Craig's Take: Too big to bail out
Mark Carney, Bank of Canada governor, leaves after appearing as a witness at a finance committee on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, on Friday, Aug. 19, 2011. (Sean Kilpatrick / THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Published Friday, September 23, 2011 11:50AM EDT
On the advice of an emergency meeting of the G20 in 2009, G8 governments poured billions of dollars into spending programs to stimulate their economies and head off a threatened free fall. Also, they reduced interest rates to near-zero to try and boost consumer demand.
At the time, Canada's fiscal position was strong, but Europe and the United States were already too heavily-indebted.
This time around, those nations do not have the financial firepower in their arsenals to repeat the process. They're all essentially insolvent.
Instead of stimulus programs, most are going in the opposite direction and have brought in severe austerity plans which some experts fear are weakening their economies.
Making matters far worse now is a sense of political drift and a lack of direction or leadership.
For two generations, European and American political leaders found it too easy to say yes to demands for new spending, using deficits to finance programs they could not afford rather than say no and risk the ire of voters. It was as if they believed they could run deficits forever.
They piled debt onto debt with each budget, assuming that some future government could be left to resolve the mess of indebtedness in a habit that became known in current parlance as kicking the can down the road.
Trouble is, they've come to the end of the road, and the debt has turned into an anvil which is no longer possible to kick any further.
In Europe and the United States, political leaders will not agree on a firm plan that will take them on a curve which would reduce debt over time.
Many of the richer European nations like Germany are refusing to bail out nations like Greece, Portugal and Ireland, which have used their entry into the eurozone like a credit card.
The banks of these countries are wallowing in so much red ink that, while they were considered to be too big to fail, have become too big to bail out.
We are left with the serious possibility of a eurozone banking crisis which could spread to North America and unhinge global markets.
On Question Period this week we'll talk to the head of the Bank of Canada, Mark Carney, and get his assessment of how serious the global monetary and fiscal problems are and if the banking system is strong enough to weather the storm.
But the essential problem is not a monetary one, it's a balance sheet crisis and that takes political action to resolve.
Since there's nothing more important to the Canadian economy than energy, we'll also deal with the fierce debate taking place in the United States and in Canada over the Keystone XL pipeline, a multi-billion dollar plan to pipe heavy oil from the Alberta oilsands to Texas.
Among others, we'll hear from Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver.
Don't miss the show this week; we'll be talking about things that matter to you.