New Brunswick

Pettigrew plays nice with Tories

International Trade Minister Pierre Pettigrew is playing down any suggestion of problems between Ottawa and the government of New Brunswick.

International Trade Minister Pierre Pettigrew is playing down any suggestion of problems between Ottawa and the government of New Brunswick.

Two Liberal leadership candidates have accused Premier Bernard Lord of being uncooperative on federal-provincial issues.

But Pettigrew says, as far as he's concerned, the relationship is in excellent shape. The federal minister and his provincial counterpart Norm Betts stood side by side for pictures when they met with reporters on Wednesday.

It was a very different scene from earlier in the week, when federal Heritage Minister Sheila Copps blasted the Lord Tories for failing to invite her to an arts funding announcement.

From April 15, 2003: Copps playing 'bad politics': Lord

High profile MP Paul Martin also had some withering words for the provincial Tories on the weekend, calling them "bystanders" on the federal scene.

Pettigrew, apparently, disagrees. "My relationship with the government of New Brunswick has systematically been very positive, very constructive," he says.

Norm Betts, his provincial counterpart, didn't just play down rumours of a spat between Ottawa and the Lord government. He said, on the contrary, the relationship is a model for the rest of the country. "It's a prime example of collaborative federalism."

Political observers say Copps may have made her remarks to try and boost the fortunes of provincial Liberal cousins on the eve of an election. Pettigrew hinted it may have more to do with the run-up to the federal Liberal leadership race.

The ministers met in Moncton to discuss trade issues, including softwood lumber, border traffic and textile exports. Both said the meeting went well.