A PC official wants Blaine Higgs’ leadership to be reviewed | Biden News


A Progressive Conservative party official in southeastern New Brunswick is trying to trigger a review of Premier Blaine Higgs’ leadership of the provincial party.

In an email to fellow party members, Maurice Arsenault, PC’s regional vice president for southeastern New Brunswick, accused Higgs of a “dictatorial approach.”

He hopes to gather enough PC members to sign letters to trigger a discussion about the premier’s leadership at the party’s annual meeting Nov. 4-5 in Fredericton.

“Let me remind you that it was Blaine Higgs who hugged Dominic Cardy and Kris Austin without any consultation with our party,” Arsenault wrote.

A man wearing a gray suit and powder blue tie walks by a green hedge.
Kris Austin, former leader of the People’s Alliance who defected to the Conservatives in March, was sworn into the Higgs cabinet on the same day that Dominic Cardy resigned. (Jacques Poitras/CBC)

Cardy, a former NDP leader, joined the PCs in 2017 but resigned from Higgs’ cabinet last week over the prime minister’s leadership style.

The same day, Austin, former leader of the People’s Alliance who defected to the conservatives in March, was sworn into the cabinet.

“There are a lot of people who are not happy, and everyone is talking about it, and no one is doing anything about it,” Arsenault told CBC News.

“Then Cardy jumped the boat, and he’s not the only one frustrated, so I think it was time to put my letter forward.”

Caucus supports Higgs

Moncton South PC MLA Greg Turner said he called a meeting of the PC caucus Monday night after they “got wind” of the letter, and the support for Higgs was unanimous, with no dissent.

“Without exception, [it was] 100% complete support of the prime minister and his leadership for our province, in fact,” he said.

“Everyone had a chance to speak who wanted to speak on the issue, and it was very, very positive. Ministers and MLAs alike were united in our support of the Prime Minister and the work we’ve done and he’s done leading us.”

Moncton South PC MLA Greg Turner said he called a meeting of the PC party Monday night after they “received” the letter and the support for Higgs was unanimous, with no dissent. (Jacques Poitras/CBC)

Arsenault, who lives in the riding of Moncton Centre, writes in his letter that Austin “does not adhere to the constitution of our party”, a reference to the Alliance party’s opposition to aspects of official bilingualism.

The principles of the PC constitution include a statement that party members support official bilingualism and the protection and promotion of “the diversity of our two linguistic communities.”

“Having Kris Austin” as a PC MLA was enough, but “having him as a minister, I can’t stand that,” Arsenault said.

Quick vote obstacles

He said someone in the party told him that if he can gather enough support quickly enough, the leadership question can be put on the agenda at the annual meeting.

But the obstacles to a quick vote on removing the PC leader are considerable.

Reviews are automatic when the party loses an election, but when it is in power, 50 party members, including 20 riding association presidents, must ask the president’s council for a vote on a review at least 21 days before its next meeting.

The president’s council consists of members the party executive, its regional vice-presidents such as Arsenault and all 49 PC riding association presidents.

It must vote by a two-thirds margin in favor of a leadership review. Only then would a vote by all members on Higgs’ expulsion be scheduled within three months, either at an annual meeting or a special meeting.

PC party chairman Claude Williams says the president’s council is unlikely to meet until December and that means it is impossible for a leadership review to be on the agenda at the annual meeting.

Debate continues for “last few weeks”

Williams, a former cabinet colleague of Higgs in the David Alward government, said as party chairman he could not take a position on the prime minister’s leadership.

“The debate has been going on for the last few weeks,” he said. “I have no opinion.”

Among Arsenault’s other complaints is that Higgs has done nothing to fix health care since firing the two regional health agency boards in July, and has yet to respond to a review of the Official Language Act that was introduced 10 months ago.

He says he’s been hearing “for months” from party supporters wanting change at the top.

But Turner says Arsenault is an isolated voice.

“We cannot lose sight of the fact that this review call is from one member of the party. That is how we look at this. I am sure there are always people who question the leadership of any organization at certain times for certain reasons. “

Higgs recently told Brunswick News that he will announce during his State of the Province address in the new year whether he plans to retire before the next election in 2024 or seek another term.

But Arsenault says Higgs is “playing with us” and that the timing is “disrespectful” for a potential new party leader who would need to establish his own agenda before the 2024 election.


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