While the bears on the links might have been a bad omen to some asset-backed players, most duffers at last week's Second Annual Asset Securitization Forum in Whistler, B.C. treated it like last fall's year-end market turmoil, and played through.

Over 300 ABS folk from across Canada, as well as from the U.S. and abroad, discussed what most agreed was a bright future for the Canadian market in the coming year. While the weather may have been a little chilly, the atmosphere was not.

Securitization staffers from the big banks enjoyed seeing a few more potential new issuers testing the waters and making contacts at the conference, saying it was a nice improvement over last year. Sessions were well attended.

"It's nice to know someone here hasn't gone to law school," quipped one attendee, noting the heavy representation from the country's leading securities law firms.

"This conference is still in its infancy," said Lynn Kaminski, president of Insight Information, the conference's organizer. "But the feedback's been positive. Overall, it has met most people's needs from a program point-of-view and from a networking point-of-view."

Many of the sessions were geared towards newcomers to the marketplace, "real nuts and bolts stuff," said one big bank ABS staffer.

"It's true there's still the dominance from the big banks as far as asset classes go, and it's true we still have investor education issues," said another big bank attendee. "But the door is opening a little more to newer deals."

"We'll see more of these private-government partnering deals very soon, definitely some toll road deals at the very least," said one federal government attendee.

But during the conference, the pitfalls of securitizing government-backed cash flows were shown following an election of a new government in New Brunswick, where securitization looks to be a plan for a new toll road. Premier-elect Bernard Lord campaigned on a promise to end tolls on the highway, so the deal is up in the air. - TC

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