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Tories launch ad campaign against tax changes

As Parliament resumes, Trudeau and Morneau will face opposition questions for the first time on controversial small-business plans

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks at the opening ceremonies of Hack The North, Canada’s largest hackathon, Waterloo, Ont., on Sept. 1. 2017.

The Conservative Party is launching a national advertising campaign this week to oppose the Liberals' small-business tax plans, an issue that is set to dominate the agenda as Parliament returns Monday.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his Finance Minister, Bill Morneau, will face opposition questions for the first time since the government announced the controversial package of proposed changes in July.

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer will appear in his party's radio and online ads criticizing the proposals. The party has decided that the tax changes will be the Official Opposition's primary focus heading into the fall sitting.

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Conservative Party Leader Andrew Scheer ,left, greets supporters at his shadow cabinet meeting in Winnipeg on Sept. 7, 2017.

"The Trudeau Liberals are threatening local business and all the jobs they create with big new tax hikes. But I won't just stand by and let the Liberals drive them into the ground," Mr. Scheer says in the radio spots.

The Conservatives are initially planning to spend about $100,000 to place the ads.

The proposed tax reforms continue to generate concern not just from Conservatives, but also from some Liberals.

New Brunswick Liberal MP Wayne Long, who has previously said he opposes the changes as currently worded, released an open letter to Mr. Morneau on Sunday that further outlines his position.

"Consultation is not about defending – it is about listening," Mr. Long wrote. "I share the same concerns of my many constituents, that we are moving too fast. We are not fully examining the possible unintended consequences of what is being proposed."

While the Canadian Medical Association is among the business groups opposing the tax changes, The Canadian Press reported on Sunday that some doctors who disagree with the CMA intend to release an open letter this week in support of the federal government's plans.

In an interview, Conservative House Leader Candice Bergen said the party has decided to make the tax issue the No.1 priority when MPs face off for Question Period this week.

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From left to right: Guy Caron, from left to right, Charlie Angus, Jagmeet Singh and Niki Ashton, via satellite from Ottawa, participate in the final federal NDP leadership debate in Vancouver, B.C., on Sept. 1, 2017.

Mr. Scheer won his party leadership in late May. The NDP will select a new permanent leader in October.

Mr. Morneau announced a package of proposed changes to small-business tax rules on July 18 and formal consultations will close on Oct. 2. The government says the proposals are aimed at making sure people are not incorporating simply as a way of paying less tax. Liberals say the measures are about closing "loopholes" that primarily advantage high-income Canadians. Small-business advocates counter that the current rules are long-standing tax practices that help businesses grow and warn the proposed changes will damage the economy.

The Liberal government fully expects plenty of questions on the tax changes. Government House Leader Bardish Chagger is also the minister for small business and has been holding cross-country hearings on the topic.

"We will be going through all of the information received," she said. "We really do want to get it right. That's why we are speaking to the people who believe they'll be impacted or will be impacted."

In addition to taxes, here are some of the other issues that are expected to dominate Parliament's fall sitting:

The legalization of recreational marijuana

Bill Blair, parliamentary secretary to the Justice Minister, is pictured on June 17, 2015 in Ottawa.

With a target date of July 1, 2018, the pressure is on Ottawa to sort out the details of its plan to legalize the recreational use of marijuana. There are two bills currently before the House of Commons.

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Bill C-45 enacts the Cannabis Act to provide legal access to cannabis and contains measures to control and regulate its production, distribution and sale.

Bill C-46 would update the impaired-driving provisions of the Criminal Code. It would allow for mandatory roadside screening for alcohol and outlines new rules to prevent drug-impaired driving.

During committee hearings on C-45 last week, Canadian police groups warned they will not be ready in time for July 1 and requested a delay. They have also asked Ottawa to reconsider a provision that would allow Canadians to grow up to four marijuana plants for personal use.

Liberal MP Bill Blair, a former Toronto police chief who plays a lead role for the Liberals on this issue, said he understands the concerns of police but that there is an urgency to act.

"Organized crime is making billions of dollars in profit from this criminal enterprise. It's the easiest money they make," he said in an interview with CTV's Question Period that was broadcast Sunday. "And I find it completely unacceptable that we're going to leave our kids in a very dangerous jeopardy by not regulating this market."

