The president of the Progressive Conservative riding association in Moncton East has resigned because he said as the proud father of a trans son, he could no longer be aligned with New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs.
“I don’t support people that don’t have room in their hearts for my son,” said Marc Savoie.
Savoie, who has been vice-president of the association for five years and interim president since June, informed the riding association on Sunday of his decision.
He said his move is “largely symbolic” because riding associations across the province are being redrawn to reflect new electoral boundaries and new boards are being elected.
Even so, he said it was an important public decision he had to make.
“I can’t support my son and support (Higgs) at the same time. It doesn’t align with one another,” said Savoie, who added he plans to remain a member of the party in general.
“So I’m at peace with my decision. My family comes first, and that’s what it is. That’s where I am.”
At issue is the premier’s decisions regarding Policy 713, which sets minimum standards in schools to provide an inclusive environment for LGBTQ2 students.
A review and changes introduced by government this year means that teachers cannot use the preferred pronouns or names of transgender or non-binary students under the age of 16 without parental consent.
Moncton East is the riding held by Daniel Allain, who was dropped from Higgs’ cabinet for opposing the policy change.
But the “straw that broke the camel’s back,” said Savoie, was seeing Higgs come out to the lawn of the legislature last Wednesday to meet with people protesting against gender identity curriculum in schools.
“I don’t see why Canadian values and New Brunswick values should differ from one another. I can’t. I just can’t sit here and be part of a team that represents this particular leader,” he said.
Global News has reached out to the premier’s office for comment, but has not received a response.
In the past, Higgs has defended the policy changes by arguing that parents have the right to know whether their children are questioning their gender identity.
Savoie beamed as he spoke about his 24-year-old son, Gabe, who began his transition about six months ago. He said “there was never any question of rejection” on his part, but he knows why other young people might need Policy 713 protections.
“It comes from a place of fear where they wouldn’t be accepted or rejected by their parents. And I understand why that rule would be important for those kids,” he said.
Savoie has been outspoken this year as part of a group of dissenting PC riding association presidents who tried to initiate a leadership review in June — citing concerns about Higgs’ “pattern of autocratic leadership.”
The party later said the attempt did not meet the threshold for a review.
In a letter signed by 26 of 46 riding presidents, the group alleged Higgs imposed his personal goals on the province “despite significant, sometimes almost unanimous opposition and discomfort.”
“The Premier would have you believe this is solely about one policy. Not true,” the letter went on to say.
“This is about 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.”
In addition to the Policy 713 controversy, the letter cited several issues the members had with Higgs’ leadership:
- the abandoned changes to abolish French immersion
- the health reforms from 2020 that would have forced the closure of rural ERs overnight
- eliminating elected members from the regional health authority boards
- an attempt to strip powers from anglophone school district education councils
In June, two ministers resigned from Higgs’s cabinet citing his top-down leadership style, leading to a shuffle.
After the cabinet shuffle in late June, the premier said he needed to rebuild relationships with disgruntled riding presidents.
— with a file from Global News’ Nathalie Sturgeon and The Canadian Press