Sure, the potential bailout of the Detroit auto makers is about economics. But it's also about politics and, like many things political, it lurches forward unpredictably and cloaked in obscurity.
It's been two weeks since executives from Canada's branch-plant vehicle assemblers came to Queen's Park to seek financial help in surviving what one Detroit executive saw as the "financial chasm" opened up by plummeting vehicle sales.
The executives ran from reporters then, and they're still not being upfront about what they want from the federal and Ontario governments.
We have a pretty good idea that the Detroit Three are asking for $6-billion in loans and lines of credit, but that's unofficial, because the auto companies have yet to disclose details about what they want and what plans they have for Ontario's assembly plants.
There's a growing sense of frustration in the Ontario government about this lack of transparency.
Premier Dalton McGuinty warned the auto companies that it's a two-way street and they shouldn't "try to pull the wool over our eyes."
Meanwhile, the government is looking awfully passive. Economic Development Minister Michael Bryant acknowledged yesterday that the public wants the details of the companies' bailout request and future plans "sooner rather than later" and threatened to disclose as much as he knows. But he refused to set a deadline.
The government's problem is that it has to help the Detroit Three and they know it.
The $28-billion broader auto sector in Ontario provides one of every seven jobs, which means it has to be sustained. Some purists argue that the companies should be allowed to fail, but Mr. McGuinty, who needs the support of voters for his job, is not one of them.
"Some have argued that the best thing to do is to allow the creative forces of destruction to play themselves out," he said.
"But from the perspective of somebody who loses their job, there's no creativity, it's all destruction."
He said he favours a rescue not because he feels accountable to "a disembodied corporate entity in the auto sector" but rather because he's concerned about the 400,000 "flesh and blood people who count on the auto sector for a living.
"That's how they pay their rent, that's how they buy their groceries, that's how they pay their mortgage, that's how they raise their kids."
Crafting a bailout package is complicated, however, by the number of players with a role. There are two levels of government, a prime minister, a premier, the three companies and the U.S. head offices to whom they answer.
And that's just in Canada. In the United States, there's an outgoing and incoming administration and the usual free-for-all in Congress that makes it difficult to determine what's on the table.
Ontario is also struggling with how much of a bailout it can afford.
The government is already running a $500-million deficit, and will likely have a much higher one next year.
The cost of the bailout package would be added to this deficit, but Finance Minister Dwight Duncan is getting conflicting advice about what would constitute a "reasonable" shortfall that wouldn't alarm private-sector analysts.
If next year's deficit forecast becomes alarmingly high - not unreasonable, given job losses and a slowdown in consumer spending - no one knows how the bailout would be handled.
Meanwhile, Mr. McGuinty is laying the political groundwork for significant job losses in Canada as the industry restructures and as the Americans realize that production in Canada is disproportionate to sales.
He warns that his government is not a Fairy Godmother that can protect workers from declining demand for Detroit's products.
"We can't do that," he said. "I don't think it's reasonable to expect that we even try to do that."