Isle of Man Local Web Guide


Douglas West - Alex Downie

Dear Elector,

This is the third time I have asked you to elect me as one of your MHKís for Douglas West. I will not rely on the expression "third time lucky". Politicians should never take anybody, especially their constituents, for granted.

So, if you will bear with me, I would like to set out briefly my record of Government service to date.

In the last ten years I have been a political member of the Department of Tourism, Leisure and Transport and the Department of Local Government and Environment, where I put in four years as chairman of the Islandís Planning Committee.

I have been chairman of the Isle of Man Post Office and I am a member of the Manx Museum and Manx National Heritage executive and trustee committees ó in which role I was involved in securing ownership of the Calf Sound for the Manx nation.

In the last two years I have been Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, working with a fighting-fit departmental team, which so far has been successful in keeping foot and mouth disease out of the Isle of Man.

We also negotiated a special disease-free status for the Island which enables us to continue to export our agricultural produce in Europe and we have secured a herring fishing quota for 2001 which has been successfully exploited.

As a member of executive government, the Council of Ministers, I have learned that, in a dramatically changing and volatile world, we must be ever alert to maintaining the Islandís international status and reputation and secure a strong future for the Manx economy and all the Islandís people.

At the same time I recognise a compelling obligation to work for the best interest of all the people of Douglas West. If they give me their votes this means I have a debt to repay.

To sum up, in the last ten years I have had front line experience in both my national and local roles as an MHK and I believe there is nothing like experience, pleasant or otherwise, to provide a solid base on which to represent you.

I think my life outside politics is well known to many people in Douglas West but there may be some who need to know something about Downie the man.

I am married to Margaret, a Sister in the Eye Department at Nobleís Hospital.

I am a section leader in the Isle of Man Coastguard Douglas Marine Rescue Company, I am president of the Manx Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and I am a member of the Institute of Management.

Like many a Manxman I am also a motorcycling enthusiast although, now that Iím no longer a young blood, my Sunday biking preference is sitting aboard one of my vintage Moto Guzziís.

My other personal interest is the collection and history of antique arms and militaria ó badges, medals, you name it and I collect it ó but this is the preoccupation of a man of peace who wants to make the Isle of Man a place of peace, personal fulfillment, human decency and dignity, and commitment to others.

CONSTITUTIONAL DEVELOPMENT - "A very big step for Man"

I want the Government to continue to push ahead with the evolution of our relationship with the UK towards more self-government, but without breaking our link with the Crown, and this brings into focus the Islandís international relationships.

We must maintain our existing beneficial links with the EU and always to be ready to accept the extension to the Island of advantageous international agreements and conventions. We must recognise that the Isle of Man is now well and truly a part of the global village.

People often talk of the Island going for full independence, breaking away from the UK completely. We are only one constitutional step away from this. But it is a very big step for Man, and requires very careful consideration.

The Economy

The Island is heavily dependent for its unprecedented economic success over the last few years on the offshore finance industry. It has provided wealth and work for incomers and the native Manx and the Government has encouraged its development and built up the islandís international reputation as a jurisdiction with high quality regulation and control.

But the words "eggs and baskets" spring all to readily to mind.

I would like to see the Government encouraging more diversification in the finance industry to broaden its base, as well as trying to strengthen other sectors.

There are still a great many of us who remember the days when the Island was almost totally reliant economically on the tourist industry. The lessons of history are always there for us to see.

Pensions and the elderly

The work and dedication of todayís elderly people has done much to lay the foundations of the Islandís current economic success.

The Government has rewarded them with increased state pensions and income supplements which are bigger and better than those expected by the people in the UK.

This I think is a prime example of Manx self-government at its best.

I am also carefully monitoring the situation in Scotland which is intended to introduce among other things free personal and nursing care for the elderly and a more equitable system for care charging.

They have set out steps to provide Scotlandís older people with dignity and support in their old age.

