The deputy minister of education for anglophone schools has been fired as the Higgs government continues its controversial push to replace French immersion with a new model in less than 10 months.
An internal memorandum to deputy ministers from executive council clerk Cheryl Hansen, the head of the public service, confirms George Daley "is leaving the department."
He's been replaced by his predecessor, John McLaughlin, who retired from the position on the day Daley was appointed three years ago this week.
The Education Department has two deputy ministers, one for the anglophone school system and one for the francophone system.
In a statement to CBC News, Premier Blaine Higgs thanked Daley for "the valuable contribution he made in his role during the pandemic" but did not comment on why he removed him.
"We remain committed to creating a world-class education system and helping more anglophone sector students reach their full potential," Higgs said.
Daley's firing follows the resignation of education minister Dominic Cardy last month.
Cardy cited a range of concerns with Premier Blaine Higgs's leadership when he quit but said the premier's push to replace immersion by next fall was the last straw. The department had set September 2024 as the timeline for a new French-second-language program.
In his resignation letter, Cardy accused Higgs of yelling "data, my ass!" at "a senior civil servant" who presented him with statistics he didn't like.
Cardy confirmed Wednesday that the official was Daley. He said the firing is another reflection of Higgs ignoring evidence and expert advice on the issue.
"Seeing this politicization of education once again, by someone who was elected promising to end this, is absolutely devastating, and it has to stop," he said.
Daley, a former teacher, vice-principal and president of the New Brunswick Teachers' Association, could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
Liberal leader Susan Holt said in a tweet that she was concerned that "all this upheaval … risks hurting our students, teachers, dept staff & school system. Hoping for some transparency on these decisions."
The memo says McLaughlin will fill in as deputy minister on an interim basis.
McLaughlin co-wrote an independent report released in February that recommended replacing immersion with a program for all students, aimed at helping them achieving a conversational level of French.
He and co-commissioner Yvette Finn warned, however, that government should approach the recommendations cautiously and said a new program required "careful planning" and might take "a number of years" to be fully implemented.
Instead, Higgs has insisted the new model be in place next fall.
Education Minister Bill Hogan has said students already in French immersion will be allowed to finish the program, with the new model being phased in year by year.