THE GREAT RED NORTH: The country’s precarious economic situation became even more stark as two more provinces revealed budgets awash in red ink. Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty’s Liberal government tabled a budget projecting massive deficit spending adding up to $56.8 billion over the next seven years. The shortfalls incorporated an overhaul of the tax system as well as billions in infrastructure spending designed to transform the stagnant economy. The government also announced that they would give $1,000 to every family earning less than $160,000 to ease the pain of GST/PST harmonization — a move dismissed by critics as an attempt to buy votes.
Newfoundland and Labrador had it’s four-year run of surpluses, a source of deep provincial pride, halted by a budget packing an expected $750-million shortfall fuelled by dipping oil prices. With Nova Scotia expected to table its own red-drenched budget in the near future, Saskatchewan and Manitoba stand apart as the only provinces to stay in the black.
STAND BY YOUR PLAN: Prime Minister Stephen Harper again found himself defending his government’s economic projections against a strengthening current of criticism. Speaking with reporters after announcing infrastructure spending in Quebec, he dismissed a recent report by the government’s budget watchdog that claimed the plummeting economy had already erased the projections made in the January budget.
Former prime minister Joe Clark also weighed in after listening to a speech given by Finance Minister Jim Flaherty. Clark criticized the government’s effusive praise of the Canadian banking system as a model for the world, telling reporters that Canadians shoudn’t be so “self-congratulatory” as to think the country’s financial model is the solution to the global crisis.
RAGING RIVER: Communities in Manitoba were hoping for the best while preparing for the worst as ice-clogged culverts contributed to a swelling Red River threatening terrible flooding. The mayor of St. Clements, north of Winnipeg, said he was preparing “for probably the worst two weeks that this community has ever seen in its entire existence.”
The Red River was also menacing Fargo, North Dakota, where a neighbourhood and nursing home were evacuated when cracks were found in an earthen levee. Fargo residents were scrambling in sub-zero temperatures to pile sandbags along the river to hold back an expected crest of 12.5 metres.
WEB 2.OBAMA: U.S. President Barack Obama firmly seized the bully pulpit, holding an unprecedented Internet town hall at the White House to pitch his economic recovery program to Americans. The event capped a two-week media offensive that saw Obama stumping in California and making numerous television appearances, including an equally unprecedented appearance on The Tonight Show.
HOT AND RISING: North Korea moved a rocket into position on an east coast launchpad, ratcheting up tension with a U.S. government that has previously warned of serious consequences if the country pushed ahead with a planned missile launch. North Korea claimed the rocket was intended to launch a satellite into orbit to commemorate the birthday of state founder, Kim Il Song, but regional observers suspected the launch would be a test for a long-range delivery system.
ROCKETMAN: American billionaire Charles Simonyi sailed into orbit aboard a Russian space capsule for his second stint as a space tourist at the International Space Station. The 60-year-old software designer paid $35 million for the trip, which is expected to be the last trip for a space tourist for a very long time due to space constraints in the space station.