NAFTA

President Donald Trump reacts before speaking at a rally at the Phoenix Convention Center, in Phoenix, Ariz., on Aug. 22, 2017.

Renegotiating Canada's most important trade deal was never part of the Liberal Party's original agenda, but it quickly moved to the front burner with the election of U.S. President Donald Trump.

The United States, Mexico and Canada are pursuing an aggressive timeline in an attempt to wrap up negotiations before the end of the year. The United States and Mexico have each played host to a round of talks. The next meetings will take place Sept. 23 to 27 in Ottawa.

The most recent point of contention is over a U.S. request for a five-year sunset clause. Under the proposal, the North American free-trade agreement would expire in five years unless all three countries agreed to renew the arrangement. Both Canada and Mexico have said they oppose the idea, warning it would create uncertainty for business.

Myanmar and the United Nations

Smoke is seen on Myanmar’s border as a Rohingya refugee men carry children from a boat in Shah Porir Dwip, Bangladesh, on Sept. 15, 2017.

The Prime Minister and Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland will be heading to New York later in the week for meetings of the United Nations.

The top global security issues currently facing world leaders include the ongoing missile threats coming from North Korea, as well as a humanitarian crisis unfolding in Myanmar.

Members of the country's minority population of Rohingya Muslims have been forced to flee to Bangladesh. Reports have said Myanmar's military is driving them from the country and setting their homes on fire.

"This looks a lot like ethnic cleansing and that is not acceptable," Ms. Freeland told a Toronto rally on Saturday.

Ms. Freeland said Mr. Trudeau has raised Canada's concerns directly with Myanmar's de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Ms. Suu Kyi is a Nobel Peace Prize holder and honorary Canadian citizen. The situation has led some to call on Canada to revoke the honour.

As for North Korea, the rogue nation's repeated missile threats are prompting renewed debate over whether Canada should be a participant in the U.S. missile-defence program.

Indigenous issues

Indigenous walkers make their way to Parliament Hill after a 1,600-kilometre trek from Northern Quebec to Ottawa in support of better conditions for First Nations people in 2013.

In last month's mini cabinet shuffle, plans were announced to split the Indigenous Affairs department in two. Former Health Minister Jane Philpott now heads Indigenous Services, freeing up minister Carolyn Bennett to focus on longer-term efforts as Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs.

To NDP House Leader Murray Rankin, the move signalled an acknowledgment by the government that it has done a poor job of delivering on its many campaign promises to Canada's Indigenous peoples.

The NDP intends to make aboriginal issues a priority this fall.

"The reconciliation talk isn't walking the reconciliation walk," Mr. Rankin said.

Border issues and immigration

A family that stated they were from Haiti line up to cross the border into Quebec from New York on Aug. 21, 2017.

This summer saw nearly 8,000 people make unauthorized crossings into Canada, raising serious questions about Canada's refugee system and its immigration arrangements with the United States.

The number of people crossing at points that are not official border posts has slowed down of late, a trend that has been attributed to the start of the school year and Liberal government efforts to inform potential asylum seekers that crossing into Canada is no guarantee that they will be allowed to stay.

Still, the issue is not going away. The volume of unauthorized crossings appears to rise and fall in direct relation to various immigration policies that have been proposed by Mr. Trump. Republicans and Democrats in Congress continue to work with the President on immigration reform, but a firm plan has not yet emerged.

National-security legislation

People protest against Bill C-51, the government’s anti-terror legislation, in Ottawa.

Just as MPs were heading for the exits in late June, Ottawa released its long-awaited legislation overhauling Canada's national-security regime.

Bill C-59 represents the Liberal government's effort at repealing controversial elements of Bill C-51, a law that was passed under the Conservatives.

The bill would create the National Security and Intelligence Review Agency, bringing together various civilian watchdogs that had previously been tied to specific agencies.

After studying the bill over the summer, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association said that while the bill does fix some of the problems with the Conservative law, other problems were ignored and the Liberal bill creates new issues of its own.

Specifically, concerns continue to be expressed about the legal powers of Canada's spy agency to not only gather intelligence, but to act on it with new "disruption" powers.

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