Veteran West Bay Central politician Capt. Eugene Ebanks, a Parliamentary Secretary in the current government, is facing a second challenge from independent candidate Kathy Ebanks-Wilks in what has been a longstanding safe seat for him.
They last met across the political divide in the 2017 election.
Capt Ebanks who entered the current Unity coalition with the-then United Democratic Party of McKeeva Bush, is running as an independent for next month’s election, campaigning on the joint Progressives and Independents Alliance ticket.
The battle lines were drawn from very early on in the stand-off between the two candidates in the continuing Chamber of Commerce Candidates Forum series.
Capt Ebanks: “I think now is not a time for the Cayman Islands to change hands from men and women with years of experience who have steered the ship through this challenging time …and not become complacent with taking on inexperienced novices.”
Affordable housing as a national topic was also part of a question on quality of life for the West Bay Central constituency.
“I'm happy to report that starting in June we have 19 more new affordable homes coming to West Bay,” incumbent Capt. Ebanks announced, while also saying that improvements will be carried out on drainage.
“I think it's great to hear some promises in terms of housing for the people and West Bay,” his challenger retorted, going to describe current housing in the district as “dilapidated and certainly not fit for purpose.”
On affordable housing on the national scale, Mrs Ebanks-Wilks stated, “It's the new multimillion-dollar developments that are responsible for the inflation of the local housing prices in Cayman, so we need to control development.”
She suggested that housing prices could be offset with concessions from development projects “which means putting a moratorium in place, or duty concessions for large developments.”
The issue of protecting the environment triggered a lively exchange on the balance with development.
Capt. Ebanks, as Parliamentary Secretary responsible for the environment, said the landfill was a priority for him and updated on ongoing work to rectify the longstanding problems.
But his opponent sees the issue of the environment differently.
“The highest risk to our national environment right now would be the fact that we are over-developing our country. We are starting to look like a concrete jungle.”
Mrs Ebanks-Wilks called for existing legislation to be enforced and harsher penalties to be applied.
“I'm not saying stop building buildings, but we need to now look at our people and see where we are at and look at our infrastructure. Our population is growing and our infrastructure is not keeping up.”
She also challenged Capt Ebanks on his aspirations for full ministerial responsibility for the environment with a Unity government.
“This is an administration that is pro-development, an administration that was going to build the (cruise) port and our representatives in West Bay were quiet on that.”
But that met with a firm pushback from Capt. Ebanks who insisted that he was never in support of the controversial cruise port project.
Development also featured in an exchange on economic diversification with Mrs Ebanks-Wilks promoting diversifying into medical tourism - a policy being pursued by the present Progressives-led administration in which Capt Ebanks is a coalition partner.
She also favours exploring the growing medical cannabis sector.
Capt Ebanks countered: “She wants to stop all this massive development but yet encourages medical tourism” and asked, “ If you stop the development, how are we going to get the hospitals built?”
While acknowledging the economic impact, Capt. Ebanks said there should be no haste to reopen the borders and risk another lockdown, opting to rely on when “the professionals feel it is safe to open.”
Mrs Ebanks Wilks advocates aiming for herd immunity with the vaccination programme and a possible target date for reopening.
“My opponent also states that I am too liberal and that I may be careless if elected in relation to reopening our borders. I disagree. Forward-thinking does not necessarily mean that you're too liberal.”
The two candidates sparred on several other issues including the education system, traffic and whether or not there’s a functioning district council in the constituency.
But they were on common ground for a national lottery, albeit for slightly different reasons, as well as a constitutional amendment to allow for MPs to be recalled in specific instances.
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