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Canada Morning Update: The RCMP’s SNC inquiry; election campaign launch day; PCs win majority in Manitoba

Good morning,

These are the top stories:

Ottawa is blocking the RCMP in its SNC-Lavalin inquiry

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The RCMP has been looking into possible obstruction of justice in the handling of the prosecution of SNC-Lavalin, a source told The Globe. But the federal government is refusing to lift cabinet confidentiality for all witnesses, in turn limiting the RCMP inquiry to the same access received by the Ethics Commissioner, who said individuals were prevented from sharing information they felt was relevant.

The Liberals say the decision to limit access was made by the Clerk of the Privy Council, and that the Prime Minister’s Office played no role.

The national police force will pause the operation because of October’s federal election. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is set to have the writ dropped today, and the RCMP have a policy to suspend politically sensitive probes during campaigns.

Former RCMP commissioner Bob Paulson, who retired in 2017, said it will be difficult for the Mounties to complete their examination unless the government waives cabinet confidentiality entirely. “In my experience, particularly, cabinet privilege is overasserted and I guess more widely applied than it deserved,” he said.

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Gearing up for the federal election

After meeting with the Governor-General to officially kick off the 40-day election race, Trudeau will head to Vancouver for a rally. Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer will be in battleground ridings in Quebec and Ontario; NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh will spend the week crisscrossing the Toronto area and Southwestern Ontario; and Green Leader Elizabeth May will be out on Vancouver Island, where her party holds its two seats.

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The first leaders’ debate of the campaign is set for Thursday night, airing on CITY-TV, but Trudeau won’t be in attendance.

Without one central issue or a pent-up demand for change, Campbell Clark says this campaign is shaping up to be a culture war: “There is a less policy-specific, more visceral contest coming about who’s on your side. Or, put another way, which of these gangs you identify with.”

Here’s an explainer breaking down the issues, key dates to watch and how to register to vote.

The Globe is asking for readers’ help in monitoring how political and third-party groups use advertising to communicate with voters on Facebook. Go here to learn more.

The Progressive Conservatives won a second majority in Manitoba

The early election gamble paid off for Brian Pallister, with his PCs on track to win 35 ridings, compared with 19 for Wab Kinew’s NDP and three for the Liberals. That’s a slight decline from 38 PC seats before dissolution, but still one of the largest Manitoba caucuses in decades.

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The victory solidifies a bloc of conservative premiers opposing Trudeau as we head into the federal election campaign: Pallister, Alberta’s Jason Kenney, Saskatchewan’s Scott Moe and Ontario’s Doug Ford have been fighting the carbon tax in the courts and in the media.

Court rules British PM Johnson’s move to suspend Parliament unlawful

A court in Scotland has ruled that British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s move to suspend parliament for five weeks is illegal, because it "had the purpose of stymying parliament.” The judges added that the court will make an order declaring that the prorogation is "null and of no effect.” However, the judges said they will not issue that order until Britain’s Supreme Court makes a final ruling on the matter. The decision is another blow in Johnson’s ongoing battle with Members of Parliament.

U.S. politics: Trump fires Bolton, plus the tale of a U.S. mole in the Kremlin

First Michael Flynn, then H.R. McMaster, now John Bolton. The revolving door inside the Trump White House continues with the sacking of the President’s third national-security adviser. Tensions reportedly flared in recent months over Trump’s desire to negotiate with North Korea, Iran and the Taliban.

Meanwhile, it has emerged that the CIA had a spy who penetrated Russian President Vladimir Putin’s government – and that Trump’s decision to share classified Israeli intelligence with top Russian officials may have contributed to the decision to extract him from Moscow in 2017.

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ALSO ON OUR RADAR

Netanyahu pledges to annex Jordan Valley: Israeli aircraft struck in Gaza on Wednesday hours after rockets from the Palestinian enclave triggered sirens that forced Netanyahu off the stage at an election rally in Israel. The violence came a day after Israeli Prime Minister pledged to apply Israeli sovereignty to a major part of the occupied West Bank if he wins a clear mandate in the Sept. 17 election. The areas in question are home to 65,000 Palestinians and 11,000 Israeli settlers.

