DEAL'S OFF: Plans for an opposition coalition to replace Prime Minister Stephen Harper's minority government blew up in bitter recriminations after Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff devised a novel way to support the federal budget -- much to the chagrin of NDP Leader Jack Layton and, presumably, Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Danny Williams. Declaring that the government was now on "probation," Ignatieff insisted that, starting in March, the Tories will have to table three detailed progress reports to Parliament. The timing of these reports should roughly coincide with suppy bills, providing opportunities to defeat the government.


BUDGET MARKETING: Finance Minister Jim Flaherty spent the day defending the budget, claiming the government's financial blueprint is an extraordinary document for extraordinary times.


It sounds like the government is going to have a tough time selling the budget to critics in its own base, however. Former Tory minister Monte Solberg roundly criticized the government, saying "the Conservatives have easily escaped to fight another day, but what are they fighting for?" Metro columnist Andrew Cohen also questioned what the prime minister actually stands for, citing the budget climbdown as the latest in a string of staggering reversals.


NOT SO FAST: The government's plan for a relatively quick economic recovery was called into doubt by a report released by the International Monetary Fund. Although the report largely agreed with the budget's projection for this year, the two parted company when it came to the next year, predicting that a sluggish turnaround in the global and U.S. economies will slow any rebound experienced by Canadian commodities exports.


EASY DIPLOMACY: It was announced that U.S. President Barack Obama would make an official visit to Canada -- his first as president -- on Feb. 19. Since the House of Commons won't be sitting, the president isn't expected to address Parliament, but instead the docket for his visit will likely be topped by trade and the economy.

TOUGHER TASKS: President Obama also has some large problems on his plate. Aside from the tough decisions looming in Iraq and Afghanistan -- both of which were topics that featured heavily in his campaign -- there is the recent rattling of the shaky Gaza truce by Israeli airstrikes. Former Sen. George Mitchell, the president's special envoy to the area, promised that America would continue to aggressively push for peace, but remained tight-lipped about any meetings he has had with leaders.

ANOTHER BREAKTHROUGH: Johanna Sigurdardottir, Iceland's openly gay social affairs minister, was poised to become the country's first female prime minister -- a position she would hold until expected elections in May. Iceland's previous coalition government fell after the country's banks collapsed under the weight of debts incurred during years of rapid economic growth, leaving the Icelandic economy in shambles.

MURDER-SUICIDE: Los Angeles police said a man who shot himself to death after allegedly killing his wife and five children was awash in debt. Ervin Lupoe, 40, and his wife had both lost their jobs at a local hospital and owed thousands to the Internal Revenue Service and private creditors.

MARTHA, MY DEAR: Haligonian Michelle SaintOnge was "ridiculously thrilled" after being invited to show off her silkscreen skills during a live taping of domestic life icon Martha Stewart's television show. SaintOnge submitted a proposal to appear on the show shortly after launching a line of handbags in the fall, and received her invite shortly after Christmas.