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Economy, Northern Gateway pipeline, top agenda as Stephen Harper goes west

OTTAWA - Prime Minister Stephen Harper will begin the first full week of 2014 trying to keep public attention focused on the economy and touting the benefits of Canada's booming natural resources sector.

The PM is expected to highlight the recently signed Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement with the European Union when he speaks to business leaders today in Vancouver.

An agreement in principle was inked by Harper and European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso in October.

However, ratification of the deal could take another two years.

On the first day of a swing through Western Canada, Harper will take part in a question and answer session with the CEO of Vancouver's Board of Trade.

In what has become a common event for Harper, the prime minister will sit down to an informal chat with the board's Iain Black, but is not expected to take any questions from the media.

While Harper has used such events to insist that his government remains focused on creating jobs and steadily rebuilding the economy, the politics of pipelines is sure to be top of mind in Vancouver.

Regulators have approved Enbridge's proposed $8 billion Northern Gateway pipeline that would see Alberta crude flow to Kitimat on the west coast, so long as 209 conditions are met.

But the federal government has not yet said whether it will allow the project to go ahead.

Construction of the pipeline faces legal challenges from First Nations communities, and stiff opposition in B.C.

New Democrat Opposition Leader Tom Mulcair has also predicted that the project will never be completed.

Later today, Harper will take part in a photo op with Industry Minister James Moore at the Village Museum in Burnaby, B.C.

The Canadian Press


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