N.B. PC Party executives say 'silent majority' supports Higgs on Policy 713

Twenty-six riding presidents submitted letters to initiate a leadership review of Premier Blaine Higgs on June 22.

N.B. PC Party executives say 'silent majority' supports Higgs on Policy 713
Facebook/ Blaine Higgs
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New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs appears to have 'strong support' from party members following an internal coup to oust him over Policy 713.

On June 8, the PC government passed amendments to the policy, mandating that children under 16 receive parental consent before changing their names or pronouns at school. Their legal name would be present on report cards and official documentation.

Twenty-six riding presidents submitted letters to initiate a leadership review last week in response.

Opponents of the amended policy, including cabinet ministers, worry it may lead to harsh repercussions at home for some students should their parents learn they changed their gender identity. 

Arlene Dunn, minister of post-secondary education, training and labour, signed a letter expressing disappointment in the amended Policy 713. 

Former ministers Dorothy Shephard, who served as social development minister, and Trevor Holder, who had been labour minister, voted against the government. Both resigned before a cabinet shuffle on June 27, where Higgs named five new ministers to the 18-person cabinet.

However, several PC Party executives say the "silent majority" stands with the premier amid support in the province for his stance on gender identity.

"We all support the premier," said Moncton Southwest riding president Sherry MacEachren. "From what I could tell, there was overwhelming support for the premier from the riding associations." 

A Leger poll commissioned by SecondStreet.org found 69% of Maritimers agree that parental consent is needed before students change genders or pronouns.

Fredericton-Grand Lake riding president Mark Paul-Elias concurred, "There were a few people who weren't happy, but in reality, the silent majority supports the premier."

A leadership review needs to be approved by the PC Party's 73-member provincial council, which consists of riding presidents, five caucus members and other regional party heads.

A two-thirds majority at the council is needed to call a convention where party members would vote on the premier's leadership.

"The fact that someone would ask for a review doesn't necessarily mean they want the premier removed. They might be asking for a reaffirmation of [Higgs'] leadership," said Paul-Elias.

"From where I sit, the premier is the right man at the right time to lead this party."

The council's next meeting is slated for the fall, meaning the controversy surrounding Policy 713 is ongoing.

According to Moncton Southwest MLA Sherry Wilson, those not supporting Higgs and his parental rights policy should step away, articulating that supporting parental rights is a conservative value.

"For the people who don't support our premier and don't look at the good work and the big picture and what's best for the people we serve here in New Brunswick, I think maybe it's time for them to step away," she said.

"They need to go and just retire. Just get out of politics if that's the way they think."

"If you look at the parliamentary system we operate under, cabinet support is paramount," added Higgs.

On May 18, the premier said the previous version of the policy "kept secrets" from parents and is thereby "a problem."

"For it purposefully to be hidden from the parents, that's a problem," he said. "To suggest that it's OK that parents don't need to know — just stop and think about that question for a moment."

Education Minister Bill Hogan concurred that parents have a right to know something significant as their little girl suddenly identifies as a boy or something else altogether. 

The education ministry began its review of Policy 713 on April 21 "after hearing concerns and misunderstandings of its implementation" and fielding hundreds of complaints "at least" from parents worried about school board policies. 

Policy 713 came into full effect on Saturday.

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