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Ottawa goes back to work as fall session kicks off

Prime Minister Stephen Harper arrives at Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Monday, Sept. 17, 2012, for the start of the fall session.

Sean Kilpatrick/THE CANADIAN PRESS

CARBON TAX REDUX

Prime Minister Stephen Harper wasted little time in launching the latest line of attack against the New Democrats: that they are planning a $20-billion carbon tax. But the NDP claims the government is lying about the party's proposals on greenhouse-gas emissions. In their 2011 campaign platform, the NDP proposed a cap-and-trade system which would require major emitters – such as coal-fired power plants and oil sands upgraders – to purchase emission allocations. The Conservatives have pledged their own form of "carbon pricing," through regulations that will, among other things, increase the price of automobiles.

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THE CHINA QUESTION

A Calgary Conservative MP says his concern over CNOOC Ltd.'s takeover of Nexen Inc. boils down to one thing: China is not a "benevolent" country. Calgary West MP Rob Anders, a persistent China critic, appears to be focusing his concern on the need for conditions on the takeover, rather than hoping his government strikes down the $15.1-billion deal outright. "I'm never in favour of the whole state ownership thing, and especially in the case of a non-benevolent country like China, but I am breaking it apart into three separate contexts to be kind of objective and fair if I can with regard to the shareholders in this case," Mr. Anders said.

'ABORTION' BILL LACKS SUPPORT

Conservative MP Stephen Woodworth offered a passionate defence of his private-member's motion which would require Parliament to re-evaluate the point at which a baby legally becomes a human being – a motion that critics say is a backdoor attempt to criminalize abortion. But Mr. Woodworth conceded he is unlikely to get the votes he needs to move the initiative forward. Mr. Harper has made it clear he opposes the motion. "At this point I am not optimistic that I will come close to the 50 per cent required to pass this motion," he told reporters. "But have we really lost a consensus in Canada that the dignity and worth of every human being must be recognized?"

CLARITY ON SENATE REFORM

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The Liberals are applauding Ottawa's decision to refer its legislation for unilateral Senate reform to the Supreme Court of Canada for a constitutional vetting. Liberal MP Stéphane Dion said a Senate committee recommended the move in 2007, and that Ottawa should have followed suit if it was serious with its plans to select senators through provincial elections and appoint them to fixed terms. Federal officials refused to confirm a report in Monday's Globe and Mail about the upcoming Supreme Court reference, which comes in the face of opposition from some provinces to the legislation.

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