Opposition Leader Ezzard Miller’s private member motion to bring about a referendum on the proposed cruise berthing facility fuelled debate into the wee hours of Friday morning, but ultimately failed.
After several hours of debate, which started late afternoon Thursday, and two brief weather related power outages, Mr. Miller’s cruise berthing referendum motion ultimately was voted down 11 to 6, largely along party lines.
One member was absent for the vote, West Bay North MLA Bernie Bush, who told Cayman 27 Friday morning that he supports a referendum.
Mr. Miller, in his contribution, raised a number of questions on the project while pushing to take the issue straight to the electorate.
In his rebuttal, Deputy Premier and Tourism Minister Moses Kirkconnell presented the government’s view in great detail.
“Right now the only people making this decision is the cruise industry, and how are they doing it? They are doing it by bullying, by intimidation, and threats,” said Mr. Miller, making his case to give the Caymanian people the final say in whether a cruise berthing facility is built or not.
“I believe the people should be given an opportunity to vote in a referendum once they hear the facts, both sides of the story, and then make up their own mind and at that point they vote yes for the port, or no for the port,” said Mr. Miller.
“We were elected to put infrastructure in place, to see a bright shining light, and to give opportunity,” said Mr. Kirkconnell, defending the project.
Mr. Kirkconnell cited the thousands of Caymanian families that depend on cruise tourism for their livelihood.
“This government will not take the decision that seems to be the consensus across the aisle that we are going to give up on cruise, that we are going to let the cruise business shrink,” said Mr. Kirkconnell.
“Just arbitrarily allowing the cruise ship to dump passengers in George Town is going to be very detrimental to our tourism industry,” said Mr. Miller.
Mr. Miller also raised questions about the carrying capacity popular attractions such as Seven Mile Beach and Stingray City.
Mr. Kirkconnell countered by suggesting the cruise berthing facility would effectively double the island’s carrying capacity by doubling the average time a cruise passenger spends ashore from four to eight hours.
“You have twice the amount of time to provide the goods and services that are most important for the economic benefit, the job creation, and what we need: the growth,” said Mr. Kirkconnell,
While he said the procuremebt process is still underway, Mr. Kirkconnell made one pledge:
“There will be no loans, bonds, overdraft, IOU’s, or any kind of financial borrowing by government to pay for the piers,” said Mr. Kirkconnell.
While there have been a lot of numbers floating around in the public as to the price tag of the cruise berthing facility project, Mr. Kirkconnell said the experts hired by government to consult on the project estimate cruise and cargo can be delivered for a cost of around $200 million.