Premier and PLP Party Leader David Burt recently addressed the opening night of the Progressive Labour Party’s 58th Annual General Conference, covering a range of topics including tributes, taxation, education and more.
Good Evening, PLP Family,
Thank you, Callahj, for that incredible introduction and poem. It is a pleasure to have one of our outstanding Youth Wing members, who represents the future of the Progressive Labour Party and the future of Bermuda, be a part of this conference.
Thank you to our MC for the evening, my friend MP Jache Adams, for the prayer from Imam Basim Muwakkil, to all of our amazing performers who have blessed us, and our speakers, Senator Leslie Robinson and Dr Stanley James, for their incredible speeches or as some may term, sermons. – Thank you.
To the delegates, party executive, parliamentarians, members, supporters, union leaders, all of us who support the Bermuda Progressive Labour Party, and those watching from home tonight – Good Evening. I welcome you all to the opening night of the Progressive Labour Party’s 58th Annual General Conference.
As you know, this year is momentous for our great party as we celebrate 60 years since our founding in 1963.
That year, a group led by Wilfred ‘Mose’ Allen regularly met in the garage of Mr Hugh Richardson in Pembroke before formally meeting for the first time as Progressive Labour Party on February 10 1963, in the law office of Walter Robinson.
This group also included Albert Peter Smith, Edward DeJean, Walter N.H. Robinson, Austin Wilson and Dilton C. Cann. Their goal was to represent the proud working-class people of Bermuda and work toward more equitable taxation, an end to racial discrimination, economic parity and welfare programs, more affordable housing, quality public education, universal healthcare and electoral reform.
The first PLP Platform reflected that mission, and our founding fathers fearlessly pursued a fairer Bermuda despite the knowledge that they were fighting a long-established status quo where power and political influence were held by a few.
From that point forward, this great party was represented by champions for social justice who pushed for progress in Bermuda for decades to come and through times when being associated with the Progressive Labour Party led to great financial and personal hardship.
Family, we have lost some of these champions this year, but we must never forget their devotion to this party and this island.
We will never forget Arthur Hodgson, former party Chair, former Senator, MP and Minister and a man of profound wisdom and untiring determination.
We will never forget former MP Stanley Morton, who I was proud to represent in parliament, whose unyielding commitment to workers’ rights helped to lay the foundation on which the PLP stands today.
We will never forget Brother Ottiwell Simmons. The lion of the modern labour movement and PLP MP and whip who took on a system riddled with privilege for the few and fought for equality, social justice, and worker’s rights.
And in the late Walter Roberts, we had a visionary and trailblazer who saw the value in data before many of us did. The former Deputy Leader of this great party taught us all the importance and power of canvassing and was a mentor and guiding light to so many, including the Deputy Leader and myself.
These leaders, along with countless unsung heroes of our party, were fearless in their pursuit of what was right – advocating for social justice, striving for equality, and envisaging a Bermuda where fairness was an integral part of every policy and initiative.
Today, PLP family, we proudly stand on their shoulders and continue the work that they started. As Party Leader and Premier, I am proud to lead a Progress Labour Party Government that honours the values and principles our founders established in 1963 and upholds them in all of our work as the Government.
Remember what I said that first platform had….they declared that the PLP would fight for equitable taxation, and this PLP Government reduced payroll taxes for 86% of workers and 86% of businesses, with small businesses getting a tax cut of 43% in one year. Workers making less than $132,000 pay less in payroll tax.
And, since 2017, the average Bermudian has saved $4,500 in payroll taxes. That is giving back.
And our commitment to the workers of this country continues. In June, this PLP Government delivered a minimum wage for the first time in Bermuda’s history, ensuring that all workers have the right to a dignified wage and are protected from exploitation.
The first PLP platform called for more affordable housing for hardworking Bermudians. Sixty years later, this PLP Government is continuing that mission, investing an additional $15 million to increase the stock of affordable housing on our island. And that investment is already bearing fruit, with renovation projects already completed this year with 15 new affordable units in Paget, Smith’s, St.David’s and Sandys that are occupied or in the process of being allocated. Additional emergency housing units at Harmony Club and the Salvation Army, and a 10-bedroom unit in St. George for those who age out of foster care. That is staying true to your roots.
And more affordable housing units are on the way this year and next year.
This Progressive Labour Party Government promised that we would work to build a nation of owners, and we are making that a reality by providing tangible support and impactful initiatives.
We have implemented the Mortgage Guarantee Programme, providing first-time homebuyers with reduced down payments at 10% and a 5% interest rate to assist Bermudians who wish to own a piece of this beautiful rock. And public officers are now able to transfer their mortgage to this lower rate, saving them hundreds of dollars a month. This isn’t just talk; this is action, and since last year, when we put this in place- This promise delivered has helped 49 Bermudians in the last year be approved to buy their first home!
The first PLP platform called for education reform. Today, your PLP Government is continuing that mission by delivering on our promise to provide a public education system that prepares our students for the jobs of the future.
