The Lear Jet repo man

June 6, 2009

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Pretty wild story I came across today…
– FlashAddict

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Business has never been better for the fearless pilot who takes back millionaires’ expensive toys.

By Marc Weingarten

June 6, 2009 | It was snowing hard when the bank called Nick Popovich. They needed to grab a Gulfstream in South Carolina now. Not tomorrow. Tonight.

All commercial and private planes were grounded, but Nick Popovich wasn’t one to turn down a job. So he waited for the storm to clear long enough to charter a Hawker jet from Chicago into South Carolina. There was just one detail: No one had told Popovich about the heavily armed white supremacist militia that would be guarding the aircraft when he arrived.

But then again, no one had told the militia about Popovich, a brawny and intimidating man who has been jailed and shot at and has faced down more angry men than a prison warden. When Popovich and two of his colleagues arrived that evening at a South Carolina airfield, they were met by a bunch of nasty-looking thugs with cocked shotguns. “They had someone in the parking lot with binoculars,” Popovich says, recalling the incident. “When we went to grab the plane, one of them came out with his weapon drawn and tells us we better get out of there.” Undeterred, Popovich continued toward the plane until he felt a gun resting on his temple.

“You move another inch and I’ll blow your fucking head off,” the gravel-and-nicotine voice told Popovich.

“Well, you better go ahead and shoot, ’cause I’m grabbing that plane.”

A shot was discharged in the air.

The gravel-and-nicotine voice again. “I’m not kidding.”

“Then do it already.”

Popovich’s first rule of firearms is pretty simple: The man who tells you he’s going to shoot you will not shoot you. So without so much as looking back, he got on the plane and flew it right to Chicago. “My job is to grab that plane,” Popovich says. “And if you haven’t paid for it, then it’s mine. And I don’t like to lose.”

Nick Popovich is a repo man, but not the kind that spirits away Hyundais from suburban driveways. Popovich is a super repo man, one of a handful of specialists who get the call when a bank wants back its Gulfstream II jet from, say, a small army of neo-Nazi freaks.

For the past three decades, Popovich has been one of a secret tribe of big game hunters who specialize in stealing jets from the jungle hideouts of corrupt landowners in Colombia, Mexico and Brazil and swiping go-fast boats from Wall Street titans in Miami and East Hampton. Super repos have been known to hire swat teams, hijack supertankers and fly off with eastern bloc military helicopters. For a cut of the overall value, they’ll repossess anything.

But Popovich is the most renowned of them all — the Ernest Hemingway of super repo men. “Nick is the best of the best,” says Doug Lipke, head of the bankruptcy group for the law firm Vedder Price, who has called Popovich on numerous occasions to retrieve jumbo jets from fat cats with thinning balance sheets. One time, Lipke needed a plane repo-ed from Michigan and flown to Chicago. “All the electrical went out on the plane and Nick was flying at night,” he says. “He flew that plane back with zero electricity — no lights, nothing. There aren’t many guys that would be able to do that.”

Today Popovich, 56, is co-partner of Sage-Popovich, a repossession firm. (Sage is his wife, Pat, also the firm’s president.) Their clients include Citibank, Transamerica and Credit Suisse, and the firm annually earns, Popovich says, “into the low-to-mid seven figures.” That estimate isn’t ridiculous when you consider that the most difficult jobs can net Popovich anywhere from $600,000 to $900,000. Popovich’s specialty is big planes, jumbo jets, mostly; he’s repo-ed 1,300 of them in his career. And that’s just the solo gigs. Throw in the 65 repo men who work for him, and the number reaches closer to 2,000.

His mandate is simple. Someone misses a few payments. The bank wants to recover its plane. There will be an attempt to set up some kind of debt payment plan. Failing that, collateral has to be ponied up. If there is none, then an account executive reaches out to Popovich. But Jumbo Jets are expensive — a 747 will run you anywhere from $125 million to $260 million — and people who try to acquire such toys are loath to give them back. If the deadbeat gets wind that the bank is sniffing around his plane, he’s likely to spirit it away before anyone has a chance to grab it, and then it becomes a cat-and-rat game that can take months to complete.

