No rules expected over referendum spending

| 14/10/2019 | 40 Comments
Cayman News Service

(CNS): There will be no cap on the amount of money that either side of the cruise port referendum can spend on their campaign, nor will there be any lawful limit on the use of the public purse by government to persuade voters to stay home or vote ‘yes’. The absence of legislation supporting the constitutional provision for a people’s referendum has caused problems from the start, and the governor’s office has said the campaign financing aspect is “challenging”.

With just over nine weeks to go until the people-initiated referendum on the cruise project takes place on 19 December, Governor Martyn Roper’s office has confirmed that he is not in a position to impose any rules about this aspect of the project. Having spoken to both sides and seen no agreement, the governor is depending on the government and pro port lobbyists, as well as the Cruise Port Referendum (CPR) campaigners and NGOs opposing the project to be “proportionate”.

Following the publication of the draft referendum bill on 3 October, the lack of any provision to guide campaign funding has created significant concern, given that government has access to public funds and financial support from the developers and cruise lines.

As the governor’s office is responsible for good governance and upholding democracy, there was hope that the UK’s representative could step in and create some guidelines and boundaries on how much each side can spend and either limit government’s access to the public purse or ensure an equitable grant is given to the ‘no’ side.

However, a spokesperson for his office told CNS that it would at this point be difficult to make up rules and the governor’s main responsibility is to uphold the law.

“The absence of specific legislation or regulations governing spending on referendums in the Cayman Islands makes introducing such rules at this stage challenging,” the office told CNS following our enquiries about the governor’s position on the spending factor. “There are also multiple actors involved, unlike in an election, complicating any monitoring of campaign spend by different groups.”

The governor has raised campaign funding in his discussions with the government, opposition and the CPR group, the office confirmed, but said that it is clear there is no agreement on a way forward.

“The governor believes any campaign funding should be proportionate. The referendum will be overseen by independent Commonwealth observers (CPA-UK) who will assess, among other things, whether the vote is free and fair. In the absence of any agreement on campaign financing, we will also look to CPA-UK to make recommendations for the future,” the officials said.

While the CPA observers are very likely to address the issue of the lack of rules surrounding the campaign and the impact it had on the vote, that will be after the fact.

Government has already spent around a quarter of a million dollars of public cash promoting its policy to build the port. It is also currently going through a request for proposals for a PR firm to help it promote the project.

Despite constant claims by government that the opposition to the port is coming from commercial interests, this is just not the case. While many dive operators are very concerned about the project and the tender companies are evidently the biggest losers, the campaign itself has been led overwhelmingly by grassroots environmental activists supported by cash-strapped charities and students worried about climate change.

In the UK during the Brexit referendum the British government policy was to remain and that was supported by various other politicians and commercial groups. But they faced a mixed groups of Brexiteers, including grassroots organisations, backbench MPs, special interest groups and other political organisations, as well as some commercial interests.

Despite the disparate nature of the campaign, the financing for it was capped and the various leave campaigns had as much money from public cash as the government.

But here in Cayman, the PPM-led Unity government has made no offer or suggestions that it would be prepared to match any spending it may do between now and 18 December with a publicly funded grant to the collective anti-port campaigners.

The CPR activists has said on many occasions that this is already a David and Goliath fight, given that government has all the cards, from setting the question and the date to the uphill battle to get more than 50% of the entire electorate to vote ‘no’. But the absence of a level playing field for financing the campaign is going to make it even harder.


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Category: development, Local News, Politics

Comments (40)

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  1. JTB says:

    Democracy Cayman style.

    The counting of abstentions in favour of the Government means the result is pretty much a foregone conclusion in any event.

    If only we elected politicians with a shred of decency, moral courage and integrity….

  2. Anita Motard says:

    Read the definition of a Kangaroo Court. Welcome to Cayman!
    https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/kangaroo%20court

  3. Anonymous says:

    We can’t call the vote free and fair if one side is allowed to disproportionately abuse their more advantageous position, intimidate public workers, propagate misleading alt-fantasy facts via professional lobby agencies, all using our public money.

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    • Kiss me Neck says:

      @7:49 you know all ya saying is bull crap and you just repeating what the activists are saying. It seems that there is a huge Parrot season in Cayman this year. Kiss me neck!

  4. Roper de Joker says:

    There is a bill for a law for the referendum which is where the provision in respect of spending should have been made. Clearly 1. the government left it out because theyre spending our money and dont want any limit; and 2. Roper didnt read the bill or didn’t appreciate the significance of the spending provision not being there.
    Well now that you know there isn’t any spending control provision, tell the arrogant Premier and AG to put it in before they take the bill to the LA. Youre the Governor chap, youre responsible for good governance. Do something besides grin every time you see a camera for heavens sake!

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  5. Abys says:

    Forget Verdant Isle and their deal, legalize Cannabis and the tourism tax money (see: Canada.. Colorado.. etc) will pay for any infrastructure we need.

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    • Ex Po says:

      Hey, Pothead, we don’t need the dock………… and we don’t need drugs to addle our brains, either!

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      • Elli says:

        Pictured above is an old fart that bought into the lobbying of big pharma, alcohol, tobacco and paper industries.

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      • Abys says:

        Notice I said anything we need.

        We don’t need the dock.. we need to solve traffic though. Vote No. Now calm down.

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    • Nottah Drugee says:

      @ Abys: We don’t need a dock, and we don’t need more drugs to screw up our lives. either! Ganja almost ruined my life, but with the help of real friends I was able to change my way of life. Now I don’t do any drugs and my life is worth living. I learned that drugs can make you feel good, but the end results just aren’t worth it.

