Former N.B. cabinet minister warned Blaine Higgs he’d ‘destroy’ his own government

Click to play video: 'Former N.B. cabinet minister warned premier would ‘destroy’ government'
Former N.B. cabinet minister warned premier would ‘destroy’ government
WATCH: In a controversial letter written more than 18 months ago, Dorothy Shephard, the former social development minister for New Brunswick, warned the premier that his leadership style threatening to destroy his government. The comments echo those of other cabinet members who have fallen out of the premier’s orbit. But Blaine Higgs says the positive impact he’s had on the province speaks for itself. Silas Brown reports. – Jun 19, 2023

In a letter to New Brunswick premier Blaine Higgs in October of 2021, former cabinet minister Dorothy Shephard warned Higgs that his management style threatened to “destroy” his government.

Shephard wrote that the premier’s micromanagement and lack of trust in his ministers, civil service and staff were impacting his ability to govern and make positive changes in the province.

“There is so much you can accomplish but you are the biggest impediment to getting it done,” she wrote in the letter which was provided to Global News.

“You micromanage to such a degree that you paralyze initiatives from getting across the finish line.”

Shephard resigned from her post as social development minister last week after raising concerns over the government’s changes to Policy 713.

She said the premier’s leadership style and disregard for cabinet and caucus was the biggest factor in her decision, but the changes to the policy — which is intended to set minimum standards for an inclusive environment for LGBTQ2 students in the province’s school — were the last straw.

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Click to play video: 'Experts wondering about future of Higgs government amid Policy 713 debate'
Experts wondering about future of Higgs government amid Policy 713 debate

Over the last two weeks, Shephard was part of a rogue group of Tory MLAs who all raised concerns over “a lack of process and transparency” in the review of the policy. Six of those eight government MLAs helped the opposition craft the final wording and ultimately pass a motion calling for the province’s child and youth advocate to prepare a report on the potential impact of the changes. The main change to the policy will no longer make it mandatory for teachers to respect the chosen name or pronouns of children under 16 without parental consent.

In her letter from October 2021, Shephard seemed to predict the turmoil that has enveloped the government over the last two weeks.

“Premier, this ship is sinking because you have (alienated) everyone who could bail it out for you,” she wrote. “Whether it is with your elected colleagues, your senior management team or the public, your reckless and arbitrary conduct has destroyed a team that could make your success.”

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Shepard also claimed that the premier seemed intent on listening to outside voices with an “agenda” rather than those within his caucus, cabinet or the civil service.

While speaking to reporters on Monday, Higgs said he wouldn’t comment on the contents of the letter and the private discussions he had with Shephard about it. But Higgs did say that he thinks the results he and his ministers have brought for the province over the last number of years speak for themself.

“We’ve done well as a province,” he said. “We all can improve one way or another; I’m not saying anyone’s perfect – least of all am I suggesting that I am – but I think that we should really think about the big picture in our province.”

Many of Shephard’s concerns mirrored those of former education minister Dominic Cardy who resigned from cabinet in October of 2022. Cardy wrote in his resignation letter that his exit was due to his “values and working styles increasingly diverging” from that of the premier.

Click to play video: 'N.B. French immersion at the core of Cardy’s cabinet exit'
N.B. French immersion at the core of Cardy’s cabinet exit

Cardy said Higgs had promised to make evidence-based decisions for the education system in the party’s election campaigns but had not delivered on that promise.

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“You cannot change deadlines on large systems based on your emotional state, without undermining the quality of the work, or the morale of your team. I have worked tirelessly to prepare our system for changes. Many are accomplished, but some will stall because of your micromanagement,” he wrote.

Education minister Bill Hogan told reporters on Monday that he remains confident in the premier and his leadership.

“I completely support his leadership, I have no issues with how he leads our party and our province,” Hogan said.

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