Internal opposition to New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs and his controversial Policy 713 has failed to trigger a leadership review within the PC Party. This comes after the government passed amendments on June 8, mandating that children under 16 require parental consent before changing their names or pronouns at school. The amendments also ensured that children’s legal names would be present on report cards and official documentation.
The controversy surrounding Policy 713 led to a division within the party, with some cabinet ministers expressing their dissatisfaction with Higgs’ handling of the situation. Dorothy Shephard, the former social development minister, and Trevor Holder, the former labor minister, resigned over what they saw as Higgs’ “autocratic rule.” These resignations took place before a cabinet shuffle on June 27, where Higgs appointed five new ministers to the 18-person cabinet. Arlene Dunn, the minister of post-secondary education, training, and labor, also expressed disappointment over the amendments by signing a letter.
Despite the internal strife, the required number of letters to trigger a leadership review was not met. Party president Erika Hachey informed members in a letter dated July 31 that they only received letters from 15 riding presidents and just over 40 letters in total, falling short of the minimum requirement of 50 member letters, with 20 of them needing to come from riding association presidents. To allow further input from party members, the deadline for the letters was extended to August 19.
If the required number of letters is obtained, the PC Party’s provincial council, consisting of 75 people, would put the review to a vote. A two-thirds majority would be needed to call a convention. The next meeting is scheduled for September 9. However, some party executives claim that the “silent majority” within the party supports Higgs and his views on gender identity and parental rights. Moncton Southwest riding president Sherry MacEachren stated that there was overwhelming support for the premier among the riding associations.
Support for Higgs’ stance on parental consent and gender identity can be seen in a Leger poll commissioned by SecondStreet.org. The poll found that 69% of Maritimers agreed that parental consent is necessary before students change genders or pronouns. Mark Paul-Elias, the Fredericton-Grand Lake riding president, echoed this sentiment, stating that while there were a few individuals who were not happy with Higgs, the silent majority stood with him.
Higgs has been vocal about the importance of parental involvement and transparency in school policies. He criticized the previous version of Policy 713 for keeping parents in the dark by not informing them of their children’s decisions regarding gender identity. The controversial policy came into full effect on July 1, following numerous complaints from concerned parents.
Despite the opposition, Higgs has garnered support from parents who agree with his stance. Faytene Grasseschi, a mother from Quispamsis, authored a petition defending the premier, which has garnered over 11,000 signatures. Pro-life advocacy organization RightNow also received 800 signatures on its petition, asserting that opponents to Higgs had more rhetoric than action.
In response to those who oppose Higgs on Policy 713, Moncton Southwest MLA Sherry Wilson suggested that they reconsider their positions. She emphasized that supporting parental rights is a conservative value and those who do not align with the party’s values should step away from politics.
The internal opposition to Premier Blaine Higgs and Policy 713 has not succeeded in triggering a leadership review within the PC Party. Despite the resignations of cabinet ministers and expressions of disappointment from party members, the required number of letters to initiate the review was not met. If the threshold is reached, the party’s provincial council will vote on whether to call a convention. The controversy surrounding Policy 713, which mandates parental consent for students under 16 to change their names or pronouns at school, has highlighted divisions within the party. However, Higgs has received support from the “silent majority” who stand with his views on parental rights and gender identity. A poll conducted by SecondStreet.org found that a majority of Maritimers believe parental consent is necessary for such changes. Higgs has emphasized the importance of transparency and parental involvement in school policies, arguing that the previous version of Policy 713 kept parents uninformed. Despite facing opposition, Higgs has gained support from parents who share his perspective. Petitions have been launched in his defense, gathering thousands of signatures. Those who do not support Higgs on Policy 713 have been urged to reconsider their positions, with a reminder that supporting parental rights is a core conservative value.