After a not-very-restful summer break, six things to watch this fall as Parliament returns

OTTAWA — On Monday, MPs and senators return to Parliament Hill after a not-very-restful summer break.

With just a year left until the next federal election, Liberals say they are feeling good about their legislative agenda. Bills ratifying a new trade agreement, changing firearms rules and adjusting elections law will all be debated in the House of Commons. A dozen others are making their way through the Senate.

But a senior government official recently pointed out that most of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s biggest battles this fall won’t be focused on legislation.

Here are six issues expected to dominate question period and keep Trudeau on his toes.

President Donald Trump leaves the stage after speaking at the September 11th Flight 93 Memorial Service in Shanksville, Pa., Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2018. Gene J. Puskar / AP

Trump and trade 

After a year of negotiations a new version of the North American Free Trade Agreement is still being written, although Congress has been notified of a United States-Mexico deal that would include Canada if all can agree by the end of September. Saving the pact, successfully dealing with U.S. President Donald Trump and getting steel tariffs dropped is widely seen as the Liberal government’s biggest challenge.

Meanwhile, a bill to ratify the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, an 11-country trade pact that includes Japan and Australia, will be a top priority. The deal originally included the U.S., but Trump withdrew. Now the CPTPP is seen as a counter-weight to trade uncertainty in North America.

People hold artwork of various marine life and youth during a rally celebrating a recent federal court ruling against the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, in Vancouver, on Saturday September 8, 2018. Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press

Trans Mountain pipeline

Last month a Federal Court of Appeal decision overturned the government’s approval of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, which would parallel an existing pipeline route to transport more oil from Alberta to the British Columbia coast. Judges unanimously ruled the project’s National Energy Board assessment was too flawed for it to go ahead right away. The government, after buying the project for billions and setting it up as a Crown corporation, will have to respond this fall with a plan. It is unclear whether they can break ground before the election.

An asylum seeker from Eritrea, is confronted by an RCMP officer as he crosses the border into Canada from the United States Monday, August 21, 2017 near Champlain, N.Y. Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press

Cross-border asylum-seekers

In the past couple of years, more asylum-seekers have been crossing the Canada-U.S. border between official points of entry. The government will face questions from all sides: about the long waits for decisions once people are in the system; and about the Safe Third Country agreement with the U.S., which stipulates that asylum-seekers who come in at the border can be sent back south since Canada considers the U.S. to be a “safe” country. Conservatives say it should be renegotiated to apply not just at official points of entry, but between them.

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe pictured at the Legislative Building in Regina on April 10, 2018. Mark Taylor/The Canadian Press / THE CANADIAN PRESS

The federal climate plan … and its opponents

Both Saskatchewan and Ontario have filed legal challenges against a federal climate plan that includes carbon taxation. Alberta’s NDP government, which already implemented such a tax, has said it will not increase taxation in line with the federal government’s plan until it sees progress on the Trans Mountain  project. Trudeau has appointed a new minister responsible for interprovincial conflicts, Dominic LeBlanc. His plate will be full this fall.

An employee displays cannabis buds for a photograph at the CannTrust Holding Inc. Niagara Perpetual Harvest facility in Pelham, Ontario, Canada, on Wednesday, July 11, 2018. Cole Burston/Bloomberg

Cannabis legalization

On Oct. 17, recreational cannabis will become legal for purchase across Canada. But a patchwork of regulations means the weed market will look pretty different from one province to another. With some police forces still saying they are not ready, the federal Liberals will have to get ready to defend their approach.

Bill Blair, federal minister of border security and organized crime reduction, attends a press conference in Toronto on Friday, August 3, 2018. Chris Young/The Canadian Press

Handgun ban

A new minister responsible for the organized crime file, Bill Blair, is studying whether there should be a federal ban on handguns and assault weapons. The city councils of Toronto and Montreal have already asked for one, following high-profile incidents of gun violence including a July shooting rampage along the Danforth in Toronto.

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