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Saturday Round Up: The Week that Wasn't

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Two major government budgets were released this week, by Ontario and the Feds respectively; as widely anticipated, both will balance spending and eliminate debt by the end of the year with no cuts to any social services. Critics from the left and right applauded the leaders for showing such fiscal responsibility while managing to balance the needs of all Canadian citizens. Asked how he expected to deal with the looming crisis with old age pensions, Prime Minister Harper noted that the budget called for the phasing out of seniors beginning in 2016...

Okay, now that I've got my April Fool's joke out of the way, let's look back upon the messy conflagration of human events that constitutes last week's news highlights here at Huffpost. Maybe the big news about the budgets was their lack of news: in both cases, the "draconian cuts" expected failed to materialize. Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty largely eschewed the hard choices recommended in the Drummond Report; and government spending under Harper is set to rise. Contributor J.J. McCullough summed up the reaction to the Ontario budget for many with "Meh." Ditto with his observation that the federal budget "only confirms Harper's dullness," noting, "The 2012 federal budget was the last silky adornment to be peeled off in Stephen Harper's long dance of seven veils with Canadian Conservatives. Turns out there's not much underneath."

Those were not the views necessarily from many of our contributors from the left: depending upon whom you read, the federal budget spelled doomsday for our environment/a victory for big oil and corporations/pending poverty for seniors/the death of the CBC. Contributor Martha Hall Findlay felt the budget fell short on austerity and prosperity; similar criticisms poured in from Canadian Labor Congress head Ken Georgetti, the Green Party's Elizabeth May, and Environmental Defence's Gillian MacEachern. On the other side of the hallway, conservatives such as Senator Claude Carignan praised the budget as "a vigorous economic action plan for Canada" -- while others approved the breaks that will be extended to the West, in terms of decreased regulation and immigration reform (read contributor Steve LaFleur's take on how the Western provinces will benefit from the budget). And David Frum heralded the budget as yet another example of why Canada continues to be "the best governed democracy on earth:"

Canada [compared to the U.S. and European countries] has been seeking to move at [an economic] pace that's just right -- and with the 2012 budget, Canada continues to succeed. Barring an unexpected slump into renewed recession, Thursday's budget moves Canada to budget balance over the next three years. There will be no tax increases. Federal spending growth will be restrained, but outlays will still rise: from $272.9 billion in the year just ended to a projected $296.6 billion in 2015-2016.

You can read a round up of reaction from both sides here. And if you haven't been following veteran news analyst Tim Knight's "Watching the Watchdog" column you should be -- and most recently his assessment how the cuts to the CBC could actually yield a better product.

Can we please move to a sexier topic than the budget? Yes we can. Will prostitutes and brothels do it for you? Sure -- and in a potentially safer environment, thanks to a ruling by Ontario's top court, which seeks to legalize these dens of sin. By bringing prostitutes out of the shadows -- or in the words of the judicial panel, "a world of dark streets and barren, isolated, silent places" -- and indoors, workplace standards of safety might be applied. (Hmm, I'd like to see the inspection teams on this one. "I'm sorry, Madame, but these whips and cuffs violate Domanatrix code, Section 2, which states as follows pertaining to the requirements and safety of sexual equipment ...") You can read a vivid and powerful description of the dangers sex workers habitually face on the streets, by SteppingStone's Rene Ross, here.

And moving over to the animal rights department, Huffposter readers may have been astonished (and horrified) by contributor Douglas Anthony Cooper's definitive expose of PETA's pet killing record. Celebrities who get naked to support the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals campaign against furs might want to reconsider putting their clothes back on after reading Cooper's chilling piece:

"In 2011, PETA killed 97 per cent of the animals delivered into its care.... You would rather go naked than wear fur? That's admirable. Can I interest you in posing for another slogan? "I would rather jump naked into an industrial meat grinder than lend credibility to [PETA founder] Ingrid Newkirk's death cult."

It's this sort of original reporting and commentary that make me proud to be part of Huffpost. And others are waking up to it as well -- most recently, and notably, with reporter Rachel Mendleson's article on the decline of unions -- part of our ongoing Mind the Gap series on income inequality -- being nominated for a Canadian Association Of Journalists Award.

More political nonsense to come in the week ahead (which is maybe why Lance Armstrong told our Rebecca Zamon that he would avoid politics) -- especially when Tory Senator Patrick Brazeau submits to having his head shaved in the foyer of the House of Commons. Having lost the widely publicized charity boxing match to Liberal MP Justin Trudeau, getting scalped, so to speak, was part of the loser's deal. Personally I was hoping to see Trudeau's wild, girly mane go under the clippers. But he won fair and square.

Maybe next year, Stephen Harper will take on new NDP leader Thomas Mulcair in the ring? The latter is suddenly running neck and neck in the polls. (For those who missed it, see Ottawa bureau chief Althia Raj's definitive coverage of Mulcair's win at last week's NDP convention.) Absent an election any time soon, a boxing match may be a more fun way to settle the score...