North Side was the focus of Round Two of the Candidate Forums organised for the 2021 elections by the Cayman Islands Chamber of Commerce.
Incumbent Ezzard Miller lined up against challengers Debra Broderick, Justin Ebanks and Jay Ebanks.
Mr Miller had to defend his longstanding stewardship as several areas in need of improvement were highlighted by his opponents ranging from wealth creation including jobs, setting up a local market, and care and support for the districts elderly. Substance abuse was also a matter of concern.
On the wider national agenda, job creation, healthcare, the cost of living and the perennial traffic woes were key issues.
Debra Broderick wants the $6 per hour minimum wage increased saying it was “not feasible to live on in this country.”
Education, cost of living and healthcare topped the national agenda for candidate Jay Ebanks who proposed a Consumer Protection Board and advocated for a universal health care system.
Education was the priority for Justin Ebanks, a point he emphasised vigorously throughout the discussion across several other topics.
“You do not have jobs or entrepreneurship, or anything else without education,” he stated.
But for the North Side incumbent Ezzard Miller, corruption is “the most serious national issue” along with opportunities for nationals to progress in the job market, better access to health care, and "sorting of the health insurance morass that exists.”
On the choice of ministries, pharmacist Mr Miller opted for health and argued that ministers should bring some relevant experience into their portfolios.
Jay Ebanks: “It would be housing planning infrastructure and agriculture because that's all in my background.”
Education would be the choice for Justin Ebanks while Debra Broderick chose the Community Affairs portfolio.
The long-planned 'Go-East' strategy for selected government and business services in North Side and other eastern areas was again put on the agenda.
The theme of education saw Mr Miller rebuffing comparisons between private and public schools.
Jay Ebanks and Debra Broderick agreed on a trade school, while warming to the subject Justin Ebaks voiced concerns over the worrying level of poor performance of some children saying “it's unacceptable in a country with this much wealth.”
He also proposed that education should be free from kindergarten to college.
All four condemned discrimination regarding the controversial same-sex Civil Partnership law.
On being part of a government, the four independent candidates said they are open to coalition alliances but Mr Miller insisted that he would " not compromise his integrity just be in government."
The PPM-led government was criticised for allowing personal pension withdrawals as a means of cushioning the financial impact of the pandemic.
Debra Broderick suggested that contributions should now be increased to cover the gap, Ezzard Miller called for a national pension plan, while Jay Ebanks felt investing pension funds locally would yield better returns.
Justin Ebanks concluded that while the pension withdrawals “kept the economy afloat”, the entire system should be changed.
Caution was advised on reopening the economy.
“Putting together a timeline on what we want to reopen will be key to success,” Justin Ebanks said, a point echoed by Debra Brodericks who said: “We need to ensure safety measures remain in place as we gradually open.”
Mr Miller said luck has been on Cayman’s side. “We have been very, very lucky in this country,” he said noting that the vaccination programme was key to eventually reopening the economy.
For Jay Ebanks at least 75% of the population vaccinated was a target along to open the borders “starting with at least 10 to 15% of the hotels.”
There was broad agreement on protecting the environment with the dump being a primary concern along with the pressures brought by over-population and over-development.
The North Side also said a process to recall parliamentarians and ministers who had breached official codes of conduct should be put in place.