Public tab for port promo still growing

| 08/01/2020 | 81 Comments
Cayman News Service
Premier Alden McLaughlin at a public meeting about the cruise port

(CNS): Government shelled out well over $200,000 of public cash and resources on promoting the cruise port project during the second half of last year, according to results of freedom of information requests. It paid around $130,000 to two publicity agents and used about $85,000 of advertising resources on Radio Cayman. But government has also spent money directly on adverts and promotional activity, which has not yet been revealed but will push the tab higher when it is.

In documents released by the tourism ministry, local PR company Fountainhead, which claims to be experts in “strategic storytelling”, received just under $46,000 for promotional work and advertisements they placed with both local media, such as the Cayman Compass, and social media, such as Google.

The ministry also shelled out over $86,000 to Kelly Holdings, another local marketing firm, in just the last two months of the year, including $20,000 for a promotional contract and then some $66,000 on the actual promotional work, including meetings, videos and various methods of advertising.

By way of disclosure, CNS can confirm that over the last six months, advertising bookings worth $2,200 were made via Kelly Holdings and $3,000 directly from the tourism ministry for pro-port advertising. We did not, however, receive anything from Fountainhead, which spent around $30,000 with other local media houses.

In addition to cash spent on advertising, the government also spent $21,000 on its series of town hall meetings and stakeholder meetings that took place through November.

The issue of government using public money to promote the port project had always caused some controversy, but since the local activist group CPR secured enough signatures to trigger a people-initiated referendum under the Constitution, it has become even more contentious.

Once it was clear there would be a national vote and a vigorous campaign for and against the proposed cruise facility, government’s exclusive access to public money to promote the project, while those against it are depending on donations, raised on obvious inequity. The situation was then made all the more controversial when government failed to introduce any campaign finance restrictions or guidelines when it passed the referendum law last year.

With no limitations on government spending, and no limits on its access to the public purse but no equitable funding for the people’s opposition campaign, the tourism ministry’s expenditure of public cash is now also part of the court action filed by CPR member Shirley Roulstone.

See the documents regarding government’s promotional spending in the CNS Library.

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Category: Politics

Comments (81)

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  1. randy weetz says:

    these PR firms are PR nightmares – what were they thinking?

  2. Anonymous says:

    So was it Fountainhead that created the “strategic story” of the little gray bearded man called “Coral Jesus” who could create acres and millions of corals in a just a short time grown from just from “itty bitty” pieces of broken coral in his magic lab?

    I wasn’t there when Jesus fed the five thousands with five loaves of bread and two fish but that story for me is a lot more credible and easier to believe than the one told to us by “Coral Jesus.”

  3. Anonymous says:

    This is what you get Alden. You wanted to be the leader of fools. Biting the hand that feeds them.

  4. Anonymous says:

    I read the story of Samuel Powery today in the Compass. Honest, hard working man who went to see at 14 to earn a wage. No hint of side or duplicity to him – just hard work and a concern for his family and his country. Even today, at 81, he worries about other sea men and prays for their well being. How the hell did we go from the likes of Samuel Powery to the likes of Alden McLaughlin, snake oil sales man. Just damn sad.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Mr. Alden McLaughlin,
    The implementation of a port in Cayman is a very important national issue.
    It is an issue that affects your people.
    You really have no right to spend the public purse on advertising for this.
    In fact, I would suggest that it is illegal to do so.
    You are using taxpayers money for your own political agenda.

    Please champion democracy and embrace the will of your Caymanian people or you will lose their confidence, if you have not done so already.

    David Shibli

    • Anonymous says:

      Wrong David. Government is allowed to spend money promoting its projects .. especially when certain individuals and media houes have been campaigning against the CBF for years.

      • Anon says:

        Wrong, 11:21. In a Democracy the people have the voice. Spending public money to promote one side in the dispute allows speech by one partisan side while silencing the other contrary side, which obviously is being forced to contribute funds against their interest. Even as long ago as King John in England, this has been considered an inequity that cannot be tolerated. Why should it be defensible now in this UKOT? Nowhere in Law is it required that one side financially support the undermining of its position by paying for the other side’s propaganda.

  6. Anonymous says:

    That money should have gone on garbage collection over the holidays. We could have used a private company to pick up the trash . 3+ weeks with no collection in some areas…… get our priorities straight Cayman. #voteno

    • Anonymous says:

      …or any number of other higher priorities, like drug rehab, vocational schooling, nil/low-income housing, or GPS anklets for repeat AWOL Francis Bodden girls…

      • Anonymous says:

        9:47 But nobody is planning to make a massive financial killing out of any of that are they? That’s real the issue here. What’s the profit margin on this project and who will be pocketing it? Assuming $200 million for the dock (and I bet it will be a lot more) the people doing the work must plan on charging at least a 10% mark up on their costs and that isn’t chicken feed – you can pay off a lot of people with money like that.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Truth perishes in darkness.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Totally inappropriate spending and just another of many reasons not to trust any of Aldart’s actions. His true intentions are certainly selfish. Most destructive leader you have ever had.

