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1. Washington's new hot spot. Brad Wall says Gary Doer is making Canada "cool" in America.

While many Harper ministers have come to Vancouver for the Olympic Games trying to drum up investment opportunities, the provincial premiers went to Washington last weekend on their own investment mission of sorts.

Fresh from that trip was the Saskatchewan Premier, who was in Vancouver yesterday for his provincial day at the Olympic Winter Games. And on his mind was his trip to the U.S. capital and his upcoming March 24 budget - a budget he says will be "fiscally tight," indicating his province will likely not be giving any money to the Own the Podium program, designed to support elite athletes.

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It has been a big focus at these Games as half of its $22-million in annual funding will end when the Games wrap up. "I know the chances of that [giving money to OTP]are probably not very good just because of the objectives we have for a very fiscally responsible budget," he said.

Federal sports minister Gary Lunn has echoed similar sentiments, saying the March 4 federal budget is unlikely to include new spending measures, leaving OTP with an $11-million shortfall.

Meanwhile, it doesn't seem that Canada's man in Washington is too worried about his entertainment budget.

"Ambassador Doer is making the embassy a cool place to be," he said, noting that Doer threw a party for 1,500 people for the opening of the Vancouver Games. Washington diplomats and high society dined on poutine, Mr. Wall said, referring to the Canadian culinary classic that mixes French fries, gravy and cheese curds.

For the much-anticipated hockey game Sunday between Canada and the United States, Mr. Doer invited 250 Canadians and 250 Americans over to the embassy to watch.

The Ambassador also put on a party for the visiting premiers, who were in the U.S. capital to talk to about 30 state Governors.

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and his wife, Maria Shriver, were there. Mr. Wall said many of the governors had been double booked but stayed for the Canadian embassy party.

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"We have in Ambassador Doer a [former]premier who is very much involved with his bilateral relationships …," Mr. Wall said.

"He helped to arrange meetings and the governors seemed to really welcome the chance to talk," he added. "If we are going to avoid protectionist measures like Buy America … we need points of contact and we need lots of voices."

2. Rights and Democracy's new president. Gerard Latulippe's defender comes from the left wing of the political world, an NDP veteran whose politics are in no way simpatico with those of Stephen Harper.

Leslie Campbell, a Manitoba New Democrat who worked in Ottawa for former NDP leader Audrey McLaughlin, is cheering on the Conservative government for appointing Mr. Latulippe as head of the troubled Montreal-based agency, Rights and Democracy.

For the last 16 years, Mr. Campbell has worked in Washington as the National Democratic Institute's regional director for the Middle East and North Africa. And he has worked closely with Mr. Latulippe, who most recently served as NDI's resident director in Haiti.

"There is irony here somewhere," Mr. Campbell said. "I don't want to be seen as some knee-jerk supporter of the government."

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However, he felt compelled to come to Mr. Latulippe's defence as the blogosphere erupted, criticizing Mr. Latulippe as a Harper shill appointed to run what is supposed to be an arms-length organization from government.

The opposition has seized on connections between Mr. Latulippe and former Canadian Alliance leader Stockwell Day, now the Treasury Board President. Mr. Latulippe had worked as Mr. Day's Quebec lieutenant and had also run in the province as an Alliance candidate.

"The place [Rights and Democracy]has been in chaos and now their solution is to appoint an ex-Alliance party candidate," Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff said this week. "You think that's going to solve the problem? I think it's going to make the problem worse."

Mr. Latulippe was named to the post this week, replacing president Remy Beauregard, who passed away suddenly last month. There has been much criticism that the Conservatives politicized the agency by stacking the board with staunchly pro-Israel members.

The Liberals argue Mr. Harper created a mess with the agency "by appointing hyper-partisan people to the board. Now, they are making it worse by appointing a former Canadian Alliance supporter."

Yet, Mr. Campbell argues that Mr. Latulippe's appointment is a credible one, given his former colleague's international experience.

He noted that Mr. Latulippe worked with Ms. McLaughlin - who had also been with NDI - on projects in Morocco, including helping get through what is considered one of the most progressive family laws in the Arab world and a quota system, ensuring at least 30 of 300 elected to Parliament be women.

"He is just highly respected in the whole field," Mr. Campbell said. "I just don't understand the questioning of his credentials."

(Editorial cartoon by Brian Gable/The Globe and Mail)

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