Veteran legislator quits active politics in Bermuda
HAMILTON – Veteran politician, Dr Grant Gibbons, has dealt the beleaguered main opposition One Bermuda Alliance (OBA) a second blow in the space of a few days by announcing his retirement from politics.
Gibbons, the parliamentary representative for Paget East, an OBA stronghold, and Shadow Minister of Economic Development and Regulatory Affairs, told the House of Assembly at the close of Friday’s session that his resignation would come into effect on Monday.
“It’s time to go. For me, 25 years is enough. It’s time to focus on other things like family and business. It’s time to make way for new blood, someone who is prepared to make the commitment, who can bring substance and passion, and who will have Paget East and Bermuda’s best interests at heart,” the 65-year-old politician said.
His resignation follows the departures of Jeff Baron as an OBA MP earlier this week and former senator Nick Kempe in November 2017.
Former finance minister Bob Richards, another party stalwart, also announced he was stepping away from politics after sensationally losing his seat to political newcomer Christopher Famous in last July’s general election, in which the OBA suffered a crushing defeat to the Progressive Labour Party (PLP) by 24 seats to 12 after one term in power.
The departure of 42-year-old Baron in Warwick North East and Gibbons, whose late uncle Sir David Gibbons was Premier from 1977 to 1982 during the now defunct United Bermuda Party’s (UBP) 30-year grip on power, will mean by-elections in both constituencies.
Opposition Leader Jeanne Atherden called Gibbons’ departure a “very well-deserved” and “bittersweet” retirement for a man who “dedicated countless years of his life to serve Bermuda for the betterment of its entire people”.
She said his contribution “speaks to his personal character and indelible legacy” adding “Dr Gibbons has also provided public service through his membership on a variety of boards and committees that provided oversight and advice on matters of importance to the country.
“Most recently as Minister of Economic Development, Dr Gibbons spearheaded the initiative that resulted in Bermuda hosting the America’s Cup, sailing’s most prestigious event, which provided both economic and social opportunity for Bermuda,” she said.
Former premier Michael Dunkley, who has served in politics alongside Gibbons for all but four of his 25 years, said “for as long as I have known Dr Gibbons, he has been a man with a tireless work ethic, always prepared, calm, cool and collected and in recent years seems to have developed a sense of humour.
“I say thank you to a man of impeccable character and integrity, a friend, mentor, adviser and a class act.”
Gibbons, a member of a leading family business empire, said that while he was stepping away from politics, he would remain a member of the OBA.
“I remain a supporter of the One Bermuda Alliance and what it stands for. I will remain a member of the One Bermuda Alliance.
“Although recent unanticipated events may now influence the impact of my decision on public opinion, I can assure this honourable House and the public that my decisions to retire from politics and when to retire from politics were made long ago. Now I look forward to continuing my family’s legacy of public service; just not as an elected member,” he added.
Gibbons reflected briefly on his accomplishments from his first piece of legislation — amendments to the Obscene Publications Act — to his role in bringing the 35th America’s Cup (AC35) to Bermuda last year.
“Hosting AC35 put Bermuda on the world stage, created hundreds of jobs, helped to rejuvenate tourism and jump-started Bermuda’s struggling economy by adding over US$330 million to Bermuda’s GDP,” he said.
“It also demonstrated Bermuda’s remarkable ability to rise to the occasion and work together to achieve extraordinary results.”
Gibbons’ political career started with his appointment in 1993 as campaign chairman for the former UBP.
He became a senator in 1994 and was appointed Minister of Management and Technology in the UBP government.
He was elected to represent Paget East later that year.
Gibbons was Minister of Finance from 1995 to 1998 and became shadow minister after the PLP won power for the first time in the 1998 general election.
He served as Leader of the Opposition from 2001 to 2006 and as Minister of Education and Economic Development after the OBA won power in 2012, giving up the education portfolio to Wayne Scott in January 2015, a month after the momentous bid victory required a concentration of his time on AC35. (CMC)