We'll provide economic growth through infrastructure projects including the causeway redevelopment, the Hamilton Waterfront and airport upgrades. For our small Bermudian owned businesses, we will expand the EEZ and start the New Business Initiative to make it easier for budding entrepreneurs to get loans and mentoring advice."

"Our platform is a realistic document that acknowledges the need to tighten our belts while simultaneously growing the economy. We will pay down the debt through a policy of growth. Growing the economy and the tax base is what it's all about. We will further attract new kinds of international business to Bermuda by establishing the bond market and developing a framework to attract Islamic Investment."

The Premier concluded, "This next election is a choice between a PLP that puts fairness at the cornerstone of it's vision and an OBA that will do anything and say anything to get elected. We have a realistic vision for our country's future. We invite you to read our vision here. Consider it carefully and I hope when you do, that you will vote for the team with the substance and vision to build a fairer Bermuda."

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31 Accountants Being Trained

In these difficult times for the global economy, the PLP is standing strong for Bermudians by training 31 new accountants who will be ready to claim jobs in our economy.

Accountants are one of the top classes of guest workers we have in Bermuda. We're standing strong for Bermudians by ensuring that they have the skills to fill those positions. Minister Patrice Minors:

The public will recall that earlier this year, the Ministry partnered with the Bermuda College to offer a $500,000 Retraining Scholarship Fund to assist in:

Ø Retraining Bermudians seeking employment in a particular professional designation; and
Ø Retraining individuals who may already be employed but who lack the financial resources to pursue a specific professional designation in their field.

The Certification programmes in the Accounting field include: CPA (Certified Public Accountant), CMA (Certified Management Accountant) and ACCA (Association of Certified Chartered Accountants) Certification Programmes.

A combination of unemployed, under-employed and those seeking to advance their qualifications are currently participating in the training scheme. And the Ministry confirmed that 15 individuals have been accepted into the ACCA certification, and 16 individuals have been accepted into the CMA and CPA certification programmes respectively (eight students in each category).

Providing Bermudians with access to jobs during difficult economic times. That's what standing strong for Bermudians looks like.

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Does Bob Richards Still Want to Follow Cayman's Lead?

Flip! Flop! It was only a few weeks ago that Bob Richards was lauding the Cayman Islands saying how great their economic model is and noting that they were getting everything right. He turned his nose up at Bermuda and Bermudians calling us a banana republic in comparison to how wonderfully strong the governance was in Cayman.

Of course, Mr. Richards conveniently forgot to say that Cayman’s international business was was quietly closing up shop and moving away from the jurisdiction. Over the last several years, in spite of their term limits policies, the number of guest workers in Cayman has dropped precipitously and their economy is struggling mightily.

Now, Bob Richards has changed his tune on Cayman. Bermudians need the real Bob Richards to stand up!

Bob Richards already has stated that the OBA’s main strategy would be to suspend term limits and then figure something out. He and the One Bermuda Alliance have not been able to articulate any concrete strategy for the economy. All that are spoken are criticisms of the current government, and pandering to the Cayman model.

Bermuda needs an advocate for Bermuda, not a Member of Parliament who seems to have an affinity for our competitor jurisdictions. Mr. & Mrs. Bermuda need to know from one day to the other which Bob Richards they will be dealing with.

Premier Paula Cox and the Progressive Labour Party have always stood strong for Bermudians and for the Bermuda model. When Bermuda’s reputation was being impugned by the Cayman Leader, it was Premier Cox who rallied to our defense.

It was Premier Cox who has published her plan for rejuvenating Bermuda’s economy and introducing policies and legislation that makes Bermuda attractive, flexible and the envy of many jurisdictions including Cayman! Conversely, it was Bob Richards who joined the chorus against us

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Delivered: Tougher Sentences for Gang Members

Today, Minister Wayne Perinchief announced that the PLP delivered on tougher sentences for gang offenders and that we are implementing the acclaimed Street Safe Programme beginning next week.

We are pursuing a mix of policies that include both tougher sentences and prevention efforts. And, what we're doing is surely and steadily working. Crime is going down thanks in part to our work. Minister Perinchief announces the tougher sentences for gang offenders:

I am pleased to advise Honourable Members that today, this Government delivers on two further key aspects of those promises. I will table the Criminal Code Amendment Bill 2012 which makes provision for additional sentences where crimes are proved to be committed as part of unlawful gang activity. Mr. Speaker, these additional sentencing powers will provide the Courts with the ability to properly reflect the public sentiment surrounding the negative effects of such crimes on this community.

