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Trudeau calls New Brunswick's Conservative government a 'disgrace' on women's rights

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he has "issues" with the Progressive Conservative government of New Brunswick. New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs is seen via video conference as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks during an announcement on early learning and child care in New Brunswick, in Ottawa, on Monday, Dec. 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he has "issues" with the Progressive Conservative government of New Brunswick. New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs is seen via video conference as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks during an announcement on early learning and child care in New Brunswick, in Ottawa, on Monday, Dec. 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
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CARAQUET, N.B. -

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau assailed New Brunswick's premier and other conservative leaders on Thursday, calling out the provincial government's position on abortion, LGBTQ youth and climate change.

During a news conference in Caraquet, N.B., Trudeau delivered his attack in response to a question about whether he would be campaigning with the New Brunswick Liberals ahead of the upcoming provincial election, which has to be held by October.

Despite his desire to "work with any government" in Canada, the prime minister said, "I do have issues with the current government of New Brunswick."

He said Progressive Conservative Premier Blaine Higgs doesn't respect a "woman's right to choose." The prime minister was referring to a New Brunswick regulation that prohibits public funding for abortions administered outside hospitals, a rule that was blamed for the closure earlier this year of Clinic 554, a private care provider in Fredericton.

The closure of that clinic, Trudeau said, and "the unwillingness to engage in allowing women to actually choose what happens to their future and their bodies is a disgrace."

"I will continue to call out the government of New Brunswick and any conservative leader who continues to go after women's rights."

Higgs's office did not return a request for comment. But in January after Clinic 554 closed, a provincial Health Department spokesman said abortions are publicly funded in the province by way of surgical abortion in hospitals or medical abortion with the pill Mifegymiso. Surgical abortions are offered at two hospitals in Moncton and one in Bathurst.

"The introduction of Mifegymiso as an alternative means of abortion has reduced demand for surgical abortions in New Brunswick," spokesman Sean Hatchard said at the time. "It is now the predominant form of abortion in our province and accounts for two-thirds of all abortions in New Brunswick."

Trudeau brought up the 2022 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the constitutional right to an abortion in that country, saying Canada could suffer similar restrictions if conservatives are in power.

Restrictions on abortion, Trudeau said, are "more likely to happen in Canada, particularly with conservative leaders who continue to not stand up for women's rights."

The prime minister also criticized the Higgs government's changes to the provincial policy on gender identity in schools. The revised policy requires teachers to have parental consent before they can use the preferred names and pronouns of transgender and nonbinary students under 16.

Trudeau said Higgs and other conservatives in the country are trying to score political points off "incredibly vulnerable" transgender and nonbinary children.

Higgs, for his part, maintains that parents have a right to be informed if their children are questioning their gender identity.

Finally, Trudeau lashed out at Higgs's calls for the removal of the federal carbon price, saying the premier wanted to "scrap" Canada's fight against climate change.

In February, shortly before the carbon price went into effect in New Brunswick, Higgs said, "the federal carbon tax has and will continue to result in higher prices on everything."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 16, 2024.

For more New Brunswick news visit our dedicated provincial page.

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