Candidates for the district of Prospect set out their election bids in the third election forum organised by the Chamber of Commerce.
Independent hopefuls Sabrina Turner and Michael Myles are campaigning to unseat Austin Harris who won the seat in 2017 as an independent and joined the People’s Progressive Movement coalition Unity government with whom he is campaigning this year.
Mr Harris said he is pushing for a cleaner, greener and safer Prospect with more public spaces and a community farm following on from his record in the past term.
Michael Myles felt Prospect hadn’t progressed and pledged to set up a district council in the first 100 days to address concerns such as flooding and crime.
Sabrina Turner highlighted her active community involvement and listed traffic, flooding and community enhancements as her priorities for the district.
On the national scale, Mr Harris a Parliamentary Secretary and Councillor listed employment and social welfare as his priorities saying “this government has a track record of delivering the lowest unemployment of any government in decades.”
He also cited the enduring traffic problems.
Traffic is also a national concern for Sabrina Turner who posited restricting car imports.
Education is also high on her agenda especially free evening classes utilising the expertise of retired teachers.
Michael Myles places the cost of living and poverty alleviation in his top national priorities alongside education, youth development and healthcare.
Asked about border reopening, the three candidates agreed that the process should be gradual but were concerned that the continuing closure was having a serious economic impact.
The cost of living again brought the minimum wage into focus as being inadequate and he chided OfReg for not pushing to reduce utility costs and he called for more progress with National Energy Policy.
Government councillor Austin Harris said increasing the minimum wage would only push up consumer prices.
He felt the answer lies in lowering interest rates.
Candidate Turner said Cayman was importing inflation, and that real estate speculation by foreign investors was also impacting the cost of living.
On the matter of economic diversification, Michael Myles said farming, fisheries and the tech industry should be seriously considered rather than relying only on the financial industry and tourism.
Councillor and Prospect incumbent Austin Haris argued that diversification was already happening with medical tourism being pushed by the government.
He also mentioned small business development projects as evidence of that.
Sabrina Turner said more effort should be put into protecting the successful financial services sector.
“During this pandemic that is what has kept us alive,” she said. “It does not take the reinvention of the wheel.”
She also promoted upskilling and retooling Caymanians in both the financial and tourism industries reminding that “there is no minimum wage in financial services”.
Michael Myles said Cayman should be more proactive in defending its reputation. “We have the best law firms in the globe, yet we don't utilize these people.”
There was also a strong call to communicate to the world that Cayman's financial sector is well regulated.
The landfill topped the list of concerns in a discourse on balancing development with environmental protection.
When the candidates discussed preserving the fishing industry and marine parks, the depletion of fish stocks via overfishing was the main issue they felt warranted urgent attention.
Sabrina Turner however said policies should be data-driven and Michael Myles said opportunities had been missed to assess the fish stock.
Austin Harris saw the issue somewhat differently saying invasive lionfish is to largely to blame. He credited the government's efforts on marine parks: “We have more marine parks across all three Cayman Islands than any government that came before us.”
There was alignment on having a national lottery.
The civil partnership issue saw a joint stance against discrimination. Sabrina Turner felt that the Governor resorting to Section 81 to enact the law was regrettable.
On ministerial preferences, incumbent Austin Myles opted for employment, border control and community affairs where he is currently Parliamentary Secretary/Councillor.
The portfolio of community affairs, gender and culture was preferred by Sabrina Turner, while Michael Myles opted for children, family services and education.
Regarding forming governing alliances, independent Austin Harris is campaigning as part of the ruling People’s Progressive Movement Unity coalition, Michael Myles said he is looking to see where best he fits in and Sabrina Turner said she was able to work with any government setting personalities and egos aside.