And, he noted that the successful Safe Streets Programme, started in Boston, is starting in Bermuda this weekend. Minister Perinchief:

I am pleased to advise this Honourable House that a team from Boston's Street Safe Programme arrive in Bermuda this weekend and for the coming week will conduct intensive training of the first wave of those who would form the backbone of the gang mediation initiative.

Mr. Speaker, close to 30 men and women will spend four days receiving best practice instructions from a team whose track record is enviable and who come well equipped to provide the platform for our local success. This has been achieved with cross-ministry support and at the end of the week I will be joined by the Honourable Premier and other Ministerial colleagues to provide an overview of what I expect will be a successful week's intensive work.

It's working. We're working with the police to surely and steadily bring crime down in Bermuda. We're addressing the sentencing and enforcement side as well as the prevention and rehabilitation side. Over the last few years, we've passed a rash of measures to address these problems. We've taken proactive action. And, now, we're pleased to say that it's working.

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Under PLP, Tourism's Creative Marketing Continues

From guerrilla takeovers of Grand Central Station in New York City to taking over Fenway Park - the PLP continues to innovate when it comes to tourism marketing. On Monday, we'll take it to the next level.

On Monday, June 4th, the incredibly popular ABC reality show The Bachelorette will showcase Bermuda.

The episode will cover three uniquely Bermudian dates with the newest Bachelorette. Minister Wayne Furbert:

The Bachelorette is one of America’s most-watched primetime programmes and each season is highly anticipated. The exposure that Bermuda will receive to tens of millions of North American viewers is tremendous and will highlight why this is truly one of the world’s ultimate romantic destinations.

Viewers will join The Bachelorette and her prospective suitors as they enjoy Bermuda’s stunning natural scenery and cultural experiences. While on the island, the Bachelorette and company stayed at Rosewood Tucker’s Point. There she enjoyed the candlelit wine cellar at The Point, the resort’s fine dining restaurant, during a romantic one-on-one date. She also took part in a group date at the resort’s private beach club overlooking a stunning stretch of Bermuda’s signature pink sand beach capped off by a spectacular fireworks display.

A walk along the cobblestone streets of the Town of St. George helped the Bachelorette and her date understand where Bermuda’s distinctive culture began. While in the town they visited attractions such as the Bermuda Perfumery for a signature fragrance and St. Peter’s, Their Majesties Chappell. After enjoying a rum cake and a Gombey troupe performance, the Bachelorette and her date walked through a Moongate for luck.

The couple also saw Bermuda’s maritime activities on full display during a visit to the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club for a fun and very competitive sailing regatta amongst her gentlemen suitors. In addition, she sailed aboard The Venetian, one of the island’s most luxurious yachts, and witnessed thrilling cliff jumping into the Atlantic.

Bermuda’s awe-inspiring subterranean caves provided the setting for a memorable dinner date amidst crystal stalagmites and stalactites and cool reflecting waters. The show’s signature Rose Ceremony took place in one of Bermuda’s beautiful private homes before the Bachelorette and her suitors left the island for their next adventures.

This is an incredible showcase for Bermuda coming near the beginning of our tourism high season. We know that the tourism market is more competitive than ever and in the midst of the global economic crisis, it continues to be challenging. However, it's clear that with initiatives like this, tourism promotion under the PLP continues to innovate.

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Crime: Things Are Getting Better

On Thursday, the Bermuda Police Service released the first quarter crime report. And, while we still have more work to do, we're pleased to report that things are getting better.

Over the last two years, the PLP Team has passed a series of measures aimed at combating crime. We strengthened laws and toughened sentences. We gave prosecutors more tools to bring criminals to justice. We brought in additional training and technology resources for our police. We reformed the justice system. We funded preventative programmes.

And, now, things are getting better.

Over the long term - the last 17 quarters - overall crime is down.

Crimes against the person are down.

Crimes against property are down.

Firearms incidents and shootings are down.

We still have more work to do. But, it's clear that things have turned a corner and are getting better thanks in part to our team's swift action.

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Live from Bermuda!

The summer tourism blitz continues this week with live broadcasts in our gateway Washington/Baltimore market.

This week, the Bermuda Department of Tourism (BDOT) and CBS Radio are partnering up to drive business from Bermuda’s core US markets.

LaVar Arrington, former linebacker for the Washington Redskins and host of “The LaVar Arrington show with Chad Dukes” completed today's broadcast live today from the island. The show aired on 106.7 FM The Fan in Washington, DC.

