REMARKS BY FRED MITCHELL MP
EASTERN REGION CONCLAVE
Friday 22nd July New Life Christian Centre
Prince Charles Drive
Check Against Delivery
It is my honour to be here this evening to report to you on the work of the Progressive Liberal Party in the Fox Hill constituency. This evening we say to the Bahamian people – it’s all about you. We believe in you, we believe in the Bahamas, and we are ready to fight for you!
I want to add my thanks to the team of organizers of this event in particular to all the various branch chairs of the various constituencies that worked so tirelessly for us to have a successful conclave.
I thank Reverend Douglas Cleare for the use of this wonderful facility. (Ad lib: Some people had sensitivities about the use of the church.. this is after all a convention… but I remind people that the struggle for justice and equality, freedom and dignity are the same for the PLP and the church. We are joined at the hip in that respect.
( I also pay tribute to our foremothers who fought for women to get the right to vote some 50 years ago on 31st July 2011. I urge all young women to support the party that helped to bring that about. To join in congratualtions to Ruby Ann Cooper Darling for being the first woman to register to vote. I say to young women that breast cancer is a serious health issue for women in this country so young women should vote for the party that will help young women deal with and pay for the expenses of this disease throuh national health insurance. That is the Progressive Liberal Party.
( I digress further to respond to a columnist that appeared in a daily newspaper. He comes from England and is trying to fight the same battles as the last general election. It;s nt going to work. The FNM is gone this time. Let me say what i have told people who have asked me about him. I say that in England where he lives all the journalists look like their going to jail in handcuffs. Even the one who they trained here that runs that gossip rag down the road my cousin is in handcuffs, so that could tell you what might be in the future of that columnist.)
This evening we are on the cusp of a general election campaign. There is much work to do. This exercise is for us to get to know one another, to sing from the same hymn sheet, to exchange views and to get together over the summer and compare notes.
It is safe to say that in this region, everyone is in the field. We plan to hold the seats that we now have in the eastern region and to win back those that we lost in the last general election. (Ad lib: and we are going to win them despite what we expect as the most corrupt form of gerrymandering and drawing of crooked boundary lines since the general election of 1962)
Fox Hill has suffered over the last five years because the government shifted the resources of the country out of the social intervention programmes that we left in place when we were in office and into who knows what. The result is stagnant growth in Fox Hill. High unemployment in Fox Hill. Infrastructure suffering in ways that will only become more apparent and more dangerous over time. There is crime and there is the fear of crime.
There are two Fox Hills: the inner core and traditional village, and the bulk of the constituency, which is largely middle class. But nearly everyone is hurting in some way, and everyone has serious concerns about their families and their country.
As I have said before, I am here to serve. I do not judge those whom I serve. I must deal with people of all stripes, as I find them, and serve their needs without prejudice or discrimination. It is easy for me to do this. It is part of my innermost being.
My view is that political work is personal. People matter, their stories matter, their hopes and dreams and fears and concerns matter. If you’re going to represent people well, you must give all the energy and time you can to knowing them.
I have said this many times before but it bears repeating: When George Mackey asked me to succeed him as the representative of Fox Hill, he asked me to work to protect the cultural integrity of the Fox Hill village. I see that as job one.
The Fox Hill community is undergoing great stresses and strains. That is why so much of my political energy is spent seeking to protect the Fox Hill Festival, a proud tradition central to the integrity of Fox Hill and its identity.
Also central to the identity of Fox Hill is the Sandilands Primary School – which has been a school since 1845, and is the place where the young Fox Hillian first gets a sense of self and an awareness of the community. For years, researchers have been telling us that early learning is critical, and that’s why I support a pre-school at the Sandilands Primary School.
Improving education at all levels is key –that’s why I embrace the idea of the PLP doubling the investment in education over the next five years. I support expanded technical and vocational education at the junior and high school levels. I believe that there ought to be special academic programmes for the intellectually gifted as well.
Much of the social degradation and impotence and frustration that we see can be laid at the feet of the inadequacies of our education system. I can’t think of a better investment than making sure our children and young people get the education they need to thrive in the 21st century.
We have to focus on how we will create jobs in the future, and how jobs can be created right now, too, because as is all too clear, there are too many people out of work in the Bahamas – and that’s true in Fox Hill, too.
(Ad lib. It may be Mr. Leader that we have to look at the idea of campaigning for a livable wage.. By livable wage I mean one where people can support themselves and their families. For example this is the problem with Sandals in Exuma. They are paying people the minimum wage of one hundred and fifty dollars per week but that is not a livable wage. It may be that we have to consider as a government and you have to think carefully about this: of raising the private sector minimum wage to the level of the public sector minimum wage of 210 dollars per week. )
We have to put the country back to work!
With respect to the environment, we must engage communities in the protection and upkeep of their neighbourhoods by the subventions which we provide to community organizations to keep their neighbourhoods clean.
These are but a few ideas that I have to make things better for Fox Hill.
We sit just to the south of a major new development that came to Fox Hill within the last five years. From 2002 to 2007 some 300 homes were built in the part of Fox Hill just immediately to the north of us. There are no parks, no churches, no convenience stores. Our job as the PLP and my job as the representative is to help build community, what the Anglicans call doing the things that make for peace and build up the common life.
So thank you for this conclave. Thank you for allowing me to share with you some of our work.
I am sure that the Bahamian people will look to us for the answers. I am confident that we will do the work which is necessary in order to win.
It’s all about you. The voters of Fox Hill. It’s all about the young people of our country. It is all about believing in ourselves and what we can accomplish. Believe!
Thank you and good evening.