Canada's parliament opens its fall session Monday with three interim opposition party leaders facing a majority Conservative government for the first time in 19 years.
May's federal election gave Prime Minister Stephen Harper's party a majority and gutted the Liberal and separatist Bloc Quebecois party. It also elevated the socialist New Democratic Party to its first-ever role as Official Opposition with many neophyte members of Parliament, some of them still in college.
The NDP lost their leader to cancer last month, when Jack Layton of Toronto died in his second battle with cancer and in a national precedent, was given a full state funeral.
The three opposition parties have leadership conventions scheduled in coming months, but with the Conservatives' 166-seat majority in the 308-seat House, there's little evidence of urgency, but rather more long-term strategic planning is apparent.
Amid the opposition leadership voids, the Conservatives are widely expected to steamroll passage of a number of rightist bills that were blocked in their five years as a minority government.
Harper and his ministers have said economic recovery from recession is their top priority amid opposition criticisms the strategy includes allegedly "stimulative" tax cuts for corporations. The government has committed to eliminating the national deficit of more than $30 billion by 2014.
While various international economic organizations have said Canada performed well among Group of Eight countries in weathering the recession, after five months of gains, 5,500 jobs were lost in August and the unemployment rate was 7.3 percent.
Another controversial part of the Conservatives' published agenda is a package of judicial reforms that includes harsher criminal sentencing penalties and abolishing a national Liberal-imposed registry of rifles, or "long guns."
Also along the judicial line, Harper will also be in a position this fall to nominate two justices to the nine-member Supreme Court, based on attrition. Once those have passed parliamentary muster four of the judges will be Harper appointees.
The Conservative effect is also being seen in the Senate, which had a Liberal majority when Harper became prime minister. Early on, Harper said he wanted to abolish the upper chamber as its 105 members are appointed for life rather than elected. That met with stiff opposition in Parliament and Harper has since filled attrition vacancies to give Conservatives a majority of 55 seats.
On the international front, Harper is a staunch supporter of Canada's military role in NATO and is widely expected to push for an extension of the country's role in Libya, set to expire Sept. 27. The opposition NDP indicated this summer it wouldn't support furthering the military engagement.
As for relations with the United States, the conservative Harper and liberal U.S. President Barack Obama announced in February an agreement was being developed to create a "security perimeter" for both countries and said there would be more sharing of intelligence against threats to either country.
The two leaders are scheduled to meet this fall to further the security talks. Canadian opposition parties have alleged the intelligence-sharing process is too secretive, but with the Conservatives' parliamentary majority, a pact is likely well before presidential elections in 2012.