If re-elected I will take steps to try and ensure that these developments are closely monitored by the Manx Government with the intention of introducing a similar scheme which will give the elderly people of the Isle of Man a worry-free old age.

GOVERNMENT - "We must tell people whatís going on!"

As a member of the Council of Ministers I pave been at the heart of the business of governing the Isle of Man and I know full well that not everybody believes we have done a first-class job. Therefore I think the next Government needs to prove itself capable of taking the Island safely and securely into the first years of the twenty-first century.

A lot of hard work is being done by officers and elected members of Government to meet the challenges ahead ó the need to set out a coherent strategy, the creation of efficient public services and the recruitment of young talent to the Manx Civil Service, teaching and nursing professions.

I also believe stability in Government is essential as is co-ordination of the work of Government departments. But I am also a great believer in open government. We must tell the people whatís going on ó which I always tried to do as Agriculture Minister during the foot and mouth threat.

I still remember one Manx farmer telling me to think about keeping in touch with "frightened men living at the end of long country lanes".

Education

This year the Government approved the establishment of a new secondary school to be built on land at Bemahague in Onchan.

As far as Douglas West is concerned this should bring about a significant reduction in the current number of pupils attending the schools at Ballakermeen and St Ninianís.

I am also pushing for improved nursery and pre-school facilities for West Douglas and I wish to see improvements in student grants and awards for those who go on to tertiary education.

MEA - Improves Air Quality

The MEA has improved the environment and air quality of Ballakermeen and Ballabrooie, something which has been a long time coming.

We are also looking to the changeover in generation from oil to natural gas with the spin-off providing the prospect of big reductions in household gas bills. This policy has my full support; Iím a householder too,

Energy costs in the Island have been falling under the management of the MEA and the search for alternative sources of power is being extended to wind generation. I believe that this will enable us to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by 10 per cent and meet our commitment (yes we do have one) to the Rio and Kyoto Conventions. Not many other nations can say that.

Law and Order

The next Government must carry out a far-reaching and a fundamental review of policy and legislation relating to law and order.

Drug and alcohol-related crime is the main concern for the Manx community. Sometimes I think the courts do not always make the punishment fit the crime and police officers are under constraints which prevent them getting to grips with serious situations, especially in relation to juveniles.

We do not have such a big house that we cannot keep it in order.

Top marks go to all of those who have recently been involved in setting up Neighbourhood Watch Schemes in West Douglas.

Society

All of us ó both inside and outside the Legislature ómust always strive to develop a free and fair society in the Isle of Man, where human rights and fundamental freedoms are built into its very fabric.

Many things are involved respect for authority and the rule of law, the creation of opportunities for peopleís self-development and self-expression, integrating the disadvantaged into the community, and ensuring full access for all to the judicial system.

But, above all, I believe an enriched society is one where self-reliance, a sense of community, and acceptance of personal responsibility are its building blocks.

In the Isle of Man as I know it, I believe we, can create a society which is an example to the rest of the world.

The New Prison

We need one all right. But not at Ballafletcher.

When the new hospital was planned the idea was to establish an environmental "green lung" around its perimeter.

What used to be agricultural land was re-zoned to provide amenity use by way of sports facilities.

During Millennium Year hundreds of the Islandís schoolchildren planted an oakwood of 7,000 young trees. This, is already a sight to behold end will be even more so as time passes. At the same time planning Ďapprovalí for 70 new houses above Leece Lodge and further residential development on theí old Union Mills football pitch in the grounds of Ballarnona, has now been granted.

No one has yet even estimated the impact of increased Ďtrafficí Ďmovements in this area.

Because of these things I support the view of my constituents in the Tromode Park area that putting the new prison at Ballafletcher is very, very wrong and flies in the face of good planning practice.

The Manx Countryside

I have already referred to this priceless asset of ours but I want to tell you about some of the achievements I was privileged to oversee as DAFF Minister.

