New Brunswick·Video

Blaine Higgs believes better relationship with Justin Trudeau will benefit N.B.

Premier Blaine Higgs shows no signs of wearing down under the strain of managing a minority government in a wide-ranging, year-end interview with the CBC's Harry Forestell. 

Premier tackles abortion, federal-provincial relations and health-care funding in year-end interview

Premier Blaine Higgs shakes the hand of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in December. Higgs said in a year-end interview that he has a good relationship with the federal government. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

Premier Blaine Higgs shows no signs of wearing down under the strain of managing a minority government. 

In a pre-Christmas interview with CBC New Brunswick following the day's question period, Higgs appeared relaxed as he talked about a variety of topics.

The New Brunswick premier spoke about his new working relationship with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, his view on abortion availability in New Brunswick, how he'll use the federal windfall from an increase in equalization payments and the fallout from the dispute with nursing home workers.

Despite leading a minority government, Higgs projects a level of confidence and calm determination that suggests a "damn the torpedos, full speed ahead" attitude.

Here are the highlights of an wide-ranging interview with Higgs on Dec. 18 with CBC New Brunswick.

An improved relationship with Ottawa

Premier Blaine Higgs shows no signs of wearing down under the strain of managing a minority government. In a year-end interview with CBC News, he talked about federal-provincial relations, abortion and health-care spending. (CBC)

Higgs saw a federal election in October that left the Trudeau government reduced to a minority and the New Brunswick premier said he reached an inescapable conclusion. 

Voters in the province elected Liberals in six out of 10 federal seats and Higgs reasoned support for the federal carbon tax policy was a key factor.

If that is how most New Brunswickers feel, then it's time for his government to start rowing in the same direction.

A better relationship with Ottawa will also benefit efforts to lift softwood lumber tariffs the United States has imposed on New Brunswick. That's something Trudeau and his deputy prime minister Chrystia Freeland assured Higgs would be dealt with in the new year.

Watch Higgs talk about his relationship with Trudeau

Higgs's relationship with Justin Trudeau

3 years ago
Duration 2:14
Premier Blaine Higgs says he has a positive relationship with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and he believes a better relationship will pay dividends for New Brunswick.

Higgs warns Trudeau on abortion debate

One sticking point for the new Higgs-Trudeau relationship may emerge in the area of abortion.

During the federal campaign, Trudeau made a point of coming to New Brunswick to visit a private abortion clinic in Fredericton and promise to force the province to fund the procedure in private clinics. 

Higgs warned against such an effort for two reasons — he said there is no provision in the Canada Health Act for Trudeau to take such a step and, in any case, it isn't necessary.

As Higgs sees it, the availability of the abortion drug Mifegymiso has changed the debate on abortion services by making it easier for women to end a pregnancy without having to go to a public or private clinic.

Watch Higgs on the abortion debate

Higgs on abortion fight with Ottawa

3 years ago
Duration 3:39
Premier Blaine Higgs has warned Prime Minister Justin Trudeau not to interfere with how the provincial government deals with the issue of abortion.

Higgs health solution

One of the most significant challenges to Higgs's fiscal conservatism has come from nursing home workers demanding higher wages.

The long running dispute has become a political battlefield that Higgs says he will not retreat from.

He refers to talks with the Canadian Union of Public Employees as "game-changing negotiations," and the premier is adamant that his "mark in the sand" will apply to other union negotiations in the future. 

On the broader subject of health care, Higgs calls an increase in federal equalization payments "good news" that will help the province shoulder the burden of a rapidly aging population.

Watch Higgs on health funding

Higgs on battling public sector unions

3 years ago
Duration 4:12
Premier Blaine Higgs says he's prepared to dig in when it comes to contract negotiations with unions. He is adamant that his 'mark in the sand' he gave CUPE will apply to other unions as well.

A new style of politics

One thing is certain, after his first year as premier, leading a minority government in a province assailed by economic headwinds, Higgs has learned a new style of governing. 

It has forced a pragmatic man to be even more so.

He and other members of his Progressive Conservative government and his People's Alliance allies have had to be satisfied with, in his words, "a little more water in your soup." 

Compromise and give-and-take have become key political ingredients. 

The result? 

Higgs isn't getting everything he wants or hoped for, but even he has to agree that minority government has given New Brunswick voters better results.

Watch Higgs describe handling a minority government

Higgs on managing his minority government

3 years ago
Duration 2:42
Premier Blaine Higgs has spent the last year learning how to manage a minority government. He says his government has given New Brunswick voters quality politics.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Harry Forestell

Host CBC News New Brunswick at 6

Harry Forestell is the host of CBC News New Brunswick at 6. He worked in London as journalist from 1995 to 2000 and from 2005 to 2008 as CBC's European correspondent for Newsworld.

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