N.B. education minister resigns, writes blistering resignation letter against premier

By Hina Alam

THE CANADIAN PRESS

FREDERICTON- New Brunswick Education Minister Dominic Cardy resigned on Thursday and published a blistering resignation letter, calling out Premier Blaine Higgs’s leadership and values.

Higgs, however, called Cardy’s vocal departure “vindictive” and “hurtful,” suggesting the minister quit only after learning he would be booted from cabinet.

Cardy circulated his resignation letter in which he accused Higgs of steadily consolidating power over the past 14 months and creating a disrespectful work atmosphere for public servants. The premier, Cardy added, 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, to take decisions based on evidence and to do politics differently.

“Change requires care, not a wrecking ball,” Cardy said, referring to 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, and not shared or approved by cabinet or caucus.”

Later on Thursday, following a cabinet shuffle, Higgs told reporters that Cardy’s performance as education minister was not up to snuff.

“He obviously knew that I wasn’t happy with the progress in education,” Higgs said. “I’ve been talking about this for 10 to 12 years now. Having better outcomes, but better classroom experiences, being able to speak both official languages, at least conversationally. Having teachers have a voice and  really be involved in how we improve the system, and basically just striving for better outcomes for our students.”

Higgs said he told Cardy that he was going to be removed as education minister Thursday morning, adding Cardy had threatened to resign four or five times since being appointed.

“He said, ‘Am I gonna stay in cabinet?’ And I said, ‘No.’ Then he pulled the letter,” the premier said.

“I’m disappointed in many of the comments because they’re hurtful,” Higgs continued. “And it is not helpful. I’m not afraid to make decisions if we have issues, and we need to address it.”

In his resignation letter, Cardy said the premier’s leadership style made it difficult to accomplish needed reforms to the province’s French second-language system. “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,” Cardy 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.

Higgs was asked if he did, indeed, say those words to a civil servant.

“Yes, I did,” the premier replied.

“Because the numbers did not reflect any real value in information that we were trying to understand,” Higgs explained.

“Are we getting better? Are we implementing the program? I mean, I’ve been talking about our inability to speak both languages and the French immersion program only graduating 30 per cent or less of our kids bilingual. I’ve been talking about that forever. This is not new.”

On the subject of health care, Cardy said that the premier’s decision 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, Cardy added.

In the cabinet shuffle, Public Safety Minister Bill Hogan was sworn in as education minister, and Kris Austin replaced Hogan at the Public Safety Department.

Cardy, despite his strong words, said he would 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.

Higgs, however, said it is unlikely that Cardy will remain in the Progressive Conservative caucus.

“I can only say that for him to take the time and have a letter prepared has been done probably for the reason of me just going through the process and saying ‘you can’t stay in caucus.’ That’s certainly where it’ll end up. But it seems like that’s all part of an orchestrated plan,” the premier said.

“I guess it is what it is, and throwing a laundry list in, and making it really a vindictive process, you know, it’s not helpful.”

 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 13, 2022.

 

 

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