  9. Anonymous says:

    The government is using government funds to promote something that they think is important, what a surprise!!

  10. Anonymous says:

    In a land where Laws seem to be very loosely and haphazardly enforced, there are 14 that were explicitly voted and passed in the Legislative Assembly, and Gazetted, that haven’t been enacted into force. We not only paid for all of that time and effort, we, in some cases, paid for additional Amendment drafting, presentation, voting, etc.

    It’s an interesting list:

    Unenacted Laws of the Cayman Islands:
    Pharmacy Law, 1991 (Law 15 of 1991)
    Residential Tenancies Law (Law 6 of 2009)
    National Honours and Awards Law, 2010 (Law 20 of 2010)
    Advisory District Councils Law 2011 (Law 1 of 2011)
    Standards in Public Life Law, 2014 (Law 3 of 2014)
    Plants (Importation and Exportation) (Amendement) Law, 2014 (Law 13 of 2014)
    Mutual Funds (Amendment) Law, 2015 (Law 12 of 2015)
    Securities Investment Business (Amendment) Law, 2015 (Law 13 of 2015)
    Sunday Trading (Amendment) Law, 2016 (Law 4 of 2016)
    Standards in Public Life (Amendment) Law, 2016 (Law 4 of 2016)
    Cautions (Adult) Law, 2017 (Law 5 of 2017)
    Data Protection Law, 2017 (Law 33 of 2017)
    Advance Passenger Information Law 2018 (Law 4 of 2018)
    Cayman Islands Red Cross Law 2018 (Law 23 of 2018)

    Why? Discuss.

  11. Anonymous says:

    So the government ran their election on building a port. We vote them in. Now they’re using public funds (as opposed to personal, I guess) to promote building a port because those who didn’t vote for them (or perhaps did) now don’t want a port. Based on the comments one would think the government is using the funds to imprison its own people, or worse. Should we add war crimes to the list? It never ceases to amaze me how ungrateful people are that they live in one of the safest, most beautiful, places in the world.

    • Anonymous says:

      That’s dumb, 9:49 am. Very juvenile.

    • Anonymous says:

      won’t be so beautiful if the gov’t has their way and destroys the harbour!!

    • Anonymous says:

      We didn’t vote them in. PPM and CDP both lost their standing in last election. There was no Unity Ticket or mandate approved. We really need to stop these lies.

    • Anonymous says:

      There wasn’t any particular government elected in, the government we see now is a coalition. Seven of the nineteen elected officials are from PPM which supported the building of the port as part of their campaign.

      I’m unsure of the stance of the independent candidates which are part of the coalition building up to the election. I know at least one was opposed to it and flipped as a means of progressing his political career.

      Regardless, there is no specific mandate which was given approval by the voting population.

    • Anonymous says:

      you are mistaken in believing that this government won the election. This is called a coalition (or unity) government. They did not win enough seats. I admit that a lot of the players are the same, but this is not a PPM government nor is it a UDP government. This is unity, which means they do not have a mandate. Most of the elected officials won on numbers less than those that signed the petitions in their constituency.

      You need to access what you are saying, because the government is deliberately suppressing the right to participate in our democracy and you know what that is a scary thing. Just keep watching this space. Hopefully you will see before the government tries to suppress your voice.

    • Anonymous says:

      Uh no. We voted them in because they were the best of two bad options. Just like in a lot of other countries these days. We did not give them a remit to build a $400 million cruise/cargo facility which if you objectively read the facts isn’t needed. What we really need is a better cargo dock somewhere outside of GT. And a better cruise tendering facility and operation which could easily be done for a fraction of the cost.

      • Anonymous says:

        11.36 Why do you want our cargo port moved from George Town? So that you can sip tea and watch the sunset. Keep your hands off our port.

    • Anonymous says:

      We are one of the safest most beautiful places on earth in-spite of them, not because of them.

    • Anonymous says:

      The PPM did not win the election. Your argument is flawed from the get go. The rest is just hyperbole to hide the fact that your original argument has no foundation.

