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Updated: Mon, 21 Oct 2013 11:22:03 GMT | By The Canadian Press, cbc.ca

Harper back to face Senate turmoil with trade deal in hand



Opposition Leader Tom Mulcair, left, and Prime Minister Stephen Harper face off in the House of Commons daily question period. Canadian Press

Opposition Leader Tom Mulcair, left, and Prime Minister Stephen Harper face off in the House of Commons daily question period. Canadian Press

The signing is done. Now comes the sales job.

Stephen Harper is back in town, brandishing Friday's mostly well-received trade deal with the European Union and spoiling for a fight with his New Democrat and Liberal counterparts as the first full week of Parliament's fall sitting gets underway.

Rivals Tom Mulcair and Justin Trudeau, meanwhile, are sure to have no shortage of questions for the prime minister this week — expect "what did he know about Wright/Duffy and when" to figure prominently — as the battle for opposition supremacy gets underway in earnest.

Harper, who often does not attend question period on Mondays, was in the House Monday. Trudeau and Mulcair are out of town and were not in the House.

Duffy's lawyer called a press conference Monday to discuss a move by Conservatives in the Senate to suspend Duffy without pay. Donald Bayne read from emails he said show that Senate's Conservative leadership had approved Duffy's living expenses for years, and when the Senate expenses controversy erupted he was pressured by the Prime Minister's Office to take a deal.

With Nov. 25 now byelection day in two traditional but vulnerable Liberal strongholds in Montreal and Toronto, the NDP is keen to burnish its credentials as a government-in-waiting at Trudeau's expense.

Voters will also go to the polls in the staunchly Conservative Manitoba ridings of Provencher and Brandon-Souris, but the focus is likely to be on Toronto Centre and Montreal's Bourassa — formerly the stomping grounds of Bob Rae and Denis Coderre, respectively.

Trumpeting the trade deal

Harper, meanwhile, will be basking in the triumphant glow of Canada's new deal with Europe, a win custom-made for the new Conservative attack slogan: while we support free trade, the NDP supports "no trade" and the Liberals support "the drug trade" — a dig at Trudeau's support for legalizing marijuana.

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- 5 ways the Canada-EU trade deal will impact Canadians

Trade Minister Ed Fast, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird and Minister of State Maxime Bernier began banging the free-trade drum Monday with an event in Ottawa spelling out "the next steps ... to ensure all Canadians have the facts" about the agreement and its benefits.

That message isn't likely to drown out the din from the Senate, however, where Sen. Pamela Wallin is fighting mad at the upper chamber's efforts to suspend her without pay, along with disgraced former Conservative caucus colleagues Mike Duffy and Patrick Brazeau.

Wallin's lawyer, Terrence Sullivan, calls the suspension motions "a fundamental affront to Canadian democracy" that fly in the face of the Senate's own rules.

Mulcair, for his part, is at a morning news conference in Quebec City before an afternoon speech to delegates at the national convention for the Canadian Union of Public Employees. NDP MPs Manon Perreault and Mike Sullivan will also get together in Ottawa today to talk about protecting people with disabilities.

The Professional Institute of the Public Service, meanwhile, is releasing a survey billed as gauging the degree to which federal scientists have been "muzzled" or otherwise interfered with by the federal government.

Statistics Canada releases new wholesale trade figures for August. Retail trade numbers, the latest employment insurance data and an interest rate announcement from the Bank of Canada follow later in the week.

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