And times have never been better. When lenders opened the sluice gates of easy credit throughout the last decade, high rollers went out and splurged on Gulfstreams and yachts. When the job goes away, the bonuses dry up and the stock market tanks, it’s a long and nasty downward spiral that leads to Popovich’s door. “Oh, those guys are a real piece of work,” says Popovich of the fallen Masters of the Universe. “We’ve had to fly halfway around the world just to find a plane we were told would be in Dallas. You have to think like a crook to find them.”

These days, Popovich is fielding assignments as fast as he can handle them. “We’ve got a lot of business right now,” he says. “We recently recovered planes from Okun and Nadel.” Popovich is referring to Edward Okun and Arthur G. Nadel, two Bernie Madoff-manqués that have been accused of stealing hundreds of millions of dollars from unsuspecting clients who thought they were safely investing their money ($300 million in Nadel’s case, the largest alleged hedge fund fraud in Florida history). Among the booty that Popovich was hired to return were two Gulfstream IIs and a Lear Jet.

A good super repo man has a skill set that’s some mad hybrid of cat burglar, F.B.I. agent and con artist. And there’s real danger that comes with the job,  not just ticked-off homeowners wielding baseball bats. According to the American Recovery Association, there are, on average, one or two repo-related deaths a year.

In 2006, a Czechoslovakian-made Albatross L-39 combat jet lifted off from Sitka, Alaska, and crashed into a trailer park in the small community of Ketchikan, Alaska. The pilot was found dead 100 yards from the destruction, still strapped into his seat. He had no identification on him. His profession was listed as repo man. In Minnesota, a boat repo specialist named Kim Zarbinksi was repelled when the angry owner of a 40-foot yacht refused to give him his boat. So Zarbinksi resorted to sterner measures. He hired a SWAT team to help him grab the rotten booty.

You want stories? Popovich has volumes. And tells them without a note of bragging or conceit. On a recent warm afternoon, the unfailingly polite repo man and I are strolling through his cavernous warehouse in Gary, Ind. It feels like browsing a Costco run by the Pentagon. There are airplane parts as far as the eye can see — jet engines sit on shelves next to wheel casings and propellers. The detritus of a recent job sits in gigantic vats — hundreds of headphones in one, telephones in another.

Right now the warehouse is overflowing thanks to his most ambitious job to date: “stealing” a fleet of 240 corporate helicopters from a chain of flight schools for a tidy six-figure fee. Nevada-based Silver State was one of the country’s fastest growing companies, mainly because its owner Jerry Airola was constructing a pyramid scheme as tall as the Cheops. When everything collapsed, Popovich was hired to retrieve 240 copters from 51 locations around the country. In 24 hours, Nick and his 125-member crew had to change the locks at all 51 Silver Star schools, then move in 125 flatbeds to haul not only the copters but everything else they could carry — furniture, spare parts, computers, simulators.

“The copters were a mess,” says Popovich. “Some of them hadn’t been flown in months. Once we shipped them all back to the warehouse, we stripped the worst ones for parts for the bank. I figured that at least we were putting them to good use that way.”

Inside his 120-acre, ranch-style compound in rural Valparaiso, Ind., Popovich recalls some of his most notorious adventures in disarmingly soft-spoken and courtly tones. There was the time in the ’80s when he was thrown into a Haitian jail cell. Jail stints came with the job, but this time was different.

Inside the cell, Haitian cops had turned Popovich’s face inside out. The pain was ungodly. His shoes were gone. He was starving. And Popovich was sitting in a cage surrounded by 35 prisoners spitting epithets in his face. His only priority was to avoid getting hurt any worse than he already was. In his experience, that meant behaving like a total maniac, lashing out at the nearest prisoners and threatening to kill anyone that came near him.

The charge was the attempted theft of a 707 jumbo jet and he was facing 20 years to life. The jet in question belonged to a Caribbean tour company that went bust. After a few missed payments, the bank had called Popovich, who had tracked the plane from the Dominican Republic to Haiti. The gig promised to be simple. Popovich even spotted the battered silver-and-blue jet on the tarmac as he taxied into Port Au Prince’s Toussaint L’Ouverture airport on a sweltering February afternoon. All he needed was an hour to check the avionics, an open runway and a flight plan. It hadn’t worked out that way.

By the third day of his imprisonment — sometime after the American embassy politely informed him that the bank employing him wouldn’t put up $100,000 in bail — details started to come back. The tracer fire pinging the plane’s wings like popcorn kernels. Men with bayonets slamming on the fuselage. A police cruiser skidding to a halt right in front of the jet, blocking the runway and preventing Nick from taking off. The cops beating him senseless and throwing him in Penitentier National prison. And now, here he was.

