New Brunswick’s education minister quit on Thursday and published a blistering resignation letter, calling out Premier Blaine Higgs’s leadership and values.
Dominic Cardy said in his letter that Higgs has steadily consolidated power and created a disrespectful work atmosphere for public servants. The premier, Cardy added, has delayed or undermined work on reconciliation with cultural communities and First Nations.
As well, Cardy said Higgs broke a campaign promise to reform the education system and to take decisions based on evidence and to do politics differently.
“Change requires care, not a wrecking ball,” Cardy said, referring to what he said was the premier’s decision to pressure the Education Department to abolish French immersion in schools by September 2023 — “an initiative not included in our platform or throne speech.”
Higgs was not immediately available to respond to Cardy’s letter but is scheduled to speak to reporters later on Thursday.
Cardy noted the changes needed to the province’s French second-language education system and the difficulty in meeting goals because of Higgs’s alleged temperamental work ethic. “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,” he said.
“I have worked tirelessly to prepare our (education) system for changes. Many are accomplished, but some will stall because of your micromanagement. Government is not the same as building oil tankers.”
The former education minister also accused the premier of yelling at a civil servant and creating a disrespectful work environment.
“Your behaviour at a recent meeting, where you refused to even read evidence you had specifically requested, instead choosing to yell ‘Data my ass’ at a senior civil servant because you didn’t like what the data showed you; well, that was the end of your political project in my eyes: If you reject evidence because you dislike it then you don’t believe in evidence,” Cardy said in the letter.
Higgs’s decision, Cardy said, to “abolish the democratically elected Regional Health Authorities without informing cabinet represents a steady consolidation of power in your own hands that has accelerated over the last 14 months.”
The high turnover rate in the civil service would have been greatly reduced and morale maintained if the work environment was more respectful, he said. Too many good people have left on bad terms, on Higgs’s watch, he added.
“The difference between our parliamentary democracy and an executive presidency or dictatorship is that New Brunswickers should expect that major decisions will at least be discussed with a group of elected people, representing the public,” Cardy said. “You personally appoint your cabinet and can fire them at any time.”
Cardy said he will continue as the Progressive Conservative member for Fredericton West-Hanwell. Cardy was sworn in as minister of education and early childhood development in 2018, and he was leader of the province’s New Democratic Party from 2011-16 and served as chief of staff to the leader of the Opposition from 2017-18.
Public Safety Minister Bill Hogan was sworn in Thursday as education minister, and Kris Austin will replace Hogan at the Public Safety Department.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 13, 2022.