Daniel Allain and Jeff Carr are out, replaced by newcomers
Premier Blaine Higgs has reasserted his authority over his fractured Progressive Conservative government by dumping two ministers who voted against him on the contentious issue of New Brunswick's school gender-identity policy.
In a cabinet shuffle Tuesday, Higgs dropped Local Government Minister Daniel Allain and Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Jeff Carr, sending them to the backbenches.
He made it clear that their breaking ranks in a key vote on Policy 713 had cost them their jobs, violating the principle of cabinet solidarity.
"To go outside of that and to basically feel that it doesn't matter if you're in cabinet or not — it does matter. And to not address the situation is really putting the government in a very vulnerable position," Higgs told reporters after a 9 a.m. swearing-in.
"We have to respect the parliamentary system that we're in, the sanctity of cabinet, and the fact we'll have very frank and open discussion in cabinet or in caucus, but in cabinet you have to have solidarity."
The new additions to cabinet are Carleton-York MLA Richard Ames, Moncton South MLA Greg Turner and St. Croix MLA Kathy Bockus. All are first-timers as ministers.
Rejoining cabinet are Moncton Southwest MLA Sherry Wilson, who was in cabinet from 2018 to 2020, and Oromocto-Lincoln-Fredericton MLA Mary Wilson, who was shuffled out of cabinet last fall.
Allain and Carr make four ministers no longer in Higgs's cabinet.
Blaine Higgs explains why he dropped two cabinet ministers
Daniel Allain and Jeff Carr are out of New Brunswick’s cabinet. Replacing them are new additions including Carleton-York MLA Richard Ames, Moncton South MLA Greg Turner and St. Croix MLA Kathy Bockus.
The two other ministers, Dorothy Shephard and Trevor Holder, resigned, both of them citing Higgs's leadership style that they said was at odds with the values and traditions of the PC party.
All four voted with the opposition parties on June 15 to help pass a Liberal motion calling for more consultations on Policy 713, which sets out protections for LGBTQ students in provincial schools.
CBC News Explains: How did the New Brunswick government change Policy 713?
New Brunswick's Department of Education made several changes to a policy designed to protect LGBTQ students, affecting sections on self-identification, extracurricular activities and washrooms.
Higgs claimed that day that the vote was not whipped, meaning his caucus was free to vote the way they wanted.
In the past, the premier has often tolerated minor acts of dissent in his cabinet and caucus, referring to it as "a diverse group" that has pushed the envelope the same way he did when he was the outspoken finance minister in the Alward government.
But on Policy 713 Higgs has signalled he was losing patience.
"To take a position against the government in the legislature, voting in the legislature, is very significant," he said Tuesday.
But Higgs also said he'll try to reach out to unhappy grassroots members of the Progressive Conservative party, some of whom are organizing to remove him as leader.
"I think we have some building to do, there's no question of that," Higgs said.
"I need to play a key role in that, reaching out to the membership, the executives throughout the province, and be able to sit down and have some very good discussions."
CBC Explains: How does a leadership review work?
The CBC’s Jacques Poitras walks us through each step the PC party must go through to remove a sitting premier.
Ames replaces Carr as minister of transportation and infrastructure, while Saint John East MLA Glen Savoie gets a promotion by taking over Allain's local government portfolio.
Allain was the senior francophone minister in government, representing a language community with few MLAs in the PC caucus.
"He'll continue to be a valued member in our caucus and I'm sure he'll continue to represent the community," Higgs said.
Carr, Allain, Shephard, Holder and two other ministers, Arlene Dunn and Jill Green, signed a statement earlier this month complaining about a lack of transparency and process in the government's review of Policy 713.
Dunn, who missed the June 15 vote but said the next day she'd have voted with the opposition, remains in cabinet and takes over the post-secondary education, labour and training duties that Holder held.
Asked why he kept her in cabinet, Higgs told reporters that "I know if someone had been there, they might have done differently … but the fact is they weren't there and they didn't stand against the government."
New minister responsibilities:
- Richard Ames — Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure, former backbencher.
- Jill Green — Minister of Social Development and responsible for Economic and Social Inclusion Corporation; still responsible for New Brunswick Housing Corporation,but no longer the Minister of Service New Brunswick.
- Arlene Dunn — Minister of Post-Secondary Education, Training and Labour, remains Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Minister responsible for Immigration; no longer responsible for Economic Development and Small Business and Opportunities N.B.
- Greg Turner — Minister responsible for Opportunities N.B. and Economic Development and Small Business, former backbencher.
- Glen Savoie — Minister of Local Government and still responsible for la Francophonie.
- Mary Wilson — Minister of Service New Brunswick and responsible for Military Affairs; former backbencher shuffled out of cabinet last fall.
- Tammy Scott-Wallace — remains Minister of Tourism, Heritage and Culture, but no longer Minister responsible for Women's Equality.
- Sherry Wilson — Minister responsible for Women's Equality and for Addictions and Mental Health Services; minister from 2018 to 2020 who became a backbencher after the 2020 election.
- Kathy Bockus — Minister responsible for Seniors, former backbencher.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Provincial Affairs reporter
Jacques Poitras has been CBC's provincial affairs reporter in New Brunswick since 2000. He grew up in Moncton and covered Parliament in Ottawa for the New Brunswick Telegraph-Journal. He has reported on every New Brunswick election since 1995 and won awards from the Radio Television Digital News Association, the National Newspaper Awards and Amnesty International. He is also the author of five non-fiction books about New Brunswick politics and history.
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