It's official, New Brunswick's Progressive Conservative party has failed to trigger a leadership review for Blaine Higgs over his 'pronouns' policy defending 'parental rights.'
On June 8, the Tories mandated that children under 16 receive parental consent before changing their names or pronouns at school. Effective July 1, their legal name would be listed on report cards and all official documentation.
On Tuesday, Higgs refuted the attempt by dissident members to have him back down. "It is time for our party to work together and continue our record of success."
"Unprecedented growth in our province has brought additional challenges," he said. "These challenges will require us to [diligently find] solutions for all New Brunswickers."
Andrea Johnson, the party's executive director, said the party membership failed to force a vote on whether Higgs should step down as Tory leader.
Party President Erika Hachey said the prerequisite to move forward on the leadership review is a minimum of 50 member letters, of which 20 must come from riding association presidents.
Despite extending the deadline from August 19 to August 26 to accommodate input from members, they failed to meet the criteria to trigger a leadership review.
Hachey told members in a letter on July 31 that they needed more letters to meet the first step in triggering a leadership review.
They only received letters from 15 riding presidents and just over 40 letters total. "The leadership review process has not been triggered," said the party president.
John Williston, a party member who supported calls for a leadership review, claimed the party received 26 letters from riding presidents, reported CTV. But he accused the Tories' legal team of disqualifying some letters on 'technical reasons.'
"It may be a technical victory for Mr. Higgs today, but in terms of ethics, I think this is a dark day for the P.C. party," said Williston. "There's a loss of trust on behalf of [many] members who submitted letters in good faith."
Pro-life advocacy organization RightNow also received 800 signatures on its petition that claimed opponents to the premier had more bark than bite.
In an email to supporters, they rejected claims parroted by the media by opponents of Policy 713, such as the party receiving letters from 26 riding presidents.
"Despite being told for months that Higgs' opposition had already recruited 26 of 49 riding presidents to submit their letters calling for a leadership review, we now know the reality was a lower number," it reads.
"During this time, RightNow supported Higgs practically by collecting names in our petition and publicly in the mainstream media."
During a caucus revolt and cabinet resignations last June, ministers and party members have repeatedly called out his leadership style, especially on Policy 713.
As reported by CTV, six members of the P.C. caucus voted with the Opposition to force a review of the changes.
Dorothy Shephard, who served as social development minister, and Trevor Holder, as labour minister, resigned over the deal, lamenting Higgs for his alleged "autocratic rule."
Both resigned before a cabinet shuffle on June 27, where the premier named five new ministers to the 18-person cabinet.
Arlene Dunn, minister of post-secondary education, training and labour, also signed a letter expressing disappointment over the amendments.
While critics have called the changes' discriminatory,' Higgs and other ministers said parents should know whether their children want to change their name and pronouns.
On May 18, Higgs said the previous version of Policy 713 "kept secrets" from parents and is thereby "a problem.
"For it purposefully to be hidden from the parents, that's a problem. To suggest that it's OK that parents don't need to know — stop and think about that question for a moment."
Several party executives claim the "silent majority" stands with the premier on his views concerning gender identity and parental rights.
A Leger poll commissioned by SecondStreet.org found that 69% of Maritimers agree that parental consent is needed before students change genders or pronouns.
"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."
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."
Support for Higgs' position has also translated to policy proposals nationwide, including Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and Ontario. Alberta Premier Danielle Smith will assess the need for similar legislation next month.
An Angus Reid poll this week indicated that 43% of Canadians favoured parents being informed and giving consent on name and pronoun changes. Only 14% said parents should have no role in their children's decisions.