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What to expect as Parliament resumes

The House of Commons resumes sitting on Monday for a session in which the government is expected to try to shift the focus away from the ongoing Senate expense scandal and onto Canada’s economy.

Following a six-week break for MPs, here are some of the key issues to watch for as Parliament resumes:

Federal budget

CTV's political analyst Scott Reid says Prime Minister Stephen Harper may have more success during this session at "changing the channel," with the federal budget expected to be tabled as early as mid-February.  

"I think that the government is going to be able to talk a lot about jobs and economic management," Reid told CTV's Canada AM on Monday. "All things being equal, it looks better for the prime minister coming into this session than it did the last."

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty has already said he'll reject any big-spending proposals in the budget, as the Conservative government has announced they are on the verge of balancing the books.

Flaherty recently told CTV News that the surplus, forecasted at $3.7 billion in the 2015-16 fiscal year, could be greater than anticipated.

However, Liberal strategist Susan Smith says the fact the budget is expected to be tabled in mid-February, when the public's attention will largely be focused on the Sochi Olympics, signals that there won't be much for "Canadians to get excited about."

Senate scandal

Questions over the Senate expense scandal and the ongoing RCMP investigation are unlikely to die down after months of allegations and revelations about four senators and the Prime Minister's Office.

Smith described the scandal as "the gift that keeps on giving in the House of Commons," as the federal auditor will continue to probe senators' spending. 

The NDP has vowed not to ease up on the government over the Senate scandal, but Government House Leader Peter Van Loan said Monday that Canadians are no longer focused on the issue.

"I was out doing consultations and it's not where Canadians are," he said. "Canadians are focused on pocketbook issues, on where their taxes are going, on wanting to keep them down and wanting to see job creation activity."

Van Loan said despite the opposition hammering Harper with questions on the Senate, the government had "record productivity" during that last session, passing more than 40 new pieces of legislation.

Canada Post

Canada Post workers staged a protest in Ottawa Sunday, voicing their opposition to the December announcement that the financially troubled federal agency would be cutting door-to-door mail delivery.

Smith said the Canada Post issue and questions surrounding rail safety are likely come up during question period.

"Issues that touches on people directly, the services they get in their homes, whether they feel safe and secure, general consumer issues, that's going to come up in the House as well," she said. "Everybody will be fighting for the middle class vote."

Quebec values charter

Reid said with the possibility of Quebec Premier Pauline Marois calling a snap election, federal party leaders are likely to be drawn into the debate surrounding the Parti Quebecois' controversial values charter.

"It's going to be about values, it's going to be about Quebec's role in confederation, it's going to be about how we relate to one another as a nation in terms of the fabric of our multicultural society," Reid said.

"At the end of session, we'll probably know more about the three leaders than we did going in to it," he added.

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