The big issue of the week in Canada, where we worry about these things for some reason, was deficits.
The new Liberal government, which promised to run a $10 billion deficit to boost the economy, is instead going to be about $30 billion in the hole. Here in the People’s Republic of Alberta, the provincial NDP had admitted that its deficit will be higher than anticipated — about $5 billion more. That would bring the deficit up to $10 billion, a number that Finance Minister Joe Ceci resolutely refused to say at a briefing this week. I suspect the NDP handlers told Ceci not to say “the deficit will be $10 billion”, knowing that his statement would be the sound bite used on the news. The media makes a big deal about deficits, but I doubt if the average Canadian and Albertan cares all that much. American governments run up deficits in the hundreds of billions, and the issue never comes up. The simple fact is that we have a resource-based economy, and one of our biggest cash cows — oil — is selling for less per barrel than the cost of an actual barrel. At some point, however, the NDP in particular will have to cut expenses, which will put them on a collision course with the unions that kept them alive for years. That’s going to be fun to watch.
Speaking of the NDP, remember when the party banned union and business donations to political parties?
Sure you do. Anyway, all parties have to raise money through personal donations, which means you have to cosy up to rich folks and supporters. The NDP thought offering up private meetings with NDP MLAs (the government, you may remember) for $1,000 a head would be a smashing idea. Turns out, not really. Just before the event was to be held, the ethics commissioner (reacting to a Wildrose complaint) ruled the event was unethical. Well, duh — offering exclusive access to cabinet ministers in return for a donation is practically the textbook definition. How nobody in the party thought this was a bad idea is baffling.
Two things you are going to be hearing a lot about in the coming months — death and drugs.
The death debate will be about right-to-die legislation, now that a joint Commons-Senate committee has issued a report on the controversial matter. And speaking of joints, a B.C. judge (of course) ruled that Canadians have the right to grow their own medical marijuana. And in a related development, the Globe and Mail reports this week that Shoppers Drug Mart is looking into getting into the medical marijuana business, which, if pot becomes legal, could open the door to Shoppers selling recreational pot. Could it be that there’s a Shoppers Pot Mart coming to your neighbourhood?
The federal Liberals are about to overturn one of the few Conservative laws I agreed with.
The Harper government enacted a law that allowed the government to revoke the citizenship of convicted terrorists with dual nationality. I agree with that totally. If you come to Canada — then plot against it — you forfeit your citizenship as far as I’m concerned. Being a Canadian is a rare privilege, and it you plot against your adopted country, you deserve to get kicked out. But the Trudeau government, in its desire to wipe out every last vestige of the Harper regime, introduced a bill to overturn that law, and it will be retroactive. So that means a charming young man named Zakari Amara, who led a plot to detonate bombs on Parliament Hill and kill Stephen Harper — part of the so-called Toronto 18 terror group — will get to keep his Canadian citizenship once he’s out of jail instead of being deported to Jordan. According to Immigration Minister John McCallum “You don’t pick and choose the good Canadians and the bad Canadians.” Sure you do! Amara is a bad Canadian and should be expelled rather than allowed to walk the streets here.
The Republicans have one last chance to derail Donald Trump, and it comes Tuesday.
Or, as the Americans call it, Super Tuesday. Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont and Virginia will hold primaries for both parties on March 1. The key state is Texas, which is the home base for the reptilian Ted Cruz. If Cruz doesn’t finish at least a solid second in his home state, then where can he win? Probably nowhere, so it’s critical for Cruz. If Donald Trump can win Texas, then Cruz will be on life support. There is a growing body of thought, and fear, that Trump is close to being unstoppable. After Super Tuesday, he may well be. And there will be nothing super about that.
The Oscars are Sunday, so I feel obliged to give some predictions.
Oddly, I am less interested in the Oscars this year than ever before. Maybe because I haven’t seen many of the films, or that they don’t interest me much, or maybe because I’m an old man who just doesn’t much care anymore. But, for the record, my picks are: The Big Short for best picture (or The Revenant); Brie Larson (Room) for best actress (haven’t seen any of the nominated films); Leonardo DiCaprio (The Revenant) for best actor (this one’s a lock); Sylvester Stallone (Creed) for supporting actor (the only category where I am actively rooting for someone); I have no idea at all for supporting actress, probably someone named Kate or Jennifer; Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu (The Revenant) for director. Host Chris Rock will made about a hundred jokes about the lack of diversity in the nominees. About three of them will be funny.
Don Getty, 83, former premier of Alberta and Edmonton Eskimo quarterback. Getty succeeded the hugely popular Peter Lougheed, but unfortunately not Lougheed’s booming economy. Oil dropped to $10 a barrel while Getty was in power, and it made governing that much more difficult. The public really didn’t warm to him (he lost his Edmonton riding and had to run in Camrose), but he seemed like a decent, thoughtful man. His legacy? Family Day, which he created partly in response to his own family troubles … Sonny James, 87, hugely successful country singer best known for his 1957 hit Young Love. He had 72 country and pop charted releases from 1953 to 1983, including 16 straight Billboard #1 singles among his 26 #1 hits … Andy Bathgate, 83, hockey hall of famer, spent 17 seasons as a right winger with the Rangers, Leafs and Red Wings.