This PLP Government re-opened the island’s first Trade School in a generation at the Signature School at Cedarbridge to prepare the next generation of tradesmen and tradeswomen. And we implemented the College Promise Programme to ensure that not a single Bermudian is denied entry to Bermuda College education due to their inability to pay, and giving scholarships to every Bermudian with a 3.0 GPA.
And your PLP Government has always and will always remember our commitment to our seniors. We have raised Senior pensions in line with the rate of inflation since have been in office. We expanded prescription drug coverage under FutureCare and introduced it for the first time under HIP.
We care, therefore, we enhanced social protections by creating a maternity benefit for uninsured women to ensure that children born to uninsured mothers receive the prenatal care that is necessary for healthy children.
We are compassionate, and therefore, we modernised Financial Assistance by introducing new awards for able-bodied recipients while setting clear time limits and improved support for recipients in obtaining gainful employment. And this is working, as we have seen financial assistance numbers drop this year.
We understood the challenges faced by young parents and expanded child daycare allowances to reach more families, offering tiered allowances for households with incomes of $130,000 or less, providing real relief from the cost of daycare.
We listened to our daycare providers and granted their request to be exempt from duty to assist in maintaining and upgrading their facilities and continue providing quality care for our young children.
These accomplishments did not just happen by accident. They were delivered through consistent effort, hard work and dedication to the promises we made and the values and principles of this party. They were delivered thanks to your support and encouragement. Always hold our feet to the fire and ensuring that the PLP Government’s policies reflect what Bermuda needs.
And we accomplished all of this despite unprecedented challenges that no other Government has faced. Inheriting the highest debt in Bermuda’s history and a failed Morgan’s Point project costing taxpayers over $200 million.
We managed a once-in-a-century pandemic and have grappled with the impact of the ongoing war in Ukraine that led to 40-year high global inflation. Yet, despite this difficult hand that we were dealt, this PLP Government has continued to deliver for the people of our island.
But family, let’s be clear, there is still much work to be done. While we have accomplished much that we can be proud of, we know that we are not perfect, and we recognise that many people in this country are still facing incredible challenges due to the cost of living, lack of affordable housing and the cost of food. In that environment, I understand why people may feel discouraged – and question whether the PLP hears the concerns of those barely making it.
To Bermudians who are watching this live or who will see it on the news tomorrow – This Progressive Labour Party Government hears you. Our election platforms are built on listening to the concerns and needs of our people and addressing those concerns to build a fairer Bermuda.
And, when they tell you we don’t consult, they are incorrect. When they tell you we don’t adjust, they are just not being factual. This PLP Government has a history of adjusting after consultation where adjustment is warranted.
Time after time, whether healthcare reform, tax reform, or education reform, we have adjusted proposals based on consultation – and we will continue doing that. However, we will balance listening and engaging in consultation with making with what is sometimes required, making difficult decisions needed to ensure a prosperous future for our island and recognising that not everyone will agree with every decision we make.
It is difficult to build a blue economy. It’s difficult to reform our transportation sector. It is challenging to reform education and healthcare. Still, this Government does not shy away from addressing the difficult and often talked about but never dealt with issues head-on because we know that is what the members of this party and the country put us here to do.
It is this PLP Government carrying forward the policies that you, our delegates and members, support.
The truth is, because we are so focused on our agenda of fairness, that is why the OBA and the combined opposition have such an issue with us and this great party I am proud to lead. They did not like what our founders stood for in 1963, and they do not like what we continue to stand for today and who we fight for…The hardworking Bermudians who demand and deserve fairness.
At their core, they support business over labour; they prefer a high tax burden on workers; they have shown their history of reducing funding for our youth, infrastructure, and public transport.
They do not like that we reduced taxes for workers to the lowest level in over 30 years after they raised taxes to the highest level in history – and true to form, the OBA opposed that change, which was right and fair for working Bermudians.
They do not like that we believe the wealthy should pay their fair share, and they opposed our bill to eliminate a loophole that allowed many local companies to take millions of dollars a year tax-free while regular workers were paying taxes on every dollar they made.
It’s okay that they opposed it, but we did what was right and used that revenue to provide better social services, broader benefits in healthcare, and more resources for public education after they slashed scholarships and reduced social assistance and education funding.
When they say our spending is out of control, that is a just plain false. Ask any minister who struggles to fund competing interests. Ask any Union member how understaffed their departments are.
Ask Colonel Burch about the funds needed to pave roads and repair retaining walls. Yes, this government has been prudent with our spending, but there comes a time when you must invest in our countries future.
So when they say our spending is out of control, what they really are saying is, despite how many leaders they go through (the 6th since 2017), they are the same old party that will cut funding for youth programmes, cut funding infrastructure repairs & roads, and cut funding for public transport if they were returned to Government.
When they say our spending is out of control, what they really mean is they will take the same approach as they did before…slashing scholarships, social assistance, and education funding while raising taxes on the hard-working people of this country.
They say we are focused on them and focused on the past. Family – I can assure you this party is not focused on the OBA. Our focus is squarely on advancing this party’s agenda – but we will not allow the combined opposition to rewrite history and pretend they are something they are not.
