Rex Murphy weighs in on the return of Parliament and what's at stake for all three parties.

Read a transcript of this Rex Murphy episode

It is so inspirational…brace yourselves, they’re back. It’s fall: the squirrels are grabbing every nut in sight and as the House of Commons reconvenes the lesser-tailed backbenchers are preparing to go in hibernation, as they always do, when the House is in session. Only executive assistants stay above ground and chatter during this period.

The MPs and their minders are back and their little heads are full of schemes and plots and tactics to overwhelm the enemies and win the applause of their friends and the public. 

Expect everything from robocalls to the Arab street, Quebec separatism to the economy. All three main parties have something to hope for, something to lose, in this session, but overall it is Mr. Mulcair and his NDP who will own centre stage.

Mr. Mulcair is going to have to get used to seeing scrutiny on his positions, a sounding on the NDP’s 50% plus one on Quebec separation. Also the 58 Quebec MPs are going to have to be taken out of the packing case now, the fragile label taken off and be allowed to speak.

The Liberals are desperate. Who is their leader?  Is it still Bob Rae?  It has a confused status, this party. It’s kind of political wallpaper in front of which its few stars twirl and tease on whether they might run for the party leadership, which is only vaguely aspired to.    Is it a political party, or a reality TV show now, Justin Trudeau’s very own Entourage?

This session – more than the leadership – is make or break for the Liberals.  They get serious now, or they disappear.

Mr. Harper’s still has his majority. He performs well abroad. Gets credit for the Canadian economy as it’s seen as less threatened than that of other countries. He doesn’t get a pass on other issues, but they don’t bite as much as they would if he didn’t have the economy as a shield. Harper has settled into the job - Mr. Mulcair and his lieutenants’ role now is to try and take him down. Harper is dug in; they have to make a breach. 

This session is the real beginning of the next election campaign and after today’s beginning I already wonder if it is too much to hope that the spirit of dignity and decorum of that statesman who so recently passed away, Peter Lougheed, could inspire some of its proceedings.

For The National, I’m Rex Murphy.