On the seventh day of his incarceration, Haitian President Baby Doc Duvalier was overthrown and the rioting masses swung open all of the cell doors. Bruised, bloody and sleepless, Popovich hobbled out of his cell. As he taxied down the runway for the second time. he couldn’t help thinking that what they said was true: Flying home is always the easy part.

Reared in Hammond, Ind. — just a few miles from his current Valparaiso home base — Popovich got his pilot license when he was 16 because his father thought it might be useful some day. It was the only time he ever said “yes” to Dad. He tried Indiana University for a semester but it didn’t take.

Then in 1975 he met two men named Toby Howard and Billy Day in Wichita while hanging with some mutual friends. A pair of hustlers, they had all kinds of ideas for how to get rich quick. Popovich followed them for six months, hawking faulty tire repair kits that would explode in winter and some multilevel marketing schemes. The contacts he’d make through Howard and Day led him into small-time arms dealing. Popovich bought out a Utah company that had been indicted for weapons violations and turned it into a thriving business. “We built .22 caliber weapons into briefcases with micro switches and laser sightings,” he says. He sold his guns to the Canadian Special Ops and maybe to a few places he shouldn’t have. He mentions something about being “in South America at the wrong time.” He also drops a hint about conducting business in Iraq.

Popovich became a Braniff pilot in 1976. But that was boring. So he quit. He wouldn’t find his true calling until 1979, when a banker friend asked for his help getting back a Cessna 310 from a small-time chartering business. “I flew down there, grabbed it and got paid for it. I didn’t think anything of it,” he says. “I dropped off the plane and the guy calls yelling his head off. He says, ‘You didn’t ask for enough money! Send me a new bill but multiply it by three!'”

A few days later, Popovich found $145,000 in his checking account. A super repo man had been born.

Sage-Popovich now has 65 super repos, ranging from former crop-dusters and commercial pilots to Marines and airport mechanics. One of Popovich’s aces, Ed Dearborn, flew for Air America, the CIA’s covert Vietnam-era airline, and even helped build landing strips in remote jungle outposts in Southeast Asia. A good year is five popped planes; Kevin Lacey, one of Popovich’s best men, grabs 10 when he’s on a roll.

Now that Popovich has worked with some of his guys for 20 years or more, he has learned to take good care of them. When Lacey was imprisoned while attempting to snatch a jet in Brazil a few years ago, Popovich made sure the local hotel shipped edible food to his cell until the legal mess could be cleared up. It was the least he could do, given the fact that Lacey had been dragged in humiliating fashion right through the passenger terminal in handcuffs. “The inmates in Brazilian jails have more guns than the police,” said Lacey. “It’s best to make friends with them quickly.”

Because Lacey is a master mechanic, he is an invaluable resource for lenders. If a plane is sitting on blocks, its windows cracked and its avionics blown out, Lacey can fix it and fly it out. He’s also pretended to be a mechanic on numerous occasions; it gets him inside the plane and up in the air a lot quicker. That plane in Brazil required the use of a “claw hammer and rusty pliers” for Lacey to fix it.

Like most super repo guys, Lacey works freelance and flies just about everything with two wings. He’s certified in eight types of aircraft. The Air Force would be lucky to have him, but the repo game is far more thrilling. And a lot more lucrative.

The money is pretty good, depending on the size of the plane and the complexity of the repo. But for Lacey, the job is its own reward, despite the fact that many pilots consider it an unseemly profession. “My tact and my diligence are my greatest weapons,” he says. “I have to think and react before someone else does, or I’m sunk. Often, they will be on the lookout for you, so you find yourself chasing something while someone else is chasing you.”

The super repo business is extremely time-sensitive; Popovich must calibrate his maneuvers with military precision or else the entire operation crumbles. The minute Popovich gets a call, he has his team prepare a “Repo Book,” which contains all of the relevant documentation necessary to take back a plane. An airport won’t let you fly off with a jumbo jet without all kinds of paperwork: lease terminations, powers of attorney, customs bonds and certificates of insurance. (There’s a reason Sage-Popovich has eight lawyers on retainer.) Within an hour of the initial contact, everything is accounted for, all the way down to the catering for the crew.

