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Whoa - what are we going to do for an encore?

Two elections, a funeral and a global financial crisis. Lots to write about but no blog entries. I won't go into details, but let's just say some of us at the FP were distracted in October and it's taken some of us a little while longer than others to get back on the beam. So here goes.

I'm wondering what in the political world is next? We had a fascinating federal election in Canada, a historic presidential election in the United States, a global financial meltdown and, on a somewhat somber note, the unexpected death of NDP cabinet minister Oscar Lathlin. It was flying fast and furious in October and the first part of November but now it seems quiet. Too quiet.

The Tories came to Winnipeg last week for a policy convention. Makes you wonder - if the Tories held a convention and everybody came, would it still have happened? There was so little news, and so much effort to control the movements of journalists covering the convention, that it almost makes you wonder why they did it at all. Deep sources in the party tell me many of the people who attended the event are now over their Elections Canada limit for personal donations to a political party after paying for their delegate fees. It was a good venue for patting themselves on the back - and they have reason to celebrate - but those of us who dropped in had to wonder about the value of the gathering.

Back on the Manitoba scene, the provincial NDP government is readying itself for a Speech from the Throne. This year, I pledge not to write the "Peggy Lee" column. You know, "Is that all there is?" The province is facing uncertain times. Frozen equalization payments, and the threat of a recession, has everyone on edge. And yet, Manitoba continues to have the rosiest economic outlook of all the provinces. And that Premier Gary Doer is certainly some soothsayer. While the feds were gutting the GST mere months before federal revenues went in the crapper, Doer was busy redrafting the Balanced Budget Law to allow the government to run short term deficits with a requirement the consolidated budget (operations plus crown corporations) is balanced on a three-year rolling average. Given the short-term economic prospects, it was pure brilliance. The legislation enacting these new provisions was left in limbo at the end of the last session. Expect Doer to move PDQ to get it passed in the fall session.

On that note, expect to hear soon that Manitoba Hydro is in the pink again, after a year of financial uncertainty that affected the viability of everything from its new downtown headquarters to its multibillion-dollar dam expansion campaign. Hydro president Bob Brennan has argued in the past that the formerly high Canadian dollar did not hurt Hydro's bottom line. This despite the fact that export sales involve U.S. dollars. The higher the U.S. dollar, the more Canadian dollars Hydro reports in profits. The lower the U.S. dollar, well you get the idea. The Public Utilities Board expressed concern about the high Canadian dollar in past decisions questioning the utility's fiscal stability.

Either way, you should expect that Hydro will be moving ahead aggressively to set contracts with the dollar low, and the next quarterly financial statement should look a little rosier.

I've got so much more to say, but each day is a new opportunity to blog so why not stop here and pick it up tomorrow.

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