Finance officials bit their nails and nervously watched the clock.
There were 30 minutes left in a bond auction aimed at funding the deficit and there was not a single bid.
Sounds like today's Italy or Greece?
No, this was Canada in 1994.
Bids eventually came in, but that close call, along with downgrades and the Wall Street Journal calling Canada "an honorary member of the Third World," helped the nation's people and politicians understand how scary its budget problem was.
"There would have been a day when we would have been the Greece of today," recalled then-prime minister Jean Chretien, a Liberal who ended up chopping cherished social programs in one of the most dramatic fiscal turnarounds ever.
Image: A view of Parliament hill in Ottawa.
Text: Randall Palmer and Louise Egan, Reuters