While the Repo Book is assembled, Popovich will get his scouts on the ground to figure out where the plane is. The company has people all over the globe who are more than happy to track down an item for him for a small fee. More often than not, the aircraft will turn up in a major airport or commercial hub, and from there it’s easy sailing: Show up, hand over the documentation, get in the cockpit and fly away. Popovich estimates that three-quarters of his jobs go off exactly that way.

The rest are stickier affairs — starring angry owners, armed security, even intransigent airport workers, who will be out tens of thousands of dollars in unpaid fuel, landing fees and maintenance costs if a plane suddenly goes missing. In that case, half the game for Popovich is sneaking on to the aircraft and flying it out before anyone’s hip to what he’s doing. “That’s why you never, ever use the plane’s two-way radio,” says Popovich with a laugh. “People might get wind of your plans before you even have a chance to secure your seat belt. If you need to file a flight plan, you use your cell phone to call the tower.”

One time, he pretended to be a limo driver picking up a client. When airport security turned its back, Popovich slipped off his black overcoat and eight-point chauffeur cap and finagled his way onto the plane.

Aircraft on a runway is a lot easier to grab, but the walk to the cockpit is longer than the Bataan Death March. You might as well radio the tower before walking up to a vacant jet without permission, because you’re inevitably going to get busted. For a repo job in Miami, Popovich commandeered a catering truck from a friendly driver and the crew let him on board unbidden. On numerous occasions he has loaded his guys into a baggage cart, dropped the curtain and driven up to the cargo hold. From there, it’s a slinky stretch on hands and knees from the luggage compartment into the cockpit.

Really tough targets require sterner measures. In 1998, Popovich was hired to repo two jets in the possession of Francois Arpels, scion of the Van Cleef and Arpels jewelry empire. Arpels had leased two Boeing MD-81s for a charter service he started called Fairlines, but failed to make his payments.

“I landed in Paris and contacted Arpels to see if we could work something out,” says Popovich. “Arpels tells me, ‘I’m Francois Arpels and this is Paris. You will never find the planes.’ I looked him right in the eye and told him, ‘Frankie, they are all but gone. Trust me.’ He hated the fact that I called him Frankie. That really got under his skin.”

Using his European scouts, Popovich tracked one plane in Milan; the other was sitting on the tarmac near Terminal One at Charles DeGaulle Airport. The MD-81 was covered in official-looking documentation written in French, so Popovich just ripped everything off and hopped in. Big mistake. The airport cops stopped him as he was taxiing and threw him in a cell overnight. The next day, a French magistrate had handcuffs slapped on Popovich and ordered him returned to Chicago. “I was more determined than ever to grab those damn planes,” he says. “You push me, I push back harder.”

A few weeks later he snuck back into the country, convinced a captain with an Air Afrique fuel bus to fill up Arpel’s Boeing and flew it out. But the Milan plane was trickier. The engine was behaving erratically, and no sane person should fly a bird with a hinky engine. Popovich had a replacement engine in Munich (engine-swapping is a common occurrence in the business) and the only way to get it would be to make the 50 minute flight and pray.

As his pilot Ed Dearborn climbed to altitude, Popovich remembers sitting in the back, furtively stealing looks at that shaky equipment. “The whole time I sat there thinking, ‘If that engine lets go, I’m fucked.'” When they got to Germany and opened it up, the mechanics estimated that another couple of hours of airtime and the thing would have melted down. Along with Nick and his guys.

Popovich even met his wife on a repo. He was casing an exotic car company in Chicago when a leonine blond walked in to the dealership. “We all looked at each other and said, ‘A hundred bucks for the first guy that nails her,'” he says. “Twenty million dollars in business together later, here we are.” The couple’s two boys, Zachary, 18 and Max, 20, work for Sage-Popovich when they can. Zachary attends college and does repos in his spare time.

Popovich’s daredevil days are behind him for the most part; now he’s working with a new generation to do the job. He would like his two sons to go about it a little differently than he did. Maybe a bit more cautiously, for starters. He wants his son Zach to take over the business one day, but “he wants to open a bar in Sun Valley instead.” He has in mind an exit strategy, though he’s not sure when, if ever, he’ll implement it. Life is too good to stop now. Just pick up the paper — every day word breaks of another investor, another pyramid scheme, another crook who has a date with Popovich.

