||Last Updated: Apr 11, 2017 - 1:58:11 PM
Freeport, Bahamas - Notes For Perry Gladstone Christie Prime Minister And Leader of the Progressive Liberal Party Regional Candidates Launch Grand Bahama Island on Friday, April 7, 2017:
Grand Bahama - you lookin’ good!
Are you going for GOLD?!
East Grand Bahama, are you here with Preston Cooper? Yeah?
Central Grand Bahama, are you gonna win with Julian?
Marco City, oh Marco City, is Bain your man?
Well, Pineridge, can I count on you to re-elect Dr. Darville?
And my trusted friends in West Grand Bahama and Bimini - y’all got Obie, right?
Are you all ready???
I hope so!
Because the outcome of this election is going to live with us for a long time to come!
We’ve come so far, it’s true, but the work is far from finished – there’s so much more to do.
And the way you move a country forward is by building on the foundations for change, not by turning back the clock.
Brothers and sisters, you know that we come from a history of triumph over adversity, and we are marching forward together now, with the sense of purpose that comes from believing deeply in what this country can be.
The world is changing, shifting all around us.
We have to know who we are, what makes this little country so special, and we have to be able to stand up for ourselves, and chart a course true to our values.
That’s why perhaps the most important work of any leader is to recruit a team of outstanding people – people of intellect, energy, values and heart.
I couldn’t be prouder of the team the Progressive Liberal Party is putting before the Bahamian people. It is a diverse team -- it includes doctors and sports coaches and fishermen and nurses and businessmen and union leaders and spiritual leaders.
Look at Norris Bain, who has given his entire career to mentoring young people. He has been an outstanding coach and Principal, and helped countless young people get scholarships. He’s been a guiding light to so many -- it’s hard to go far in Grand Bahama without running into someone who wants to share deeply-felt gratitude for the ways in which Coach Bain has changed their life.
He’s just the kind of leader and change-agent this country needs – someone who cares, and who understands both the challenges we face and the solutions we can build.
Reverend Cooper is a native of East Grand Bahama, a community leader and activist, a pastor, a spiritual adviser to so many. He brings both humility and strength to all that he does, and I know he would represent his constituency with true commitment and grace.
Then there’s Julian Russell - calm, cool, and collected, a successful professional and a father of five who has served in the Senate with distinction. When I travel around his community, I hear from all sorts of people who say they coming with us because Julian is the kind of stand-up fella they can believe in.
Mike Darville – well, Dr Darville is someone you’ve come to know a lot better. He took on the task of being the very first-ever Minister of Grand Bahama, a Ministry created out of the recognition that Grand Bahama faces unique challenges that deserved, and continues to deserve, focused attention and resources.
That’s why this government has invested over $100 million here. This includes work done to the Fishing Hole Road Bridge, a new fire station, renovation and ground breaking of government buildings and sports complexes, upgrades to the Rand Hospital and other clinics, sea walls, government houses, and $28 million dollars allocated for the New Freeport Community clinic.
And Dr. Darville and my Minister for Tourism, Obie Wilchcombe, also took the lead on some critical policy achievements for Grand Bahama.
We all agreed that business-as-usual with the Grand Bahama Port Authority could not continue. So the need to make a decision on the renewal of two key concessions was an opportunity for us to build a new understanding between the government and the Port. Bahamians now have a say at the table, which more and more will reflect the contribution made by tax dollars to the city. You also finally have ownership. And ultimately this means that never again will private parties be able to hold up the progress of Freeport at the expense of your livelihood.
In addition, we’ve taken big steps to encourage incentives for new investment in Grand Bahama, because it is imperative that we expand job opportunities and development here.
And the extension of Duty Free Concessions to business owners in East and West Grand Bahama is already changing the landscape for so many.
The new agreement with the Grand Bahama Shipyard for an apprencticeship programme to train Bahamians to replace foreign workers – well, that is already transforming lives, with many more opportunities to come. In the coming years, hundreds more, 600 in total, will benefit from this – which is just the kind of public- private partnership we can use as a model to build new opportunities.
When you are talking about a place that needs big changes, like Grand Bahama, you have to put the proper framework in place first, and that’s what we’ve been doing.
I know that means a lot of people are still waiting for these changes to touch their lives – that’s why we have to build on these foundations, and keep pressing forward.
That’s what it’s about – pushing forward no matter what obstacles may present themselves – and you will find that when you do so, big things can happen:
New and Expanded Cruise Projects
There is good news for tourism on the way. After lengthy and intensive negotiations, the Government and Freeport Harbour Company have reached agreement on Waiver of their Exclusive Rights to own and operate Ports in Grand Bahama, which had been granted years ago by the FNM Government. The Government and Carnival have also fully agreed the terms of a Heads of Agreement for its $200 million cruise port in East Grand Bahama. Carnival and Freeport Harbour Company are in the final stages of settling their legal documentation. The economic benefits and entrepreneurial opportunities for East Grand Bahama as well as Freeport from this project will be enormous. While Carnival’s new port is being built your PLP Government will pursue bold plans with stakeholders, taxi drivers, ground tour operators and tourism related attractions and businesses in Freeport, to attract additional cruise lines to Freeport.
Sale & Reopening of Lucayan Hotel Properties
And now my fellow PLPs and the good people of Grand Bahama, I have some great news you have been waiting for.
When we came into office five years ago, the Reef Hotel was closed, and tourism was in the doldrums with no plans for its survival, although being heavily subsidized. Within 12 months, my government had started turning things around, with a refurbished Memories resort and numerous flights from Canada and US in an arrangement with Sunwing. Unfortunately, as a result of the devastation of Hurricane Matthew, the property has been closed for several months. We are painfully aware of the impact which Hurricane Matthew has had here, as a result of the extensive damage and closure of Memories and the Grand Lucayan Hotels. We’ve been working hard to address this, and pursuing alternative initiatives with both the owner and operators. I am most pleased to announce tonight that yesterday a Letter of Intent for the sale was signed with a new purchaser which provides for an early closing. The prospective new owner has bold plans not only to upgrade, but bring in well-recognized operators for the three hotels, the casino plus additional tour operators and airlift capacity from multiple North American cities. The Minister of Tourism will lead a team to Canada on Sunday for Heads of Agreement negotiations in contemplation of the early completion of the sale. What we are working on with the new purchaser/developer is the creation of a compelling and exciting destination experience which will completely transform and expand product offerings in Lucaya with lasting results and not just a short-term fix.
So as you can see, your Minister of Tourism and your Minister of Grand Bahama have been busy!
All this activity and new investment and new opportunities – after so many years of suffering, big changes are truly underway here.
And these changes are a part of a nationwide movement forward – with significant new investments in agriculture, technology, scholarships, training – a new fleet for the Defence Force to protect our borders.
All of these changes add up to a strong foundation.
That’s why we’re so passionate about taking the next steps forward –
It’s why I started my remarks tonight by emphasizing how important it is to recruit a team of outstanding individuals to keep moving the nation forward.
Brothers and sisters, even though each one of your Grand Bahama candidates took their own individual path to this moment, what unites us all is a vision that is inclusive, that seeks to lift up all Bahamians, not just a few, and a determination to do the hard work of turning dreams into realities.
Norris, Preston, Julian, Mike and Obie – they can’t do it alone – they need your help to win, and then once they’ve won, they need your support and your ideas and your commitment to being part of the change.
The great men and women who brought us independence and Majority Rule – they didn’t do it alone. They had so many marching alongside them.
So -- CAN I count on you Grand Bahama!? Well let me hear you ...
PLP! PLP! PLP!
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