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Battlefield blackout: Canada’s mission in Iraq goes dark

Foreign Affairs Minister Stephane Dion rises on a point of order following question during Question Period in the House of Commons Thursday October 6, 2016 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

POLITICS BRIEFING

By Chris Hannay (@channay) and Rob Gilroy (@rgilroy)

The Globe Politics is pleased to include a roundup of news and opinion on U.S. politics, through until this year's election in November. As always, let us know what you think of the newsletter. Sign up here to get it by e-mail each morning.

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WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW IN OTTAWA

> The Canadian military says northern Iraq has grown more dangerous for hundreds of special forces soldiers deployed there and Ottawa will no longer be divulging basic details about Canada's mission to help the Kurds fight Islamic State militants. The military said that, as the fight against Islamic State forces evolves, the Canadian soldiers are spending less time in classroom settings training the Kurds and more time "overseeing execution of operations" on the battlefield. This means Canadian troops are spending more time at the front line in a mission that Ottawa insists is an "advise-and-assist" operation and not a combat deployment.

> Foreign Affairs Minister Stéphane Dion jeered and gave a thumbs-down gesture in the House of Commons Thursday when the Conservatives raised the case of four Canadian children abducted by their Iranian-Kurdish father. Alison Azer was in the visitors' gallery in the Commons when Mr. Dion made the gesture and she later broke down in tears when she spoke to reporters. The minister said he stands by his behaviour and accused the Conservatives of trying to draw a distraught Ms. Azer into partisan politics. A senior government official said that the minister believes strongly that MPs should not question Ottawa's handling of delicate consular cases of Canadians who are abducted or jailed in foreign countries.

> Scott Brison's financial and personal dealings with two prominent Atlantic Canadian families have come under fire from political rivals because the Treasury Board President has not set up a conflict-of-interest screen regarding investments he's made with members of the Sobey and McCain families. Last March, a member of the McCain family logged a meeting with Mr. Brison on the federal lobbyist registry, but Michael McCain says this was purely a social get-together and the two didn't discuss business.

> Canada's Veterans Affairs Minister says the government is working hard on a strategy to prevent military personnel and former soldiers from killing themselves, but veterans' advocates are frustrated with the amount of time it is taking just to assess the scope of the problem. Kent Hehr said his department is working closely with Defence to modernize the suicide-prevention policy and to ensure that the best practices are being followed. But the pace is not fast enough for veterans advocates who say lives are at risk and the government has been too slow to obtain the data that would reveal the scope of the problem.

U.S. ELECTION 2016

> The Globe's John Ibbitson says it's becoming more likely that Donald Trump will lose the general election. But that doesn't mean Americans should slip back into complacency about their republic. "[Trump] is a final warning. Unless political elites of both the left and the right become more humble, unless they once again ask themselves how their agendas will play in Peoria, the next rough beast might slouch over the corpse of the republic."

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CHANGE? WHAT CHANGE?

> Jonathan Chait in The New Yorker pushes back at "change election" chatter – the idea that a more-standard Republican nominee would be coasting to the White House.  "Trump has become a mechanism for Republicans to avoid coming to grips with the fact that the electorate that rebuked their party twice when it elected and re-elected Obama has not reconsidered its position."

THE UNITED STATES OF FEAR

Adam Haslett in The Nation gets to the heart of the angst among U.S. voters that is driving the campaign of Donald Trump. "Our presidential contests have become such prolonged episodes of mass distraction and political anxiety it's hard to even keep track of what we are experiencing. [Trump] has no ideas of his own; his special vileness is always to increase the measure of rhetorical violence others are prepared to inflict; his mind is itself a political mob."

ELECTION DAY ANXIETY

Jamelle Bouie examines the "rhetorical time bombs" that Donald Trump has lobbed during the presidential campaign around the false flag of voter fraud, and fears for what could transpire on voting day. "The implication is clear: If Trump loses, he should foment this 'civil disobedience.' And he should start preparing his supporters for it now. He seems to be doing just that."

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WHAT EVERYONE'S TALKING ABOUT

Daphne Gilbert (Globe and Mail): "While an individual physician may have a Charter-protected religious right to ask another doctor to take over the role of ending a life, a hospital has no constitutional right to prohibit all its physicians from doing so. Hospitals have no conscience, only the people who work in them do."

John Ivison (National Post): "Maxime Bernier has raised eyebrows with his latest promotional gambit — an Instagram invitation to Canadians to call him Mad Max … Among the things Bernier says make him crazy is a Liberal government that 'shrinks our paycheques with high taxes.' Yet there is nothing deranged about the solution he proposed Thursday."

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