Jamal Khashoggi’s final words: The journalist pleaded with his killers to not suffocate him, according to a Turkish newspaper’s account of a recording from inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last October. Khashoggi is also reportedly told to send a message telling his son not to worry, to which the journalist says: “I will write nothing.”

MORNING MARKETS

Global shares mostly higher after rise on Wall Street: Global shares were mostly higher Wednesday, cheered by a rise on Wall Street amid some signs of easing tensions between the U.S. and China on trade issues. Tokyo’s Nikkei gained 1 per cent, and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng popped 1.8 per cent, though the Shanghai Composite lost 0.4 per cent. In Europe, London’s FTSE 100, Germany’s DAX and the Paris CAC 40 were up by between 0.3 and 1 per cent by about 5 a.m. ET. New York futures were up. The Canadian dollar was at about 76 US cents.

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WHAT EVERYONE’S TALKING ABOUT

Alberta’s offensive against oil sands opponents is politics masquerading as public policy

Jeffrey Jones: “Premier Jason Kenney’s United Conservative Party has launched its offensive against what it says is a scourge of environmental opposition to the oil industry. The taxpayer-funded probe into foreign funding of environmental groups delivers everything the staunchest oil-patch backers would want, with the starting point that opposition, be it partly funded by foreigners or not, could make one anti-Albertan.”

Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker is the antihero the alienated and angry have been waiting for, and that’s precisely the problem

Sarah Hagi: “Some critics have been dancing around whether or not Joker is ‘potentially toxic’ but most believe, thanks to director Todd Phillips’ visual skills and Phoenix’s committed performance, that it might also be one of the best films of the year. I don’t disagree with any of that – but I do yawn at the idea of another story in which white men are offered a sort of understanding for their violence.”

TODAY’S EDITORIAL CARTOON

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(Brian Gable/The Globe and Mail)

Brian Gable/The Globe and Mail

LIVING BETTER

What you need to know about vaping

Canadian health officials are monitoring reports of six deaths and nearly 500 cases of lung disease in the U.S. tied to vaping products. While it’s not clear exactly what’s behind the illnesses, experts are warning of the potential health risks of vaping.

Addiction: Nicotine is highly addictive, and e-cigarettes are no exception, despite the fact that they may be less harmful than cigarettes. Young people – who are vaping in growing numbers – are particularly vulnerable to the risks because their brains are still developing.

Heart and lung: Vaping solutions can cause lung inflammation and tissue damage, experts say. Chemicals in the liquid have been linked to lung disease and may also lead to blood-pressure changes, which could eventually lead to heart disease.

MOMENT IN TIME

David Bowie and Bing Crosby record together

(Bettmann/Getty Images)

Bettmann / Getty Images

Sept. 11, 1977: It was one of the most unlikely vocal pairings in the history of television. For Bing Crosby’s Merrie Olde Christmas, the British pop star David Bowie put the “rum” to the veteran American crooner’s “pum” for a cross-generational version of the solemn classic The Little Drummer Boy that included a grafted-on countermelody for added surreality. The resulting Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy duet was taped Sept. 11, 1977, five weeks before the 74-year-old Crosby would succumb to a heart attack on a Madrid golf course. The posthumous TV special aired Nov. 30 on CBS. A bemused audience watched as a suave rocker and the sweater-wearing Crosby engaged in awkward small-talk in an ornamented setting. Scripted conversation led to something less forced: Soft, respectful harmonies and the news of a newborn king, set against strings and rat-a-tat-tat drums. The coupling grew less ironic and more special as each verse passed. By the time Bowie sang the newly written “peace on Earth" passage as Crosby gently murmured a well-known chorus, the two were on the same page. A charming new classic was born – pa-rum-pum-pum-pum. – Brad Wheeler

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