Earmarked as Cayman’s next premier if the Progressives-Alliance camp wins next Wednesday’s election, George Town East incumbent Roy McTaggart’s answers in the last of the Chamber of Commerce Candidates Forums were critical to setting the agenda for the next government.
First though, Mr McTaggart needs to retain his seat. He is being challenged by independents Emily DeCou, Christina Hislop-Rowlandson, Dr Frank McField and Richard Bernard.
Mr McTaggart, the Minister of Finance Minister and Economic Development, was recently confirmed by outgoing Progressives two-time Premier Alden McLaughlin as his successor at the helm of the party - and defacto premier-designate.
Mr Mclaughlin who is also contesting the election for his Red Bay constituency is constitutionally barred from a third consecutive term has made himself available for a ministerial or other senior position in a new progressives/Alliance coalition.
On their plans for the George Town East all of the candidates listed flooding as a top priority.
Saying that the problem has existed for over 30 years, Mr McTaggart said “I'm committed to seeing that we do what we can to alleviate and try to mitigate some of these things. And one of the issues that we'll have to deal with them is the whole issue of stormwater management, and allowing how that gets treated and how it gets dealt with as development continues.”
His opponent Richard Bernard said it’s “the most pressing issue facing George Town East”, while Dr McField proposed “revitalisation loans or grants to the people in that area” accusing the Planning Department of shortsightedness.
Emily DeCou also noted the flooding problem and included traffic congestion saying “they have ripple effects on people's quality of life”. She suggests public transportation and affordable housing as part of an overall agenda for sustainable development.
Christina Hislop Rowlandson called for public transport to alleviate the traffic congestion saying “we do desperately need to establish a bus route”. She too listed flooding as a major challenge.
Looking at traffic nationally, but particularly the bottleneck at the Hurley’s Roundabout, Mr McTaggart while saying that there’s been some relief said “it still is not able to deal adequately with the flow of traffic, which until now exceeds 40,000 cars a day.”
Nationally, he proposed what he referred to as a “radical” approach.
“I think it's time to look at limiting the number of cars that people are allowed to own. This is probably quite radical,” he stated with the proviso that an efficient public transportation system needed to be in place as a priority.
There was wide agreement and a variety of ideas on addressing the traffic challenges especially at that intersection.
Emilly DeCou called it a source of frustration and very unsafe, Christina Hislop-Rowlandson suggested staggered working times and called for reform of the Central Planning Authority, Richard Bernard felt import quotas might have to be considered, while Dr Frank McField argued that the issue was too complex to be adequately addressed in the forum.
On the broad national agenda, Mr McTaggart who has been at the forefront of the current government policies as Finance and Economic Development Minister, stated: “I think the most pressing issue that we face right now is the safe handling of the reopening of our economy, and dealing with the vaccination programme.”
He also said the traffic issues and healthcare would be his other top priorities saying: “We desperately need to have a public transportation system that is reliable” and condemning the current health insurance as “not fit for purpose.”
Christina Hislop-Rowlandson listed implementing the 2008 national development plan to manage the pace of growth.
“It was a very good product developed over many, many months and a lot of roundtables with a lot of business leaders, community leaders.”
Richard Bernard said he would prioritise the cost of living, import substitution and affordable housing.
“Number one, would be the cost of living. Cayman has become the most expensive destination on this planet. It is ridiculous.”
Dr McField stressed the need for long term planning.
“We seem to be a society that really hates planning. Now we're in the pandemic situation...how are we going to get out of this?” he asked.
Emily DeCou agrees and cites her own sustainable development plan for Cayman.
“We've got issues with just thinking long term I think and having the proactivity to plan really long term for our long term sustainability. So, coming in I would be really heavily championing for some sort of holistic, sustainable development plan to be put in place that looks at the future of Cayman long term 20 to 30 years ahead of us.”
There were points of agreement and divergence on other issues including decriminalising cannabis, the education system,and the financial services sector.
This forum however did not address the specific issues of tourism and port-folio preferences which featured across the series.