BONOKOSKI: Higgs likely to survive leadership review thanks to grassroots orgs
BONOKOSKI: Higgs likely to survive leadership review thanks to grassroots orgs

It would seem that New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs, under fire over student gender recognition, may dodge the bullet for a leadership review and a possible non-confidence election, thanks to the support of grassroots organizations.

There’s nothing trivial about it.

“A lot of times it’s hundreds or even dozens of people that can make a difference in some of these elections,” Don’t Delete Parents campaign founder Faytene Grasseschi said.

Grasseschi revealed to the CBC that as of Wednesday, she had collected almost 9,000 names from across Canada, including 2,000 from New Brunswick, who could sign up as provincial PC members.

In a statement, Higgs said he has also received support ‘from a wide cross section of individuals’ who come from ‘different backgrounds, different cultures, and different religions.’

Higgs got in the sights of progressives through changes to Policy 713, which now makes it mandatory for a student to get parental consent before a teacher can use a child’s chosen name and pronoun even informally in class.

If it is not possible to obtain parental consent, students seeking to have their names or pronouns changed will be directed to a school psychologist, or guidance counsellor to develop a plan to speak with their parents “if and when they are ready to do so.” 

The backlash was almost instantaneous. The entire review process has been criticized by many, including the child and youth advocate, the New Brunswick Association of School Psychologists and the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.

Higgs’ reaction?

As he spoke in the legislature mid-June, it is his conviction that gender dysphoria had become “trendy,” and that increased acceptance of it was hurting kids and excluding parents.

It was that moment cabinet minister Dorothy Shephard got up and left the chamber, only to return to vote with five of her colleagues for an opposition motion against Higgs’ position.

Then she took her nameplate off of her desk, put it in her purse and handed the premier a hand-written, two-sentence letter of resignation as social development minister.

Shephard said the premier’s rhetoric about the review of the education policy meant to protect LGBTQ students — an issue she described as “mismanaged” — may have been the last straw for her, but she said it came after years of trying to work under Higgs’ “difficult” leadership.

Pro-life advocacy group RightNow has more than 1,200 signatures. Co-founder Alissa Golob revealed to the CBC that she estimates more than 90% are New Brunswickers who are eligible to become provincial party members.

“We’ll be ready if it does come to a leadership review or if it comes down to an election,” said Golob, who describes her organization as non-religious.

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