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Momentum building among N.B. Progressive Conservatives to force Blaine Higgs to quit

FREDERICTON — A group of New Brunswick Progressive Conservative constituency presidents are pushing for the ouster of Premier Blaine Higgs, saying his leadership has divided the party.

John Williston, the party’s vice-president for the Moncton and Albert County area, said in an interview today he is aware of 26 riding presidents out of 49 ridings who have signed letters calling for a leadership review.

The 42-year-old party activist says with about one-third of the Progressive Conservative caucus in open rebellion against Higgs, it’s evident his leadership of the party isn’t tenable.

Williston says party members are dissatisfied with the premier’s micromanaging leadership style and contentious decision to change the province’s policy on sexual orientation in schools.

Eight members of the Tory caucus sat out question period earlier this month to protest changes to Policy 713, which include making it no longer mandatory for teachers to use the preferred pronouns or names of transgender or nonbinary students under the age of 16.

Jean-Pierre Ouellet, president of the Madawaska-Les-Lacs-Edmundston riding association, said in an interview today he signed a letter calling for the review because of the premier’s attempt to reduce the size of French immersion.

Under the party’s constitution, if 50 members of the party — at least 20 of whom are riding presidents — write letters calling for a review, then the matter is put on the agenda of the provincial party council, which can then vote to hold a review.

A two-thirds majority of the provincial council is required for a leadership review to be held. The council includes riding presidents, nine regional vice-presidents, five members of the legislature and Higgs himself.

Erika Hachey, the party president, says in an email that she hasn’t received the letters, though Williston said that is because the documents haven’t yet been forwarded to her.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 21, 2023.

The Canadian Press

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