Metro Snapshot: February 4, 2009 - Metro US

Metro Snapshot: February 4, 2009

DIE ANOTHER DAY: Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s minority government lived to fight another day after the big-spending federal budget passed in the House of Commons by a vote of 211-91. The budget was supported by the Liberals — with the exception of six Newfoundland and Labrador MPs who Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff granted a “one-time” pass to break ranks after pressure from Premier Danny Williams — while the NDP and Bloc Quebecois both voted against it.

With the budget officially passed, engineering and construction companies were banking on promised infrastructure spending to boost their sagging bottom lines, however analysts cautioned that it could take months, or even years, for government funds to begin flowing around the obstacles made up of red tape.

“RAE DAYS” RETURNING?: Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty, saying that he would run a deficit “as high as necessary” to help the provincial economy, wouldn’t rule out a structural deficit even as the economy begins to recover. The news raised the spectre of “Rae Days,” 12 days of unpaid leave foisted upon public employees during the economically turbulent term of former premier Bob Rae, an option to which the current premier left the door wide open.

HEARTBREAK AND HEROISM: A blaze at a Toronto townhouse complex was the scene of tragedy and survival when a mother threw her 21-month-old child out a window to the waiting arms of her neighbour, Werner Schmidt. Sadly, Schmidt had been unable to rescue his wife, who succumbed to her injuries at the scene.

TRAGIC ACCIDENTS: Montreal mayor Gerald Tremblay vowed answers after three elderly pedestrians were killed in separate accidents involving snow-removal equipment. At least four witnesses — including a truck driver — were treated for emotional shock after witnessing the horrific scene.

TRADING IN DRAMA: Canadian ambassador to the United States Michael Wilson sent an unusually blunt and harsh letter to U.S. Senate leaders warning that “Buy American” provisions in President Barack Obama’s economic rescue package would weaken their nation’s moral authority and threaten global trade. Trade Minister Stockwell Day also waded into the debate, reminding the president that he has the constitutional cover to veto the contentious provisions.

For his part, President Obama made efforts to reassure the world that he had no interest in initiating a trade war with anybody. In a series of television interviews Obama gave yesterday, he insisted that now is not the time for his country to violate world trade agreements or send a signal that a new era of U.S. protectionism is about to begin.

EXCLUSIVE VISIT: Canadian Obama-philes hoping to show the president the love when he arrives in Ottawa for an official visit on Feb. 19 discovered they were bound to be disappointed. An extremely tight security detail and an all-work-no-play schedule will leave little room for fraternizing for Obama, and a group called Democrats Abroad who planned to send four busloads of people to welcome the president were told that no public gatherings would be allowed on Parliament Hill that day.

FRENCH TIFF: French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s condemnation of Quebec separatism touched off a trans-Atlantic spat that prompted sovereigntists to condemn the president as ignorant. In an improvised monologue, Sarkozy stressed the need for unity in the face of hateful, narrow-minded, sectarianism, and while he never mentioned Quebec by name, the speech was given at a ceremony attended by Premier Jean Charest.

A BIRD IN THE PANTS: A 23-year-old man arriving in Melbourne on a flight from Dubai was caught with two live pigeons stuffed in his pants. The man was searched after officials discovered two eggs in his luggage.

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