"Next week, the Harper government is going to introduce what a lot of people believe will be one of the most important budgets since the mid 1990s and to be sure, it's critical for Mr. Harper's own survival and his minority goverment," The Globe's Ottawa bureau chief, Brian Laghi, says in this video preview of the Jan. 27 fiscal plan. "But perhaps what's been lost in all the tumult is just how this government will deal with the anxieties of Canadians as they deal with the current economic turmoil."
He predicts the government will try to spur spending and restore confidence through a combination of tax measures, such as credits for home rennovations and perhaps a cut to the GST, infrastructure spending, support for lending institions and employment assistance programs. Will it work, or will the opposition parties act on their threat to topple the minority Conservative government in favour of a coalition or another election?
Mr. Laghi says: "A lot of people in this town believe that Mr. Harper learned his lesson in December, that he's not going to surprise anybody, and that the Liberal opposition led by Mr. Ignatieff will eventually support this budget. That would be my bet, but one never knows. Mr. Harper has been provocative before; he surprised us all in early December and he might do so again."
For their part, the Conservatives have announced they will send the country into deficit to the tune of $64-billion over two years and conceded it will take up to five years before the books are balanced again. The Liberals, meanwhile, say Canada needs another election "like a hole in the head." And the Bloc Québécois maintains the deal struck, with their support, between the Liberals and New Democrats to form a coalition government is still viable.
With all this in mind, Mr. Laghi was online Friday to take your questions on the Harper government's budget and the political fate of those who crafted it and those who might oppose it. His responses appear in sequence below.
Mr. Laghi began his journalistic career 25 years ago as a reporter for a small daily newspaper in Fort McMurray, Alta., and also worked as a reporter in Saskatoon before moving to The Edmonton Journal, where he covered politics and served as that paper's legislative bureau chief.
He moved to The Globe and Mail in 1995, covering Alberta and the Arctic for the paper until 1998, when he moved to Ottawa.
Mr. Laghi spent much of the next six years covering the conservative movement in Canada and the merger of the Progressive Conservative Party and the Canadian Alliance. He became The Globe's bureau chief in Ottawa in October, 2004.
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Stephen Wicary, globeandmail.com: Brian, thanks for joining us to fill our readers in on next week's budget. To start off, can you offer your thoughts on yesterday's announcement by a government official that Canada will run a deficit of $64-billion over the next two years and not return to black ink for five years. Do those numbers surprise you? And what do you make of the decision to pre-emptively release them?
Brian Laghi, Ottawa bureau chief: Howdy Stephen. Great to be here again. The numbers don't entirely surprise me, and I think the federal government released them early to ensure some focus on the other aspects of the budget next week that they think will be positive namely infrastructure spending, tax cuts and other benefits.