Additionally, host John-Paul Flaim is broadcasting his morning show “The Junkies” live from the island each morning from 7.00 a.m. – 11.00 a.m., April 9-11. “The Junkies” airs on WJFK’s 106.7 FM in DC and WHFS’s 105.7 FM in Baltimore.

Minister Wayne Furbert:

Our ongoing partnership with CBS Radio enables us to showcase our Island to top talent throughout our most important markets Our goal is to have these influential voices deliver our message to their devoted listeners, encouraging them to plan to their own trip to Bermuda.

There is a new, direct low cost flight on AirTran from BWI airport to Bermuda.

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Defending Our Country

In defense of an unprecedented attack against Bermuda by a country with a lower per capita GDP and a higher unemployment rate, Premier Cox noted that our jurisdiction remains heads and tails ahead of its so-called competitor.

Premier Cox:

Our Government does not and has never rested on its laurels, but constantly seeks to press the envelope and to march relentlessly forward. Only the naïve would be foolish enough to count Bermuda out. You cannot seriously hope to operate a credible, successful, premier international centre without being reputationally sound and intellectually nimble and innovative. That continues to be a hallmark of our success.

Bermuda is focused on extending its lead, while Cayman speaks about closing the gap. Our destination is far beyond our borders and we have the infrastructure and the talent to make it happen. It should be pointed out that Bermuda continues to introduce initiatives to ensure that we include Bermudians in the path for success of our jurisdiction. Yet, we do not take our reputation for granted nor do we rely on past successes. So we work tirelessly and continuously.

We focus on strategic alliances with our business partners. In this way we enhance our enviable reputation by strengthening our relationships with the European Union, UK and US jurisdictions. And by strengthening our regulations to satisfy the global regulatory agencies, and enacting business-friendly legislation, then it is unlikely that this initiative will represent a serious threat to Bermuda’s existing reinsurance market in the short term.

Furthermore, the Bermuda marketplace is known globally as a centre of excellence in the area of reinsurance underwriting. Advances in the technical pricing of risk; the creation of alternative forms of capital such as sidecars, regulatory innovation; and a series of other developments including strong sovereign ratings; have combined to make Bermuda one of the top three reinsurance centres of the world. We are known as the risk capital of the world.

Additionally, the credibility of our jurisdiction is reflected in the strength of its international relationships with those organisations that are shaping the future course of the reinsurance industry. Thanks to such connections, Bermuda plays a leadership role in assisting with the development of the world’s risk industry.

I think it’s important to point out that recently Ramon Fernandez, Chair of the Financial Stability Board [FSB] and Secretary of the Treasury, Ministry of Economy, Industry and Employment, France sent a letter informing me of their evaluation exercise relating to ‘Global adherence to international cooperation and information exchange standards’. In the letter he states and I quote:

‘I am writing to inform you that Bermuda is one of the jurisdictions that was included in the initial pool for evaluation, since it ranks highly in financial importance. I am pleased to note that, according to publicly available information, Bermuda already demonstrates sufficiently strong adherence to international cooperation and information exchange standards and therefore, no further evaluation is necessary under the FSB’s current initiative.’

This is high praise indeed for a small jurisdiction that manages to stand toe to toe with giants.

Bermuda has never adopted an isolationist position – quite the contrary. Instead, we favour collaboration and assistance, whether to help territories in need with technical support and in terms of disaster assistance. We do not adopt a selfish approach that: ‘now we are okay- let's pull up the ladder’. That is why, as Vice Chair of the OECD Global Forum Steering Committee, we have acted as an advocate for others, specifically smaller island domiciles.

However make no mistake we are fearless in representing our national interest and while we are principles-based, when we speak to businesses owners that are attracted to Bermuda because of what we have achieved, whether on Solvency 11 equivalence or our quality reputation, we do not hide our light under a bushel and encourage those businesses who seek to re-base here to know that they will be welcomed.

We are principled, yet we will continue to be nimble and innovative in protecting Bermuda’s turf and our national interests and to demonstrate that to choose Bermuda is to make a wise choice for a domicile that is credible, reputationally sound and prudent.

Bermuda is a global leader. Our competitors know this and that's why they're attacking us and knocking us down. It's a shame that those in the combined Opposition are so obsessed with obtaining political power, that they'll help our so-called competitors knock us down. The truth is, international business under the PLP has grown and thrived. These are certainly tough global economic times, but, under the PLP, Bermuda is doing what it takes to both turn our economy around AND make sure we're building an economy that works for all Bermudians.

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