From denial to acceptance: the story of a budget

It's always fascinating to watch the elaborate process of a government shifting from denial to acceptance. Instead of a simple, Oops, we goofed, there's always lots of chin-stroking, earnest pronouncement and, this time out, a desire to spread the blame by getting collegial and consultative all of a sudden. Just weeks after saying there wasn't an economic crisis and that there would be no deficit, the Conservative government is now admitting what we all knew already: Canada is looking at deficits for at least the next four years and most likely this year too - despite the forecast of a $2.3 billion surplus. As part of the necessary shift, it's not surprising that Finance Minister Jim Flaherty has formed an 11-member economic advisory committee to help him shape the upcoming January budget. After getting pelted with criticism over his recent economic statement, he clearly wants to spread the responsibility around, and the options of including other people from business and academia, created the perception that the Tories are on top of the file and prepared to dig in for the duration. By the time this is all over, perhaps they will even succeed in convincing themselves that they always knew things would be this

News you can no longer afford to ignore

Time was we could all afford to yawn or change the topic when we heard such news as the federal finance minister is meeting with his provincial counterparts in Saskatoon. The economy being what it is, however, we no longer have the luxury of plugging our ears and humming: these are pre-budget consultations which have a direct and immediate bearing on our respective bottom lines - not to mention the political and economic consequences that hang in the balance. The provinces are in dire need and are pushing for the federal government - which most of them were actively dissing up until a couple of months ago - to push forward with big-ticket infrastructure projects to kickstart the economy. That's supposed to be the golden bullet that will create jobs and, of course, get tax revenues rolling into government coffers once again. The catch is that many of these projects were supposed to be public-private sector partnerships (known as Three Ps in certain circles) and the private money isn't really there anymore. On the political front, if Finance Minister Jim Flaherty doesn't get it right, the Opposition will defeat his January budget and send us all back into political purgatory - wasting even more time at such a critical juncture. So stay tuned: who knew Saskatoon could be such a hot spot in