Internal opposition to New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs has failed to trigger a leadership review after a vocal few voiced their displeasure with Policy 713.
On June 8, the PC government passed amendments 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.
The controversy sparked an internal party dispute over its outright support for parental rights, even among several cabinet ministers.
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.
"If you look at the parliamentary system we operate under, cabinet support is paramount," said Higgs.
Party president Erika Hachey told members in a letter on July 31 they had received insufficient letters to meet the first step in triggering a leadership review.
As of June 22, media reports claimed twenty-six riding presidents submitted letters.
Over the following month, party president Erika Hachey told members in a July 31 letter that they only received letters from 15 riding presidents and just over 40 letters total.
"The leadership review process has not been triggered," she wrote.
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.
To accommodate further input from party members, the president agreed to extend the deadline to August 19.
If successful, the PC Party's provincial council — consisting of 75 people, including riding presidents, five caucus members and other regional party heads — would put the review to a vote where a two-thirds majority is needed to call a convention.
Their next meeting is scheduled for September 9.
However, several party executives claim the "silent majority" stands with the premier on his views concerning gender identity and parental rights.
"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."
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."
Policy 713 came into full effect on July 1 after the education ministry fielded hundreds of complaints "at least" from parents worried about school board policies.
Faytene Grasseschi, a mother of two from Quispamsis, authored a petition defending Higgs, with more than 11,000 signatures as of writing.
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 false claims parroted by the media by opponents of Policy 713.
"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."
According to Moncton Southwest MLA Sherry Wilson, those not supporting Higgs on Policy 713 should step away, as 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."