January 27, 2009

Pt 1: Deficit Spending - Its the $64 billion dollar question . . . when Finance Minister Jim Flaherty introduces a high spending deficit budget today to stimulate the economy, should he also risk a fiscal pay cut by reducing income taxes. Such a dilemna.

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Pt 2: Mackenzie Pipeline - If ever completed, the Mackenzie Valley pipeline will send natural gas from the McKenzie Delta in the Northwest Territories to the northern border of Alberta. That's 1,200 kilometers of pipe delivering 1.2 billion cubic feet of natural gas a day. In terms of infrastructure projects, this is a big one.

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Pt 3: Third Man Factor - We started this segment with a reading from TS Eliot's "The Waste Land" a 1922 poem describing an arduous journey through a desolate land. Along the way, his narrator has a haunting experience.

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Today's guest host was Linden MacIntyre.

It's Tuesday January 27th.

Following tradition, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty will don new footwear today as he introduces the federal budget. Despite recent promises of a surplus, Flaherty's budget calls for $64 billion dollars of deficit spending.

Currently, it's a contradiction that helps explain why the Finance Minister is wearing crocs.

This is The Current.


Deficit Spending

Its the $64 billion dollar question . . . when Finance Minister Jim Flaherty introduces a high spending deficit budget today to stimulate the economy, should he also risk a fiscal pay cut by reducing income taxes. Such a dilemna.

A few months ago, in his Economic and Fiscal Statement, Mr. Flaherty didn't think a decifit made sense at all. (clip) But, by mid-January, he had changed his tune. (clip)

And late last week, a senior conservative party official leaked budget information saying the Harper government will run a deficit of $34 billion this year and $30 billion next year.

This morning, we've assembled a panel of political heavy weights -- all of whom have been involved with government finances -- for their views on what may be a coming tidal wave of red ink.

John Manley is the former deputy prime minister and a former Liberal Finance Minister. Perrin Beatty is the president and CEO of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, and a former conservative cabinet minister. They were in our Ottawa studio. And, Joy McPhail is a former British Columbia NDP leader and finance minister. We reached her by phone in Vancouver.

 

Mackenzie Pipeline - Aboriginal

If ever completed, the Mackenzie Valley pipeline will send natural gas from the McKenzie Delta in the Northwest Territories to the northern border of Alberta. That's 1,200 kilometers of pipe delivering 1.2 billion cubic feet of natural gas a day. In terms of infrastructure projects, this is a big one.

But, the $16 billion project has been plagued by problems since its aborted start-up in the early 1970s. First Nations people opposed the route of the pipeline, which snaked over their lands. And so the pipeline remained a pipe dream, until nine years ago when native leaders in the Mackenzie Valley agreed to sign on to the project, provided they could be active partners.

Then the Aboriginal Pipeline Group was born. It found itself partnering with some of the biggest names in the fossil fuel industry; Imperial Oil, Conoco-Phillips, Shell and Exxon Mobil. Together, they made a formal application to get the pipeline project going again.

Four more years have passed since they made that application. And they're still waiting. Then just last week Federal Environment Minister Jim Prentice stepped in with an undisclosed amount of money to keep the pipeline project afloat, and he left the door open for more government support.

To tell us where things stand we were joined by Bob Reid, the president of the Aboriginal Pipeline Group. He was in our Calgary studio.


Mackenzie Pipeline - Business Owner

To find out what this project could mean for the Northwest Territories, and what the delays are costing the region, we were joined by Tom Zubko. He's a local businessowner in Inuvik and publisher of an Internet publication called PermaFrost Media. He's been following the review hearings closely. Mr. Zubko joined us from our studio in Inuvik, Northwest Territories.


Mackenzie Pipeline - Activist

Members of the official Joint Review Panel turned down our request for comment citing their ongoing assessment of the impact of the Mackenzie pipeline project.
But, we did reach Kevin O'Reilly, a representative the non-governmental organization Alternatives North, which has made several submissions to the panel. He joined us this morning from our Yellowknife studio.

We also contacted Imperial Oil, Exxon Mobil, and ConocoPhillips, the gas companies involved in the pipeline project, but they either didn't get back to us, or declined to comment.

 

Third Man Factor

We started this segment with a reading from TS Eliot's "The Waste Land" a 1922 poem describing an arduous journey through a desolate land. Along the way, his narrator has a haunting experience.

He encounters a mysterious, phantasmal being - a "Third" - as he describes it.
Although he does not know who it is, or what it is - he can feel its presence.
It was the real-life encounters people have had with this mysterious presence that intrigued our next guest. He set out on his own expedition - in search of those who have experienced this phenomenon and to try to discover the scientific explanation for what causes it.

John Geiger is an Editorial Board Member of the Globe and Mail. His book is called The Third Man Factor: The Secret to Survival in Extreme Environments. John Geiger was in our Toronto sudio.


Last Word

And, before we ended the program ... a final nod towards the budget-to-be as Finance Minister Jim Flaherty prepares to take a kick at restarting Canada's battered economy. When he stands before parliament, his feet will be snug in a pair spanking new steel-toed boots.

Why Finance Ministers put on new shoes, or boots on budget day is one of the great mysteries of Canadian parliamentary democracy. Eight of our Ministers of Finance have donned new footwear starting with Mitchell Sharp in 1966, and continuing up to Jim Flaherty.

We ended the program today with Mr. Flaherty as he shopped for new boots in Gatineau, Quebec. And we think we figured out the tune he was humming as he merrily strolled the aisles of the shoe store. A tune from 1942, Gene Autry singing "I Got Spurs That Jingle, Jangle, Jingle."

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