01/27/2014 10:21 EST | Updated 03/29/2014 05:59 EDT

Parliament Returns: 2014 Budget, Economy To Dominate Tory Agenda


OTTAWA — The federal Conservatives say they'll focus on the economy and the upcoming budget as they return to work in Ottawa after a six-week break.

Government House Leader Peter Van Loan says the government will concentrate on creating jobs and on consumer- and justice-oriented legislation, such as a publicly accessible database of high-risk child predators.

He repeated a promise to deliver a balanced budget next year, saying the yet-to-be-released spending plan will be the cornerstone of the government's agenda in the coming weeks and months.

The Conservatives are expected to take every opportunity to highlight their economic prowess in advance of the budget, which could be introduced by mid-February.

"The cornerstone of our agenda in Parliament will be the budget," Van Loan said. "Canadians can count on our government to build upon our strong record of creating jobs, keeping taxes low and returning to budgetary balance."

Van Loan wouldn't talk about what cuts are on their way to slay the deficit and stayed away from answering questions about how a low dollar may improve the economy, but raise prices for consumers.

While the Conservatives want to keep the economy front and centre, the NDP and the Liberals say they will keep the Senate scandals in the forefront.

The government has not been able to mute the criticism which began with the revelation that Stephen Harper's then-chief of staff, Nigel Wright, personally paid Sen. Mike Duffy $90,000 so that he could reimburse the Senate for allegedly fraudulent living expense claims.

RCMP documents filed in court indicate more than a dozen top players in the Prime Minister's Office, Senate leadership and Conservative party were involved in the deal to protect Duffy, interfere with an independent audit of his expenses and whitewash a Senate report on his conduct.

NDP House Leader Nathan Cullen says the issue isn't going to disappear.

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