FREDERICTON — The president of New Brunswick's Progressive Conservative party says a push for a leadership review of Premier Blaine Higgs has not overcome the first hurdle.
Erika Hachey told members in an email Monday that the number of valid requests for a review fell short of what's required for the party's provincial council to vote on the matter.
"The party has ... sought legal advice to determine whether the requests are valid. Following this review, I have determined that the requirements have not been satisfied," Hachey wrote.
Dissenting party members have numerous problems with Higgs's leadership, including his changes to the policy on sexual orientation and gender identity in schools and his attempted cuts to French immersion.
Party rules stipulate that for a leadership review to be held, it must be requested by at least 50 party members, including 26 riding presidents. Hachey's email says only 40 of the requests received by the party are valid and only 15 are from riding presidents.
"The leadership review process has not been triggered," she wrote.
However, Hachey says those whose letters were refused will be given a chance to send in fresh requests by Aug. 19, three weeks before the Sept. 9 provincial council meeting.
John Williston, a Moncton, N.B., party member who has called for a review, said in an interview Monday his group wants to know why some requests were disqualified. He said the group will continue its push to oust Higgs.
"The party didn't in their communication say why some letters may not be valid ... It would be good to have more detail in the spirit of transparency for the process," he said.
Williston said it had been his understanding that the dissenters had what was needed — including 26 letters from riding presidents — to force a vote by the provincial council. "I have every reason to believe we had enough letters to meet the threshold," he said.
The premier has framed the dissent as stemming entirely from opposition to the government's changes to the LGBTQ policy. The changes include making it no longer mandatory for teachers to use the preferred pronouns and names of transgender and nonbinary students under 16.
However, some of the dissenting Tories say changes to Policy 713 are a sign of deeper problems.
In June, two ministers resigned from Higgs's cabinet citing his top-down leadership style, leading to a shuffle during which the premier named five new people to portfolios. After the cabinet shuffle in late June, the premier said he needed to rebuild relationships with disgruntled riding presidents.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 31, 2023.
— By Michael Tutton in Halifax
The Canadian Press