Today – October 18th – there were no public bus cancellations – why? – because we invested in a fleet of electric buses that are now coming online. Schools are being refurbished, new classrooms are being built, clinics are being constructed, there is funding for every Bermudian to attend Bermuda College, and we are funding the transition programmes for our youth who need the assistance, led by our Minister of Social Development & Seniors… that is the difference between them and us.
Yes, these investments will take time, as you cannot recover from years of underspending in these critical areas overnight and because building things takes time, but our philosophy is to invest in our future. We make the difficult decisions today for a better future tomorrow.
And family, over in the coming years, you will see more and more of the positive results of our investment in infrastructure – just ask our east-end MPs how happy they are that the water and sewage infrastructure has been upgraded in St. Georges & St Davids.
Yes, it caused blocked streets, and yes, it took time, but today, those residents have access to piped water and an upgraded sewage system, which is better for our environment and our tourism product.
Let me give you another example of how things take time. Four years ago, the Government tabled a bill entitled the Submarine Cables Act 2020, which laid the legislative framework for Bermuda becoming a transatlantic hub for subsea cables that connect global digital services.
Four years later, what do we see? We see Bermuda in partnership with one of the world’s largest and most successful companies, Google, who is investing in Bermuda because of the work that this Government has done and continues to do.
You heard Dr James earlier, “We are still here”. You heard Senator Robinson earlier, “Just do it”. That is what this Government can deliver – and that is what we will continue to deliver! Investment into our infrastructure, more jobs, more training opportunities, and global companies coming to Bermuda to invest because of our long-term policies for success.
And family, as we continue executing our agenda, we also must recognise that the opposition is in election mode. We see candidates being rolled out, we hear the talking, and we see the attempts to attack us in articles in their newspaper more and more frequently.
But here is the thing family, the One Bermuda Alliance will not outwork us. We, the Progressive Labour Party, are the party that has always been on the doorsteps, consistently engaging with the community, holding clinics and meeting the needs of our seniors and our youth. And we don’t just do it during election time; we do it every single year.
That is what the PLP has always done, and that is what we will continue to do – and that is how we will convince the voters of this island that Progressive Labour Party policies are better for Bermuda’s workers, better for Bermuda’s seniors, better for Bermuda’s youth, better for Bermuda’s infrastructure and better for Bermuda’s future.
So, I encourage everyone to look to our future with optimism.
Yes, we have challenges that we must face, but as you have heard me say tonight, we have faced unprecedented challenges over these last few years, and we continue to come through them stronger as a party and as a community. And as new challenges come our way, we must have confidence in ourselves that will face them with resilience and united under the strong leadership that Bermuda needs – with a heart for the Bermudians that we serve.
As global tax standards change, your government is laying out a proposal and strategy to ensure these changes benefit those who need it most. We have a historic opportunity to implement the most fundamental tax reform in Bermuda’s history.
With your feedback and support, the introduction of the Global Minimum Tax could significantly reduce the cost of living and the cost of doing business in Bermuda by eliminating existing taxes and Customs duties. Despite the reductions we have made, it is still hard, but these changes will finally make a real dent in the challenge of the cost of living that has challenged successive governments over the years for many years.
I know that it is hard to tell people; you need to wait a few years before this comes. Because people need relief now. But here is what I will say…this Government has a history of providing that relief, and we will continue to do so, but this is a reason to be hopeful and optimistic for the future.
We can also be excited by new voices in our party, with new candidates like Mischa Fubler and other newly approved candidates emerging from diverse backgrounds and experiences, bringing a rejuvenating spirit and new ideas that will help to steer our party and country into the future.
We see young Bermudians here on island and those abroad achieving incredible things and showing us that the next generation of leaders are on their way. Their voices are being heard in the Parliament in London and Labour Party Conferences in Liverpool on stages and screens around the world, showing the incredible talent that Bermuda has and will have for years to come.
Members – before I close – it is important that we pay homage to those who make it all possible. Traditionally, I ask all of our MPs, Senators and Executive to stand, but you know who we are. So tonight, I am going to ask for all of the families, including my wife and children, and the family members of every MP, Senator and member of the executive who sacrifices their time with them so we can serve to please stand up now.
Now – to my PLP Family, our mission is clear: to ensure that this island enjoys economic prosperity, social stability, affordable healthcare, and quality public education for Bermudians today, for their children tomorrow, and for their children’s children in the years to come.
And my mission as Party Leader is to leave this great party and this island that we all love in a strong and stable position when I step down from this post in 3 years. So, as we all look toward the coming year and the work ahead of us, I thank all of you for your continued support and contributions that all of you make to this party.
The Government, the Caucus, and the Executive could not continue to deliver for the people of Bermuda without the work that happens every day at the Reginald A. Burrows Building, branch meetings, clinics, bake sales, seniors tea, giveaways to our young people, and Central Committee.
It is an honour to lead this great party, and I am hopeful for the future and look forward to all we will accomplish in the year ahead, and we continue to reform this party and this country through peace and harmony.
PLP All the way! All the way…