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Trevor Holder resigned as post-education, training and labour minister on June 23, 2023. Image: Brad Perry

Another N.B. cabinet minister resigns

By Brad Perry Jun 23, 2023 | 10:18 AM

New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs has lost another member of his cabinet.

Trevor Holder resigned as post-secondary education, training and labour minister on Friday.

Holder, who is a seven-term MLA, said the decision to leave cabinet was not taken lightly.

“I have always fought for my constituents within a party and caucus structure. My respect for that process has led to better results for my community and my province — until recently,” Holder said in a letter.

“Under the leadership of Premier Higgs, caucus has been less about consensus and more about him getting his own way.

“While I have tried my best to continue to work to maintain the integrity of this caucus system, I have finally come to the conclusion that this is no longer possible.”

Holder said he has sat down with the premier several times “to explain and instil in him the importance of working more collaboratively with caucus” and offered to help him however he could.

The offer, the MLA said, has been met with “more frequent caucus meetings where [Higgs] simply tells us his position and that if we don’t agree with him then we don’t have the resolve needed for the job.”

“With all due respect, simply disagreeing with Mr. Higgs, be it myself or any member of caucus, is not demonstrating a lack of resolve but simply having a position different than his,” Holder wrote.

“His lack of empathy as well as his inability to listen to valid concerns of all members of his caucus demonstrates a further inability to lead the citizens of New Brunswick.

“No one has a monopoly on wisdom. The Party is greater than any one person.”

Holder, who has been an MLA since 1999, said he intends to continue as the member for Portland-Simonds.

You can view Holder’s full letter by clicking here.

Second minister to resign in just over a week

His resignation comes eight days after Saint John Lancaster MLA Dorothy Shephard stepped down as social development minister.

Shephard said she felt there were several significant files that were not being handled well publicly. Most recently, that included controversial changes to the province’s LGBTQ+ policy in schools.

Shephard and Holder were among eight Tory MLAs, including six cabinet ministers, who sat out of the legislature when changes to Policy 713 were brought forward.

They also sided with a Liberal motion passed in the legislature last week calling for the child and youth advocate to conduct a consultation on changes to the policy and their impact.

Shephard said she had “no doubt” the premier would have removed her from cabinet anyway due to her vote.

“Even when I handed him my letter of resignation, his response was, ‘Well, it’s good to get it in early,'” she said.

Over the past couple of years, Shephard said it had been difficult as a cabinet minister to try and move things forward.

She said there were many times when she felt as though she had done all she could do, but her friends and colleagues kept her motivated.

“I put my head down, I worked as hard as I could and I got done as much as I could,” Shephard told our newsroom in an interview.

“I just really felt that I had reached a point where accomplishing anything was not going to be manageable.”

Former PC Party presidents call for Higgs to resign

Meanwhile, four past presidents of the Progressive Conservative Party say the premier needs to resign.

Claude Williams, Jason Stephen, Lester Young, and Brian Harquail released a joint letter on Friday morning.

They said the premier’s “top-down, authoritarian style of leadership” has led to significant missteps.

In addition, they said there is “growing and significant dissatisfaction” with his leadership from within the party.

“Premier Higgs would have you believe this deep dissatisfaction with his leadership is about Policy 713. Nothing could be further from the truth,” the four past presidents wrote.

They said the dissatisfaction stems from the premier’s attempt to replace French immersion and change anglophone district education councils, along with his decision to eliminate elected health board representatives.

“Policy 713 was just the tipping point in a long line of disrespect he has shown to our Party, its values and its traditions,” they said.

The final straw, said the four former presidents, was watching Shephard resign from cabinet last week.

“We can no longer remain silent. This Party is too important to the life of our province to watch it implode under the one-man rule of Premier Higgs,” they wrote.

“We ask that you avoid a disruptive, public battle that could tear the Party apart. We ask that you leave graciously.

“You have had some important successes as Premier of New Brunswick. But the moment now demands that you pass the baton and the PCNB reorient itself to face the future and move forward.”

On Wednesday, a regional vice-president of the PC Party confirmed that at least 26 of 49 riding association presidents have signed letters calling for a leadership review.

“With all due respect, I feel that caucus feels they’re not heard by the premier, and I feel that the riding associations feel that they’re not heard as well,” said John Williston, who is vice-president of the Westmorland Albert region.

“That top-down leadership style can only exist for so long in a political movement and I think people are looking for a new style of leadership and a new chapter.”

Under the PCNB constitution, a leadership review can be added to the party’s next provincial council meeting agenda if more than 50 members, including at least 20 riding association members, make a request in writing.

A two-thirds majority vote of the provincial council at that meeting would trigger a leadership review within the next three months — a number Williston believes is “very attainable.”

“My hope is the premier will realize the severity of the situation and, upon review, decide to do the right thing which would be to resign without going through the whole process of a leadership review,” said Williston.


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