    • Jotnar says:

      The last sentence has nothing to do with the rest. Should i not hold the government accountable for their use of taxpayer money because I live in a ( currently) beautiful country ( irrespective of their position in development likely to make it not so)? What has the God given beauty of the Cayman Islands got it do with Alden or his cronies? You may think he is God who gave us the islands – but I don’t agree.

      Oh and BTW pleas show me how we elected the government based on their mandate. I thought the PPM failed to secure a majority based on their mandate, and had to add in independents, some of whom were explicitly against the port but changed their tune once promised a councillor position, to secure a majority. But hey don’t let harsh facts get in the way of your rose tinted view of the government. If you believe in the port argue the merits, but don’t insult the intelligence of the rest if Us by coming out with this rubbish. If you are being paid for this not sure government is getting value for its spend.

    • Anonymous says:

      Another kool ade drinker.

    • Anonymous says:

      It is straight up idiotic to complain about a government supporting their own policies and plans through the use of media because 25% of the electorate wants a petition that may not be 100% no votes.

      In effect, some are demanding that 25% of voters dictate what the government can do, which is simply undemocratic! Just because there’s a referendum doesn’t mean they must give up all hope.

      • Anonymous says:

        In principle a government doesn’t get to spend tax payers money supporting their politico policies over that of the opposition. Otherwise you may as well let then conduct their re-election campaign using tax payer money. The grey area of which issues are general policy rather than politically determined is then extinguished when there is a voter referendum on foot. Except in Cayman, where the Government spends tax payers dollars – both on ads and legal costs – not just supporting their policies against an opposition, but against 25% plus of their own electorate, whom they then deny funding to. What you are arguing – that the sitting government should have unlimited access to tax payer funds to defend their actions against their own electorate, is what is really “simply undemocratic” . Passing lightly over what the referendum is asking for is that every elector gets a vote on the issue – which one would rather think is democratic, as opposed to your view of well they are elected by a majority of the electorate (or rather , not elected by a majority but managed to cobble together a coalition) so they can do what they like.

    • Anonymous says:

      9:49 what a stupid comment. There was literally no one in my district to vote for who was against the port. No one!!! Subsequently whoever I voted for had the port in mind. That does not mean, as a voter, that i wasn’t the port. When you vote it is rare that your chosen candidate is going to have views and policies that you 100% agree with. You just have to go with the lesser of evils. Subsequently this is why we had the petition and are now having the referendum. Because many of the voters aren’t happy with the government trying to push the port. Vote NO. It wont be the most “beautiful” place for long if we allow the port to be built as we will be over-run with cheap, horrible cruise tourists that do not contribute much to our economy. It’s the stay-over tourism that brings in the big $$$ and what we should be focusing on.

    • Anonymous says:

      Riddle me this, I reside in the prospect area,our elected official Mr Harris on numerous occasions expressed his disdain for the port project. Fast forward to the present, he’s switched his stance from independent to the government whip and miraculously became a pro port supporter. So tell me, did the voters in my area vote for the port? Stop spreading nonsense.

      • Anonymous says:

        No. You voted for the man to represent you. Perhaps you should have run for election yourself.

        • anon says:

          read the comment again – they did not say they voted for Austin, they just said that was the elected official in their district – doesn’t mean they voted for him. They are also bringing light to what was on Harris’s agenda during the campaign vs how he flipped after being elected and pushing all of his agendas to the side to stick his head up Alden’s arse

      • Anonymous says:

        Austin Harris voters get exactly what they deserve.

    • Anonymous says:

      I guess you dont know crap 😎

  12. Anonymous says:

    Between all the huge stages, weekly radio shows, constant online banners, facebook ads, petition booths, banners , t shirts, bumper stickers, cartoon videos, animations, live videos, I could go on and on – CPR has spent way more than this and has serious financial backers with even bigger motives.

    • Anonymous says:


    • Anonymous says:

      ummm, if people who support CPR want to contribute, what’s wrong with that? The gov’t spending the PUBLIC’s money is not right when so many people are against the port in the first place!

    • Anonymous says:

      What are you talking about? Are you serious?

    • Anonymous says:

      you are honestly mistaken. CPR has not spent anywhere near as much as the government has.

    • Anonymous says:

      Maybe you are right. But they will be spending the money of people who support their views rather than the taxpayers, at least 25% of whom do not.

      • Anonymous says:

        25% of the electorate you mean. Don’t forget expats who live here pay duties and taxes, and the majority don’t support the port, despite having no say. So in terms of tax payers, you could probably double or triple that percentage.

    • Anonymous says:

      CPR hasn’t used the country’s money. Government are spending the islands capital to push their agenda. So you cant even make that comparison. any advertising by CPR was sourced privately.

    • Anonymous says:

      At least we’re spending our own money and not the public purse.