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      • Anonymous says:

        If it’s so bad why do many Caymanians benefit from it medically? A tea is a lot better than a vape or smoke anyway in my opinion.

        A lil bit of herb won’t ruin you as it’s the person, not the plant.

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      • 16oz Scam Pint says:

        Sorry, I don’t take advice from ex-addicts. I would rather be in a roomful of potheads than a roomful of drunks or a roomful of born again Christians. I have nothing against regular Christians, but those who found Jesus after addiction or crime don’t get to dictate my life choices, thank you very much.

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  6. Anonymous says:

    Roper – what have you added? NOTHING! The constitution already requires that any spending be proportionate. It also requires that it be reasonable, lawful and procedurally fair. Why no mention of those other requirements? Are you choosing which aspects of the constitution you expect our government to follow? How about them following all our laws for a change?

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  7. Anonymous says:

    Anyone who seriously sees no issue in allowing the government to spend an unlimited amount of money advocating for their side on an issue that will end up being explicitly voted on needs to get their head examined

    We have limits in candidate expenses in general elections for a reason, the rich and well off have enough power in society already, the last thing we need is people bankrolling a slate of candidates for their own benefit (funnily enough I think I just described what is currently allowed under our campaign finance laws)
    To even attempt to assert that this issue should not have a spending cap that the official campaigns need to respect is ludicrous

    This is just a further decay of our democratic system towards the corrupt US system of essentially letting the side who raises the most money win ( which happens at the federal level an inordinate amount of the time upwards of 90% in most congressional elections for instance)

    We have already seen the lengths the members of the current government will go to, to push the odds into their favour
    The PPM and CDP alone spent a combined total just shy of $750,000 in the last election despite only having a total of 26 candidates ( 15 PPM and 11 CDP) , which was less than half of the total field of more than 60 candidates who stood.

    I say that to say this, allowing elections to be bought and sold to the highest bidder, or unduly influenced by nonstop ads and the comparatively bottomless reserve of the government coffers is ridiculous there should be a defined 4 week campaign period where all events, ads and expenditures are allowed
    This government has spent a year bombarding people with propaganda at what point does it end?

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  8. Anonymous says:

    And Aldart continues to steal from the Caymanian people for his own benefit…what a pos

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  9. Ambassador of Absurdistan says:

    Just Another Day in Absurdistan

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    • Anonymous says:

      Get something new and original you moron.

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      • Anonymous says:

        Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never…

        Anyway, a true patriot would want their country to stop behaving in an absurd manner and represent its people, who frankly deserve better.

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  10. Anonymous says:

    No problem. Money is not the only thing. The brexit election is nothing to imitate either.

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  11. Anonymous says:

    Alden has total control over the Governor it is disgraceful!

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  12. Anonymous says:

    So if there is a funding cap it will be easy to ensure that CIG meets it. But how do we ensure CPR and anyone supporting them are meeting it. How do we put a $ figure in all the support that CNS provides along with Woody DaCostas radio show. What about overseas organizations ? What about local commercial interests to stop the port? What are the consequences? This is a non issue at the end of the day.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Please go back to you cave you are so lost

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    • Anonymous says:

      CIG are spending public voters to fight their constituents they expect to vote for them in 2021. That is the point how hard is that to understand?
      Say NO to the port then vote this entire lot out of office for abuse of office and corruption

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    • Anonymous says:

      Well Alden has Orrett and The Cayman Compost…so what’s your point?

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    • Stupid is clearly contagious... and spreading fast! says:

      “How do we put a $ figure in all the support that CNS provides along with Woody DaCostas radio show.”

      You think that a news outlet and a talk show should be counted as expenditures for a political campaign?

      This is without a doubt the dumbest thing I have ever had the displease of reading on this site

      I mean seriously

      Turn your brain on

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    • Anonymous says:

      Because, you dingdong, the government is using the public purse and CPR must use donations. Little bit of a different budget….

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      • Jotnar says:

        And not just a budget – but one side relies on people voluntarily committing their money and the other just uses tax payers money irrespective of whether taxpayers agree or not.

    • Anonymous says:

      Exactly- a complete non-issue. You have summarised the problems with the rules on spending. Some people complain as a profession.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Turkeys and new fridges for everyone in West Bay this Xmas. Gotta luv this crazy place.

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      • Anonymous says:

        It needs a very wealthy environmentally conscious person to come here with containers full of swag to one up the CIG Aholes. Busses and free meals to take you to the polls. I so hope CIG fail with this port.

      • Anonymous says:

        I want plywood because a hurricane might come and I want to sell it!

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    • 16oz Scam Pint says:

      Stupid is as stupid posts. But, as one of my bosses told me a long time ago, you can’t hold being stupid against stupid people. So… you’re forgiven.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Of course, because letting the people who have vested interests in one outcome decide what the question is, when the vote is held after a year long media blitz wasn’t fair enough

    Now they will likely spend hundreds of thousands more of the peoples money trying to convince people to back the project (while claiming they already have a majority supporting it)

    There are individual candidate limits in general elections but no limits in refs every day this government proves more and more this is not a representative system

    They are simply autocrats who hide behind occasional “elections”

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    • Anonymous says:

      And by allowing alcohol to be sold they are breaking the law that they made sure was followed for the OMOV referendum…

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  14. Anonymous says:

    Our only hope is that the people of Cayman put partisan politics aside and vote their conscience..

    Alden, himself should release all his ministers and government backbench members to vote their conscience..

    This is so ridiculous that the government can spend our money to fight us or to get us to vote their way..It’s just not right!

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