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Yet another N.B. Tory who dissented against Premier won't run in next election

New Brunswick Progressive Conservative MLA Trevor Holder, right, is sworn in as Minister of Post-Secondary Education, Training and Labour at the New Brunswick Legislature in Fredericton on Friday, Nov. 9, 2018. Holder, the province's longest-serving member of legislature, says he will not be running in the upcoming election. (Source: THE CANADIAN PRESS/James West) New Brunswick Progressive Conservative MLA Trevor Holder, right, is sworn in as Minister of Post-Secondary Education, Training and Labour at the New Brunswick Legislature in Fredericton on Friday, Nov. 9, 2018. Holder, the province's longest-serving member of legislature, says he will not be running in the upcoming election. (Source: THE CANADIAN PRESS/James West)
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The longest-serving member of the New Brunswick Progressive Conservatives says he won't be running in the upcoming election.

Trevor Holder is the 10th Tory who has publicly broken ranks with Premier Blaine Higgs to announce a departure from provincial politics since the 2020 election, and the fourth since the end of February.

Holder, first elected in 1999, read a statement on the floor of the legislature Thursday in which he said he worries people have taken for granted the freedom and democratic institutions earlier generations had fought for.

"The fact of the matter is we don't own the keys to this place. I took an oath to the Crown. The Crown is the embodiment of the people. The people own the keys to this place," he said. "And in a free and democratic election, they are free to take those keys back."

He didn't give a precise date for when he will leave as member for Portland-Simonds, but he said he won't be around by May.

"I have learned far more from my constituents than they have ever learned from me," he said. "And if I dare say it's about being progressive and conservative at the same time."

The legislature rose to give him a standing ovation at the end of his 15-minute speech.

In June, Holder resigned from cabinet after he dissented against his party for Policy 713, whose main thrust is requiring students to get parental consent before they can be referred to by teachers by their preferred names and pronouns.

Other ex-ministers who publicly dissented against Higgs over the issue -- Dorothy Shephard, Daniel Allain and Jeff Car -- have all recently announced they won't be running in the next election, which has to be held by October.

But in his departure speech on the floor, Holder did not mention his opposition to the changes made to the gender policy, nor did he talk about the differences he's had with the Tory premier.

In his resignation letter in June, Holder called out Higgs's leadership style, writing that too often caucus decisions reflected the premier's will rather then the consensus of cabinet.

"His lack of empathy as well as his inability to listen to valid concerns of all members of his caucus demonstrates a further inability to lead the citizens of New Brunswick," he wrote. "No one has a monopoly on wisdom. The party is greater than any one person."

Higgs defended his leadership style Thursday when asked if he had addressed the concerns expressed in Holder's letter.

"It's rare if ever you come out of caucus or cabinet with unanimous decisions. There's always a degree of difference, and that's not going to change," he said.

"But leadership requires real decisions, and you're not everything to everybody. So you do what you believe is right and you do it with conviction and you hope it is the right thing to do."

He acknowledged that Holder's departure is a loss but said it would be an opportunity to bring in new people and fresh ideas.

Liberal Leader Susan Holt and Green Leader David Coon paid tribute to Holder's work on the floor of the house.

Holt called Holder a "real asset to the legislature."

"He was a pleasure to work with so it's a loss to see him leaving the Legislative Assembly."

Coon called him an "excellent parliamentarian" who made "real contributions" to his riding and the system of government.

"I'm sad to see him go," he said. "He's certainly a truly Progressive Conservative in the truest meaning of that term."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 28, 2024.

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