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5 Issues The Liberals Must Address With The Return Of Parliament

01/25/2016 01:59 EST | Updated 01/25/2017 05:12 EST
GEOFF ROBINS via Getty Images
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau listens as Governor General David Johnston delivers the Speech from the Throne to the start Canada's 42nd parliament Ottawa, Canada on December 4, 2015. AFP PHOTO/GEOFF ROBINS / AFP / GEOFF ROBINS (Photo credit should read GEOFF ROBINS/AFP/Getty Images)

After 83 days in power for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, the House of Commons has resumed sitting.

Ottawa will be back in full swing with hundreds of new staffers settling into their new roles. As ministers return to the question period briefed up, staffed up and, ideally, rested up from the holiday, we will see a more comfortable team working to deliver on the government priorities set out in their platform and Speech from the Throne: growing the economy for the middle class, providing Canadians with open and transparent government and fighting climate change.

As the 42nd Parliament returns and we approach the "first 100 days" milestone for Trudeau, there are several key storylines and hot-button issues the Liberal government will have to address in the coming weeks.

Here are five things to watch for this session.

Budget 2016 and the deficit

Finance Minister is Bill Morneau just wrapped up his cross-country pre-budget consultations. The first budget is widely speculated to be end of March. The size of the deficit is the item to watch for as oil prices continue to decline and the dollar has dipped to its lowest point since 2003.

Opposition and the Progressive Opposition

The Conservative Party is holding true to #NewYearNewYou with a leadership election announced for May 27, 2017. Expect them and the repositioned "Progressive Opposition" NDP to continue to push on issues such as electoral reform and Canada's role in the war against ISIS, while aiming to portray the Trudeau government's fiscal plans as irresponsible.

Key agenda items

The government will be moving forward on some of its significant Throne Speech items. The clock is ticking for the government to fulfill its promise on electoral reform within 18 months of coming to power, including a commitment that the 2015 election will be the last conducted according to first-past-the-post.

In the wake of COP 21 and Canada's commitments in Paris, government actions to curb climate change and address environmental issues will be watched closely. Infrastructure spending is a hot topic for provincial partners and municipalities who have a lengthy list of to-dos and high expectations. Legislating and regulating marijuana will also be high on the minds of many Canadians.

Items added to their agenda

The Supreme Court has given Ottawa a four-month extension to pass a bill legalizing physician-assisted suicide. This is something to keep an eye on in the next several months as provinces and territories work with the federal government to come to a consensus on this emotional and contentious issue that has to be addressed.

Senate Reform

With a new process and advisory board in place for appointing senators to the upper house, it's expected that five of the 22 vacancies could be filled early in the new year -- with two from Ontario, two from Manitoba and one from Quebec -- to restore regional balance. There are big questions about exactly how the new Senate will work, given that the Liberals promised to make the Upper House of Parliament more independent and non-partisan. Could government legislation be blocked by the newly independent senate?

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