Tooling around Valparaiso in his Bentley, with Bob Dylan playing softly in the background, Popovich tries to put into words just how great it feels to pull off a big repo job. “It’s like a giant chess game, and the stakes can be your life,” he says. “It’s always a different challenge, a test of how smart you are. Can you outfox someone else? There’s always going to be some covert action involved. And you throw a big payoff in there, well, it’s just intoxicating.” He pauses. “Repossessing a giant, gleaming multimillion dollar plane is kind of like courting a beautiful woman. Sometimes the chase is better than the catch.” And the chase is never complete.

http://www.salon.com/news/feature/2009/06/06/lear_jet_repo_man/

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B.C. premier Gordon Campbell to change no-deficit law for budget

February 3, 2009

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Very eloquent speech by Gordon Campbell about the reality of the current financial situation in British Columbia and around the world…
– FlashAddict

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By Stephen Hui
Presenting today’s (February 2) economic update with Finance Minister Colin Hansen, Premier Gordon Campbell found himself trying to explain why his government plans two years of deficits.

While Campbell said he is opposed to deficits, he argued they are necessitated by the “seismic shift in the world’s economies”.

Indeed, the premier hates deficits so much that his Liberal government made them illegal in 2001.

Section 2 (“Prohibition against deficit budgets”) of the Balanced Budget and Ministerial Accountability Act states: “The main estimates for a fiscal year must not contain a forecast of a deficit for that fiscal year.”

So, to make its next two budgets legal, Campbell’s government will have to amend its own legislation.

The B.C. Economic Forecast Council has forecast zero economic growth in 2009 and a 2.8-percent expansion of real GDP in 2010.

Here’s a transcript of Campbell’s remarks on his government’s economic update:

This is a very difficult day.

Colin has laid out the picture.

Over the last few weeks the slides haven’t been getting any better.

I’d like to thank Colin, all our deputies and all the officials in finance for the exceptional work they have done in the last weeks.

As you probably all know the general framework for the budget is normally finalized by mid December. That was not possible this year, if we wanted to present a credible budget document in February.

Everything has been changing. Over the last few weeks we have been forced to confront the most difficult decisions I have ever personally faced in two decades of public life.

I have been pretty clear. I abhor deficits.

But the changes have come too fast and too big for me to honestly tell you we can credibly present a balanced budget on February 17th without doing significant harm to critical health services and essential education services.

I know what I have said. I know the clips and I am sure we will all be reminded of them in the days ahead. I wrestled with this decision for many sleepless nights.

I know I will have supporters who counted on me and on us who will be disappointed, some may be angry.

But I hope they will understand that in these unprecedented times we must ALL take action that reaches beyond ideology to protect the services that are essential in the short term, so we are stronger in the long term.

I don’t believe in deficits. I have consistently railed against them for my two decades in public life.

My colleagues in our caucus dislike deficits as much as me. But we are facing a situation we couldn’t plan for. We haven’t experienced anything like it before in scope, speed, scale, suddenness and synchronicity.

It has been a stark reminder that no one can escape the global forces at play.

There’s been a seismic shift in the world’s economies.

It was just a couple of weeks ago that it became clear, that without massive reductions in planned health and education budgets that a credible balanced budget was not achievable.

I meant it when I said, as I have in so many ways, “when anyone talks about a deficit, they’re talking about turning their back on the next generation and sending our problems forward to them.”

That’s true, especially if you allow deficits to build, year after year, as empty debt, with nothing to show for it.

That is why we worked so hard in B.C. to pay down our operating debt.

Through prudent fiscal management and some very tough decisions, we’ve cut that operating debt by 47 per cent from its peak. We’ve reduced it by $7.4 billion over the last five years. But there’s still another $8.3 billion to go, in addition to whatever gets added back in the next two years.

However, today we face reduced economic growth and a precipitous collapse in projected revenues that has thrown all our earlier budget plans out the window.

Maybe we should have seen it coming.

In December our forecast council was forecasting a 0.6 per cent economic growth for ‘09. By January, that had fallen to zero.

It is very difficult to finalize a credible budget when so many parts are moving so fast. To give you an idea, previously the most dramatic shift the senior finance staff had seen was $100 million in one week. This year they saw a shift of $300 million in one day.

