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House of Commons revs up for the winter sitting

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OTTAWA—The work begins in earnest today for the Liberal minority government as the House of Commons opens for business after a lengthy winter break.

The first piece of major legislation is expected to be a bill to ratify the new North American free trade deal, as Canada is now the only hold out on the trilateral pact.

The Liberals have asked the Opposition parties to help get it passed quickly, but the NDP and Bloc Quebecois are making no such guarantees, while the Conservatives say they're hoping for further study of its implications.

The government is also sure to face a grilling over major issues that have developed in recent weeks.

Among them are relations with Iran and the status of an investigation into what killed at least 57 Canadians on a flight leaving Tehran earlier this month.

Looking ahead, the Liberal government is also expected to introduce legislation to ban military-style assault rifles and make what's sure to be a controversial decision on whether to allow a new oilsands project in Alberta to proceed.

The Liberals currently have 157 seats in the House of Commons, meaning they need the support of other parties in order to advance any of the bills on their agenda.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has told his MPs that means they need to work hard to find common ground for the good of the country.

The Opposition Conservatives, who hold 121 seats, accuse the Liberals of planning to just buy the votes of the Bloc Quebecois and NDP.

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer says his party will oppose anything that raises taxes or damages the economy.

But with his party now in a leadership race, it's unlikely the Conservatives will seek to bring down the minority Liberals in the short term.

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