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Deficit 'permanent and it won't go away,' <br/> budget watchdog warns Add to ...

1. The "geek math" is in. Ignore what Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his Finance Minister, Jim Flaherty, say about the deficit. It is structural, says Kevin Page, the controversial Parliamentary Budget Officer.

"Even Mr. Flaherty is saying five years out you are still running deficits," he told The Globe this morning in an interview. "Implicitly even Mr. Flaherty is saying if he's got deficits for five years out, he's got a structural issue. You can't grow your way out. It's economist geek math. Structural means … it is permanent and it won't go away."

Mr. Page is to release a report later today that will talk about the structural issue as well as sound warnings that the government and the other parties must show Canadians how they plan to get out of this problem. Mr. Page said he hopes the government will lay out its plan in its upcoming budget, which is to be delivered when a new parliamentary session begins in early March.

He said by 2013 Canada should be recovered and "back to potential." However, Mr. Page said Canadians know what it's like to face permanent deficits - we faced those in the 70s and 80s. His advice to government: "Deal with it now when it's still a small problem."

"You could look at what happened to Japan in the 90s, you could look at what happened to the U.S. now and the UK right now, they have developed big problems. You can go very quickly from the relatively healthy fiscal situation to one that's very difficult," he said. "The number one issue in the UK election in the spring of this year will probably be public finances. It's going to be a big issue in the mid-terms of the United States. It's a big political issue."

He said this morning that Mr. Flaherty and the Prime Minister have produced no analysis showing that Canada is not in a structural deficit. "And I think there is a void and I think this is why we are getting some attention on this," he said.

Meanwhile, Mr. Page, whose blunt and frank reports have been a real thorn in the side of the Harper government, said his report doesn't give advice about raising taxes or cutting program spending. Rather, he says parliamentarians simply have to decide on what are appropriate targets to deal with the deficit over the next few years.

2. Nearly 180,000 and counting. The anti-prorogation Facebook group that started it all is boasting now 177,250 members. It is also featuring the venues and cities for anti-prorogation protests and rallies that are being planned across the country for January 23. So far there are about 40 rallies planned for cities in Eastern Canada, the West and even the North.

A protest group of ex-pats Canadians has started up in London, England. What about a rally in front of Westminster?

And as the momentum grows so does the officialdom/bureaucracy of the protest as organizers now have an executive structure, which includes communications directors and protest coordinators.

"Hello, I hope you are well," begins the release announcing the protest people and their positions. "Hundreds of thousands of Canadians are supporting the anti-prorogation movement. The aggregate of protests around Canada are slated to have a similar turn out. Thousands have already confirmed their decision to attend the Toronto rally."

(Photo: Kevin Page waits to testify before a Commons committee in November. Chris Wattie/Reuters)

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