Today the jury’s out on whether our growth will be flat or whether we are already living with the “R” word. However, if we want to build confidence, we have to plan for some bad news and work tirelessly to create some good news.

We are determined to present to the public our best assessment of what we face and how we plan to deal with it.

I meant it in the fall when I said, “We don’t need to run deficits” and that we would not run a deficit in this province. I didn’t think we did or would.

Those comments were made in anticipation of the budget that we were actively planning to deliver on February 17. Since then, our revenue expectations have been repeatedly revised and new expenditure pressures have emerged.

The balanced budget we were planning even in December included a provision for reasonable forecast allowance that would have provided the confidence necessary to make it credible.

And here’s the really hard part. The truth is – we could STILL deliver a balanced budget that would comply with our legislation.

But to do that, we would have to cut hundreds of millions out of planned budget increases for health care and education.

We would have to table a budget with absolutely no margin for error and no room to manage in the event our forecasts are wrong.

It would be a budget that hurts more than it helps while aggravating our current economic predicament. In short, it would be a budget that satisfied the law, but that undermined public confidence and our province’s fiscal credibility.

One of the worst things that ever happened to British Columbia’s reputation was the NDP “fudge-it budgets.”

The only thing worse than a deficit budget is a duplicitous budget. That is why we introduced truth in budgeting legislation and Generally Accepted Accounting Principles. No matter how politically tough it may be to table a deficit budget, the heart of any budget’s credibility is its commitment to telling the truth.

As viscerally challenging as this decision is, I believe people expect their government to be honest and transparent about the challenges at hand – that they don’t want us clinging to ideology or dogma at the expense of the public interest.

This is a tough decision and people will judge us for it.

We will be recalling the Legislature on noon Monday, February 9, a day earlier than planned.

We will take that full week, and through that weekend if necessary, to debate the legislative changes necessary to ensure that the budget we table is legally compliant.

Those amendments will effectively suspend the current balanced budget requirement for the next two years.

They will require the budget to be balanced in 2011/12 and thereafter.

They will also require that every penny of future operating surplus is first applied to eliminating the direct operating debt.

The Speech from the Throne will be delivered on Monday, February 16, and the budget will be presented as legally required, the next day.

It will be a budget that protects and increases funding for health and education, consistent with the 2008 budget.

It will be a budget that includes immediate, time-limited investments to support job creation and to help build confidence in these turbulent times.

And I hope everyone hears this: it will NOT be a budget that abandons our obligations to future generations.

Just because we have been forced to present a deficit budget that may be unavoidable for the next two years, does not mean that we will not also manage down spending during that time.

On the contrary, we WILL.

You will see significant reductions in every area of discretionary spending – in travel, advertising, administration, service contracts, grants and contributions and some government programs.

In short, discretionary spending will be kept to a minimum.

A new restrictive spending regime will be put in place. We will do everything we can to protect core services.

We have created a fund out of savings to mitigate impacts on individuals and to make smart decisions to ensure we have critical staff available for key programs. We have also made a purposeful effort to ensure that it is not just the lower ranks of staff that manage through change. The senior executive ranks will be reduced by 20 per cent to contribute to this overall belt-tightening.

This will be the toughest budget we have ever faced.

There is far less room for cost savings in our budgets today than there was seven years ago.

British Columbians have been fantastic in helping us to manage those pressures in their interests.

We will not return to the days of runaway spending, high taxes and endless deficits.

We will not abandon our abiding commitment to fiscal discipline.

This is not about changing priorities. It’s about protecting them.

We will demonstrate the depth of that conviction.

To the extent there is new stimulus spending, it will be focused and limited to the next two or three years.

Every effort will be made to minimize the structural deficit.

That will be evident on February 17.

I regret that we are faced today with this situation.

But I want to assure everyone that we will not only get through this difficult period; we will emerge stronger than ever.

The relative strength of our economy and our strong fiscal position will allow us to do just that.

There is no place better positioned to successfully get through this than British Columbia.

We will use this period to embark on a building program for our province that will create jobs in every region of the province.

We will lay that out in more detail in the days ahead.

Tough as it is today for so many, our fastest route forward is to build stability and confidence in our future. That is what our budget will be all about.

http://www.straight.com/article-199550/bc-premier-gordon-campbell-change-nodeficit-law-budget