New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs appears to have strong support among Progressive Conservative Party members amid an attempt to oust him over among other things, his new parental rights policy.

Twenty-six riding presidents have submitted letters to initiate a leadership review. The latter is the first step in the process of reviewing the party’s leadership.

The calls to review Higgs’ leadership come after he announced changes to education policy 713 to, among other things, require that children under the age of 16 receive parental consent before they can officially change their name or pronouns at school.

Dissidents claim their opposition to Higgs isn’t solely based on the parental rights policy, but rather on “a pattern of autocratic leadership over the past three years that has resulted in serious missteps and the undermining of New Brunswickers’ confidence in the Progressive Conservative government.” 

However, several PC Party executives say the “silent majority” stands with the premier, amid support in the province for his stance on gender identity.

Local media outlet Brunswick News spoke with PC riding presidents following a meeting with Higgs and the party’s provincial council last weekend. 

“We are all in support of the premier,” said Moncton Southwest riding president Sherry MacEachren. “From what I could tell, there was overwhelming support for the premier from the riding associations.” 

Fredericton-Grand Lake riding president Mark Paul-Elias echoed those sentiments. He noted that “there were a few people who weren’t happy with what was going on and you’re going to have that. You have 73 people in a room, they’re not all going to be happy.”

Paul-Elias added “the people who are upset are going to make the most noise”, but in reality, a “silent majority” supports the premier.

“The fact that someone would ask for a review doesn’t necessarily mean they want the premier removed. To me, they might be asking for a reaffirmation of his leadership.”

“From where I sit, the premier is the right man at the right time to lead this party.”

Jordan Manzer, who represented the riding of Carleton-York at the meeting, believed 50 to 55% of the people present backed Higgs. He, however, believes support is even greater among the party’s grassroots, amid the parental rights policy being popular not just with Conservatives, but with New Brunswickers at large. 

“They still have to go to the entire membership for a vote. I think party members would side with Higgs, especially in southern New Brunswick where most of the support for our party resides,” said Manzer.

Members of the New Brunswick PC Caucus have also been voicing their support for the premier, including Moncton Southwest PC MLA Sherry Wilson.

Speaking with CBC last week, Wilson said those who do not support Higgs and his parental rights policy should step away.

“For the people who don’t support our premier, and don’t look at the good work and the big picture and what’s best for the people we serve here in New Brunswick, I think maybe it’s time for them to step away.” 

For Wilson, supporting parental rights is a Conservative value.

“To me it’s a Conservative value that parents are involved in their children’s lives. How do we fix it? I think maybe some of them maybe need to step down. They need to go and just retire, just get out of politics if that’s the way they think.”

Multiple grassroots efforts have also been started to support Higgs – as previously reported by True North.

New Brunswick activist, mother and TV personality Faytene Grasseschi launched the Don’t Delete Parents campaign in support of Higgs and his parental rights policy. 

Pro-Life group RightNow has also started a petition in support of the premier.

In response to the riding presidents filing the paperwork to initiate a leadership review, Higgs said, “I was not surprised,” adding that he stands by his policy.

“The group leading the charge for a leadership review has been very vocal about their plan following our decision to review sections of policy 713,” he said.

“I stand by the changes we made, and I stand by the parents who continue to voice their concerns about this policy. I have said all along that we can provide a safe and welcoming learning environment for children while still respecting parents.”

“The process leading to a leadership review is long and detailed. In the meantime, I will continue to focus on the priorities of our province and acting in the best interests of all New Brunswickers.”

A leadership review needs to be approved by the PC Party’s provincial council – which is made up of roughly 75 people including riding presidents, five caucus members and other regional party heads. Their next meeting is likely to take place in the fall. 

A two-thirds majority at council is needed to call a convention where party members would vote on the premier’s leadership.A Leger poll commissioned by found that 69% of Maritimers agree that schools should make parents aware that their kids are wishing to change genders or pronouns.