Disgruntled members of the New Brunswick Progressive Conservative Party have failed the first step in triggering a leadership review of Premier Blaine Higgs – with the party president saying they did not submit enough valid letters to initiate the process.

The inability to get the required letters necessary presents a major setback for those wanting to remove Higgs over his parental rights policy.

Back in June, the New Brunswick government 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.

While the policy change outraged trans activists, supporters of gender ideology and Liberal politicians, it also was met with opposition from some Progressive Conservatives. Two PC cabinet ministers resigned over the ordeal, while some party members began organizing to force a leadership review. 

Dissidents have claimed 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.”

In July, members submitted what they believed were the required letters to trigger a review – letters from at least 50 party members, including presidents of at least 20 PC riding associations. Dissidents said they had submitted letters from 26 presidents.

However, PC Party president Erika Hachey wrote to members on Monday to inform them she had determined “that the requirements have not been satisfied.” 

“The leadership review process has not been triggered.”

A review with legal advice found that just over 40 letters from current party members were submitted, and just 15 of those were from actual riding presidents.

Hachey gave Aug. 19 as a new cut-off date for members to submit letters – meaning the effort to remove Higgs is not over yet.

If the efforts were to end up successful on the second try, the leadership review would then need 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 scheduled for Sept. 9 

A two-thirds majority at council is needed to call a convention, where party members would vote on the premier’s leadership.

Reacting to the news of the bid, socially conservative group RightNow said, “after months of trying to organize, Higgs’ opposition was only able to submit 40 letters by party members in an attempt to trigger a leadership review in the entire province. Only 15 of those were from riding association presidents.”

The group also called on its supporters to continue to support the premier and sign its pro-Higgs petition.

As previously reported by True North, several PC Party executives believe the “silent majority” stands with Premier Higgs, amid strong support in the province for his stance on gender identity. 

A Leger poll commissioned by SecondStreet.org found that 69% of Maritimers agree that schools should make parents aware that their kids are wishing to change genders or pronouns.