  13. Anonymous says:

    We need people like Shirley in government not the crooked bunch we have now.

  14. Anonymous says:


  15. Still shaking my head.... says:

    The largest public schools in this country continue to fail you Caymanians. Yet, most of you ain’t saying bounce about your government focusing sooooooo much time, effort, money (YOUR MONEY!!), and attention on building a flippin’ new cruise port. How blind unna is eh? Your elected leaders aren’t doing F#$% all to fix the biggest problem that YOU face, educating your children! The ONLY thing that will change your circumstances FOREVER and improve the lives of your children FOREVER is a quality education. Period (unless unna expecting to hit that number soon?). Yet, unna just lettin’ Alden and Moses build their port and won’t even make the effort to go out to vote “No” when the time comes. SMH. Why don’t poor Caymanians insist that government fix public education FIRST, before trying to build some flippin’ port? Eh? Why don’t you? You all are the ones with the right to vote. You all are the ones with the power to demand change. Yet, you do nothing, but let Alden and Moses and their lot let your children remain dumb and uneducated, while promising you port jobs! SMH.

    • Anonymous says:

      You must be new here. People have been harping about those schools and the lack of funding for education on pretty much all of these posts.

    • Anonymous says:

      Yeah. And those cruise jobs blue collar, seasonal, poor paid. Not the access to the professional jobs that a decent education would provide. But hey – politicians have no interest in an educated electorate – this is just an extension of turkeys hams and fridges. Give you a pittance for your vote so some people can become very rich, and who gives a damn about the ordinary man.

  16. Anonymous says:

    Spending public funds to lie to the people is unethical, immoral and should be criminal. It speaks volumes about the character of the current leadership in Cayman. The Premier and Deputy Premier have no shame. Those is Cabinet are complicit and apparently sheep that deserve to lose their seats. This government has surpassed McKeeva Bush’s UDP 2009-2012 in the art of political skullduggery and covert corruption and slight of hand moves. The Auditor General needs to follow the money.

  17. Anonymous says:

    Still, better than spending it on churches, brown liquor and hookers. Oh, and watches for the hookers.

  18. Anonymous says:

    Why isn’t he removed? XXXX Why is he still eligible for re election? If this was any other country public officials would have stepped down.

    I don’t understand why politicians think that people can’t remember what they’ve done. This isn’t like the old days. Everything is recorded and on the internet. The younger generation aren’t gullible like our elders gone by. We are educated, have travelled and have independent thought.

    Between him and Big Mac I hope neither make it back in office. But….if they do then it won’t be much longer until they are out. The elders who vote for them are dying off. Truly it’s only the drug addicts and low incomes that must vote for them because they get a new fridge and stove. Otherwise who in their right mind would vote for such individuals?

    • Anonymous says:

      Voters have to remove them. Compelling the enactment of SIPL will partially accomplish that.

  19. Kurt Christian says:

    Vote No

  20. Anonymous says:

    Thank you Shirley!

  21. Anonymous says:

    All I’m asking from Alden is that when this idea comes to a vote and fails that he will do the honorable thing and resign like he promised..In any other country, where a leader has wasted the countries funds and failed to get the support they would humbly stick their tail between their legs and leave..

    I am not even asking you to say sorry..I just want you to tell the country that you are fulfilling your promise and just step aside..We will be fine until next May, don’t worry…

    By the way Moses, no one is forgetting about you but you know you are solid over in the Brac but you and Julie will all be left of the PPM come next May so start preparing yourself.

    • Anonymous says:

      Honestly, I don’t know why voters are waiting for better behavior. Enact SIPL, start the criminal investigations, dissolve LA and call elections for the Fall of 2020 with whoever is left.

  22. Anonymous says:

    Fountainhead’s specializes in “strategic storytelling.” WTF!!!

    Folks, you can’t make this $hit up!

    They certainly lived up to what they promised with the “storytelling” so at least the government can say that got their money’s worth…

    If this wasn’t money being thrown away recklessly, i would die laughing but it does nothing but piss me off to see how they are wasting the public’s money..

    • The Age of Spin says:

      “Strategic storytelling” is right up there with “alternative facts”!

    • Anonymous says:

      Story telling is a perfect description of what they are up to. About as much truth and facts in their version as the average fairy story.

  23. Anonymous says:

    This has to be criminal..

    Think of how much of that money could be spent on “refurbishing the dock” so that as the always say the cruise shippers don’t have to stand in the sun..

    They could have but at least a couple of Jetways for the airport as well.

    They are spending our money against us and we have no say…well that is what they think.. May 2021, try so hurry come nah!

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