The three candidates vying for the vacant seat of Savannah made their pitch as the Chamber of Commerce’s Candidate Forum series continued.
Jeanna Williams and Heather Bodden are in the race for Savannah along with Malcolm Eden, the son of six-term veteran MP Anthony Eden who retired from politics this year, giving up the Savannah seat.
The candidates shared broadly similar agendas for the area with traffic, flooding, and education - especially support for the Savannah primary school - being their headline points.
Jeanna Williams who also promised a district council and community park said the main thing she’d heard from residents “was that they did not see their representative.”
Heather Bodden stressed care for the elderly while Malcolm Eden said he would push for incentives for small businesses.
Nationally, community development, care for the elderly and equality for women are key concerns for Heather Bodden.
“I think when we all look back at 2017, fewer female candidates stepped forward. And that to me, needs to be changed,” she stated.
For Malcolm Eden it’s quality of life issues, alongside the environment, employment and the cost of living.
“Speaking with many of my constituents, the number one issue and concern was their inability to meet their ongoing requirements.”
Jeanna Williams spoke of addressing the high cost of living, maternity leave and human rights.
“I think the time is very appropriate to push forward for human rights of families with children who have special abilities because of the stigma that is created in our society.”
Traffic again featured in this forum with traffic lights for the Hirst Rd intersection being one of the issues
Malcolm Eden, while agreeing, felt that was symptomatic of a bigger problem saying: “I think what could make a difference is continuing with the east-west arterial extension,” he said, along with a reliable public transportation system.
He also proposed limiting the importation of older vehicles and encouraging people to cycle more.
Jeanna Williams said while placing traffic lights at Hirst Rd is a good idea, remote working is an option that should be explored to reduce traffic density, learning from the lockdown period.
Discussing the cost of living Jeanna Williams called for a Consumer Protection Board, Heather Bodden suggested that “because of the pandemic crisis, everything has gone up and there's just no magic wand at this time. It just has to be considered carefully,” she advised.
For Malcolm Eden, “the fuel costs, the cost of mortgages and also revisiting import duties in certain areas could potentially lower the cost.”
There was also overlap on issues of economic diversification, the financial services sector and reopening the borders with the three candidates agreeing on supporting the financial services industry.
Heather Bodden said “It is the pillar of our economy, and we cannot allow ourselves to be bullied when we are in fact maintaining high international standards.”
Malcolm Eden agreed that the sector is well-regulated. “I think that is a story that needs to be told,” he stated. Mr Eden also sees diversifying into the alternative energy sector as a strategy to be considered.
Regarding financial services, Jeanna Williams suggested “an awareness campaign or representation around the world.”
She also favours focusing on stay-over visitors and encouraging the entrepreneurial spirit of Caymanians.
The current strategy for gradually reopening the borders was endorsed by the Savannah hopefuls.
On the matter of pensions, including the policy of allowing pensions withdrawals last year, it was broadly felt that educating the public in financial literacy including investing should be considered.
The three candidates expressed concern over the message they are getting from the youth ranging from feeling left out, lack of opportunities and are becoming disengaged, especially from politics. Jobs and education opportunities were seen as solutions to be pursued.
They also concurred on a review of the government’s WORC agency.
A population target of 100,000 was not embraced and the idea for a national lottery got a mixed reaction.
The three independents say they are open to governing alliances with Mr Eden saying he prepared to assume a leadership position.
Jeanna Williams said she would consult with her constituents before agreeing to a coalition and would opt for the health portfolio, while Heather Bodden prefers community affairs.