MPs argue over local government issues

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

The Red House, which houses the Parliament. -File photo/Jeff Mayers

GOVERNMENT and Opposition MPs argued over several local government issues as debate on a motion to approve a report from the Joint Select Committee (JSC) on the Miscellaneous Provisions (Local Government Reform) Bill, 2020, continued in the House on Monday.

The motion was eventually approved by the House.

Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh claimed the aspirations of 1.4 million people in Trinidad and Tobago, who desire local government reform, are being held hostage by 19 opposition MPs.

He cited a minority report which opposition members of the JSC attached to the committee’s main report as evidence of this.

“This bill is not about petty politics.”

Deyalsingh claimed UNC councillors were quietly supporting the bill while the UNC publicly sang a different tune.

Public Utilities Minister Marvin Gonzales agreed with Deyalsingh that only the PNM had the courage to advance ground-breaking legislation such as local government reform.

Labour Minister Stephen McClashie saw local government corporations increasing their revenue through collectiing property taxes within their respective jurisdictions.

Pointe-a-Pierre MP David Lee agreed there were benefits to be gained from local government reform, but said such reforms would never be implemented. Lee argued Government was putting such an emphasis on passing the bill because local government elections are constitutionally due.

He asked Finance Minister Colm Imbert what kind of increased remunerations councillors, aldermen and mayors would receive once the bill is passed. He also questioned how resources would be allocated amongst different corporations.

Fyzabad MP Dr Lackram Bodoe wondered if corporations would be sufficiently empowered to deal with public health issues, including monitoring street food vendors, abbatoirs and private slaughterhouses.