On the Road Again

We’re here in the Best Western hotel of Kalamazoo, MI, a town that I’ve wanted to visit almost as much as Walla Walla, WA (for the name, of course). I’m writing this at the end of a long travel day, with another one to follow tomorrow, so I’m a bit punchy. Erin, Vivian and I are heading down to Iowa and then to Lincoln to visit Erin’s parents for the Christmas holidays.

Travel today was fairly easy. I picked up Erin after work and we zipped west. We ate dinner in Sarnia, got past American customs in about a half hour, and made it all the way to Kalamazoo before we turned in for the night. The weather was excellent, for the most part, with the sun managing to provide a spectacular sunset without blinding the travellers on Highway 401. We did encounter rain and fog as we entered middle Michigan, however, and I hope that lifts tomorrow.

Fortunately, it doesn’t appear ready to freeze, at least for the first part of the journey tomorrow. Otherwise, we appear to be driving into some nasty weather on our way into Iowa. So, to all of our parents and in-laws, let me say this here: we’ll be careful, so don’t worry, okay?

Think that worked, Erin? (Erin shakes her head).

I’ll post late tomorrow and tell you how the trip turned out. I’m looking forward to seeing the in-laws and settling in for some Christmas cheer.

Vivian held up well on her first leg of the trip, despite spending about six hours in the car. She slept through a chunk of it, and Erin entertained her for another chunk of it. We also took a break enroute at a McDonald’s with one of those play areas for young children. We spent about an hour at it. Vivian enjoyed herself despite being entirely unable to climb the apparatus, but we could see her looking at the thing in awe, and scheming about what she’d do when she got a little bit taller. She did run around a lot, which helped run off some of that pent up energy.

In other news, I managed to finish another article for Business Edge today; that’s two in the span of a month. The workload is most appreciated, but I’m looking forward to working some more on The Dream King’s Daughter and also critiquing some stories which have come my way (waves at Rebecca). I’m really thankful to be employed in a career of doing something I love.

Politically, I happened to catch sight of an article in the London Free Press summarizing an end-of-year interview Prime Minister Harper had with the Sun Media Group. I’ve heard some mention of this on the blogosphere as well, mostly focusing on his statement that green babysteps are required to limit economic harm. Of course that made some commentators pretty angry, but I at least appreciated the honesty of his approach, for once. A darn sight better, in my opinion, than how Baird handled Bali.

What interested me more, however, was his statement that his government had spent out its wiggle room with the tax cuts issued in the October financial statement. Harper warned Canadians to be more cautious in 2008 as the country sails around a potential economic storm brewing in the United States. This means: don’t expect either a spending spree or major tax cuts for the Spring 2008 budget.

I have to say, I was impressed by Mr. Harper’s candour here, and his willingness to warn Canadians of tighter times ahead. That took some courage. Though I can’t help but wonder why more wasn’t made of this in the October mini-budget. As I recall, even with these tax cuts (which are staying, apparently, as they’re apparently “stimulative” in nature), the government was expected to render a surplus of nearly $10 billion in 2008. This sudden note of caution suggests that some numbers have changed. So, what are the new results? Are we still due for a surplus? If not, perhaps another mini-budget is in order, as we should be kept up to date on the state of our nation’s finances.

The article ended with a comment by the head of the Canadian Taxpayers’ Federation, complaining that Harper’s statement was “a little Grinch-like”, suggesting that, if the economy was to slow down, now was the time for more tax cuts. Of course, the credibility of that claim is somewhat damaged by the fact that most Canadians know that the head of the Canadian Taxpayers’ Federation thinks that tax cuts are good things only on days ending with the letter ‘y’. Yeah, there is a logic issue in that, if Harper calls the tax cuts put forward in October “stimulative”, won’t other taxes be equally stimulative and useful to the economy?

But, of course, the truth is that a lot of economics is just the handwaving of magicians to distract from the wizard behind the curtain. In the end, I respect Harper’s position more than I do that of the Canadian Taxpayers’ Federation, as I personally believe that neither tax cuts nor spending increases should have priority over a balanced (or surplus) budget and paying down the debt. Yes, there are items that I wish we would spend more money on, but if the economic outlook of 2008 is in question, then Harper’s cautious approach is the sensible one for our future.

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