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New Brunswick Finance Minister Blaine Higgs is sworn in on Tuesday. Higgs says he will eliminate the province's $749-million deficit in four years. ((CBC))

Finance Minister Blaine Higgs is promising to erase New Brunswick's staggering budget deficit in four years, but warns that citizens will face some tough choices.

Higgs, who spent more than three decades as an executive at Irving Oil Ltd., became the province's front man on eliminating the $749-million deficit when Premier David Alward unveiled his new cabinet on Tuesday.

Higgs said balancing the budget will have effects on the province but he's committed to the task.

"That's our goal and I feel it's something we have to work towards. We can't continue to run a deficit. I'm as committed to that as our party and our premier," Higgs said.

"We will be finding ways to make that happen, but we will need everybody to consider what's needed versus what's wanted, because we've all got to be part of the solution."

The incoming Progressive Conservative government has also inherited a debt of $8.3 billion, which is projected to hit $9.5 billion in 2011 and $10.2 billion in 2012.

The Progressive Conservatives promised during the election campaign that planned tax cuts to corporations and citizens earning more than $118,000 would be cancelled.

The Tories have also committed to creating a government office to find wasteful spending and make cuts to the civil service.

Business experience

Alward named Higgs as the province's new finance minister on Tuesday, passing over many Tories who had years of service as cabinet ministers from the Bernard Lord government.

Alward said Higgs's more than three decades at Irving Oil will help him control the province's finances.

"Mr. Higgs brings a tremendous amount of experience within the private sector, as a manager, as an administrator," Alward said.

Higgs will have to cope with two pieces of bad economic news that the provincial government received last week.

Standard & Poor's lowered the province's fiscal outlook to negative from stable. And the bond-rating agency warned it will lower the province's credit rating unless the new government gets serious about reducing the deficit and paying down the debt.

Higgs isn't the only Canadian finance minister facing a significant deficit.

Federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty announced on Tuesday the deficit will reach $55.6 billion in the 2009-10 fiscal year.