Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) Deputy Leader Chester Cooper last night outlined the party’s vision for The Bahamas, which would explore the viability of transitioning the country to a republic and the implementation of a national youth service, a revolution in education, harnessing the country’s natural resources and campaign finance reform.
As he closed out the party’s first convention night, Cooper laid the foundation of what he believes the party needs to do to win back the trust of the Bahamian people, and urged supporters and the viewing audience to “leap forward” with the PLP.
“We need a more effective, more representative Parliament,” he said.
“And to that end, we will begin the conversation on governance issues like transitioning to a republic like Trinidad did, within the commonwealth of nations, to leap forward along this journey of independence.”
Cooper noted that the next PLP government would ensure equal pay for women, a greater inclusion of women in politics and prioritize gender equality and citizenship reform.
The Exumas and Ragged Island MP stressed the importance of reforming the way campaign finance works in The Bahamas.
“We can’t continue to have elections that go to the highest bidder, when we don’t even know who the highest bidder is,” Cooper said.
“There should only be one backer the political parties owe a debt to, and that’s the Bahamian people.”
He also committed the party to having the conversation about national youth service for young people leaving school without any definitive plans.
“We won’t have a Bahamas to leave our children to if young men lack discipline and resolve their differences with guns and knives,” he said.
Cooper also restated his support for the legalization of marijuana.
“We don’t have to have long, drawn out committees to determine whether we legalize medicinal marijuana with a sensible framework,” he said.
“We don’t need to stand by waiting on the world’s approval whilst they make billions of dollars from this industry.
“We don’t have to overthink it to stop criminalizing young men for having a joint.
“We can expunge those records now.
“We can change the law now. We can leap forward on this issue now.”
Cooper went on to outline ways the country can take advantage of its natural resources to ensure all Bahamians benefit.
“We can leap forward with our Ministry for Natural Resources focused on utilizing and owning our natural resources like Crown land, aggregates, salt and aragonite,” Cooper said.
“We can leap forward with a best in class Sovereign Wealth Fund where the citizens of our country benefit directly from the harvesting of our resources.
“We can leap forward and take advantage of the green economy and the blue economy that sits untapped in our waters and on our islands.
“We can leap forward and broaden access to capital for Bahamian small-to-medium-sized businesses, as the PLP will do with its investment of $250 million over five years.
“We can leap forward and embark on a mission of economic empowerment of our people; fostering an environment where we own our Bahamas and where we create hundreds of new millionaires.”
As he touted the party’s contribution to education in the country and criticized the government’s free education initiative at the University of The Bahamas and the Bahamas Technical and Vocational Institute, Cooper insisted that a PLP government would “raise the standard and prepare our children and educators to meet that standard”.
“The PLP had a National Development Plan put together by some of the country’s top experts, across party lines,” Cooper continued.
“Now it sits collecting dust on a shelf. We need to dust it off and create a 30-year plan for our Bahamas.
“For Exuma, I developed an eVision 2030 to guide the development of the constituency in the years to come no matter who is in government.
“We need a plan that reforms our country to have a better trained, more efficient labor force. Our B-Vision 2050.”
This plan, according to Cooper, is currently being worked on by the party and spearheaded by him.
He announced that the sub-committees have already been launched in order to flesh out each idea and understand what regulations and laws must be enacted or amended so that the party will be ready to go on day one.
“We won’t be like this crew that was caught off guard by winning and had no plan and no strategy,” he said.
“…I’ve committed to traveling the length and breadth of The Bahamas to ensure this is our plan, the country’s plan, a progressive agenda for a progressive Bahamas.
“I’ve committed to presenting a progressive agenda, not sound bites and campaign slogans, but our plans will be smart, specific, measurable and attainable.”
Cooper said the party will also develop an app to formulate and distribute its vision.