Forestry policy has been radically changed to improve wildlife habitat and enhance our heather moorland, which is deemed to be of international importance. Langness has been declared an Area of Significant Scientific Interest (ASSI), and the Sulby Valley and the Calf Sound are to be brought under the aegis of Manx National Heritage as "National Parks", owned by the Manx nation.

The Island is also now self-sufficient in the production of milling wheat for bread, meat, milk and dairy produce so that we have a healthy export market working for the rural economy and for the good of the countryside.

Environment

Four years as chairman of the Planning Committee taught me that the Island's environment, for all the abuse it has suffered in times of less awareness than today, is still a priceless asset. Government has an integrated set of policies to protect this asset and having been closely involved with these, I support them without reservation.

The beauties of the Manx coastline and countryside, along with the Island's rich wildlife, all of which our generations have inherited, must be protected to the limit of Government ability and determination.

But I know this is easier said than done: the Planning Committee experience taught me that. I believe myself to be green in the environmental sense. However, I'm not so green as I'm cabbage looking.

Population

Now we know. . . there are 76,315 of us living in the Isle of Man according to the figure made public in September following the census carried out in April this year.
I believe this shows that population growth is not out of control and not threatening, for the moment.
However, the Residency Act, which I supported in its passage through the Legislature, gives the Government power to impose immigration control as soon as the situation shows signs of getting out of hand.
This means that we must keep on monitoring population indicators closely - and be ready to act.

Urban Regeneration The Future of Douglas

High on the list of my priorities is the matter of urban regeneration - otherwise the development of brownfield sites in central Douglas. When I was in DoLGE I was instrumental in Government buying property and sites in the town with this in mind.
My aim is the housing re-development of the Allan Street/Tynwald Street area and the old school site at Fairfield and Ballacloan. This can be done by creating special planning zones offering attractive first-time packages and refurbishment grants for older buildings.
The Manx Government's reduction of VAT to 5% on property repair costs has been a big incentive which has already improved the home lifestyle of many families. We have the power to do more in this sphere of activity.
Meanwhile the re-use of redundant buildings in the cause of saving greenfield areas will also bring people back into the towns and give them a new vibrancy.

Traffic Management in Douglas

This issue is of great concern and / have continually pushed for the extension of disc parking zones along with 20 mph speed limits in residential areas.
Given my chance in the new House of Keys / will carry on my campaign for an effective traffic management strategy for Douglas. If you are a motorist you will know
full well that there isn't one.

The Government has bought a lot of new buses. But how they fit into any kind of overall traffic management scheme is not discernible.

They seem to be what people in business call idle machinery and therefore uneconomic. This matter needs addressing with some urgency.

We live in an increasingly uncertain world and although the Isle of Man has a strong and healthy economic base, and we have virtually full employment, we cannot take these things for granted. 

Our economy is part of the global economy and vulnerable to world events. This was clearly spelled out by what happened in America on the 11th of September
2001.

We must always seek to diversify and broaden our economic base. We have to remember that if the Island does not earn the money it will be unable to continue to fund the many major projects currently under way.

We get no handouts from the EU or the UK. We have to stand on our own two feet economically and this means facing up to making good the neglect of much of the Island's infrastructure.

We are facing these challenges with the IRIS scheme, the new hospital, schools, reducing the cost of energy, and bringing the water supply system up to modern standards. But there is also much to be done elsewhere.

We must continue to promote growth on the Island and tell the world that we are always open for business. However, population growth must not be allowed to overwhelm us.

It is also important that we maintain the ability to negotiate VAT levels applying within the Island under the Customs and Excise Agreement. We have benefited from reductions in levels on non-exportable services, like hotel accommodation and home and property improvements.

The Government must continue to seek further justifiable reductions of this kind.
Finally, as far as the next five years are concerned, I will make no election promises that I might not be able to keep. My only promise is that I will serve you honestly, diligently and to the best of my ability.

Published by Alex F Downie, 103 Ballabrooie Avenue, Douglas, IM1 4HA

Printed from the IoM Elections Website. www.iomelections.com

REPRESENTATION OF THE PEOPLE ACT 1995

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