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Minister of Veterans Affairs and Associate Minister of National Defence Minister Kent Hehr arrives to take part in the Ceremony of Remembrance in the Senate on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Thursday, November 5, 2015.Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press

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POLITICS NOTEBOOK

By Gloria Galloway (@glorgal)

Kent Hehr says he is humbled to be the Minister of Veterans Affairs, especially on Remembrance Day when Canadians are reminded of the sacrifice of a nation and of individuals "who gave everything including their lives for the defence of liberty and freedom."

Mr. Hehr will take part in the service at the National War Memorial in Ottawa where thousands are expected to gather in a cold drizzle to pay tribute to the men and women who died for their country.

Weather is part of the Remembrance Day experience in Canada, Mr. Hehr said in a telephone interview on Monday. It reminds him, he said, of the 40 students from Western Canada High School in his Calgary riding who quit classes to fight in "the snow and the cold and the freezing rain" in the trenches of France and Germany during the First World War.

"Often times on November 11 it's a little bit chilly" at the local cenotaph, said Mr. Hehr. "And you are thinking 'my goodness, it's a little bit cold.' And then you think about the sacrifice of those young men – how many times they were cold, how many times they were hungry, how many times were they scared with bombs and bullets all around them, and mustard gas circulating in the air."

Remembrance Day is also about Canada pulling together as a nation, said the Minister whose grandfather was a cobbler for the troops during the Second World War and whose grandmother worked in a munitions plant.

Mr. Hehr has inherited a challenging portfolio. Complaints about the way former members of Canada's Armed Forces are treated by Ottawa have  been echoing since 2010. On Remembrance Day in 2013, some veterans turned their backs on members of the former Conservative government to demonstrate their discontent.

The Liberals promised during the election campaign to invest an additional $100-million per year to expand support for families who are caring for veterans with physical or mental-health issues. They also committed to re-establishing the system of lifelong pensions. In addition, they have promised to expand access to the permanent impairment allowance for veterans with career-ending injuries, and to increase the earnings-loss benefit to 90 per cent of a veteran's pre-release salary.

"We ran on an aggressive platform that said we were going to make things better," said Mr. Hehr. The government is committed, he said, to "getting our men and women who return from combat or peace missions the services they need with care, dignity and respect."

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW THIS MORNING

By Chris Hannay (@channay)

> Defence Minister Harjit Singh Sajjan has ordered Canada's top military commander to make suicide prevention a priority.

> The Liberal government has identified about 10,000 possible refugees.

> How the Italian Mafia benefits from the refugee crisis.

> Finance Minister Bill Morneau will provide a fiscal update on Ottawa's finances before the end of the year.

> The RCMP and Parliament Hill security have been disagreeing on how to honour those guarding the parliamentary precinct during the Ottawa shooting last year.

WHAT EVERYONE'S TALKING ABOUT

"U.S. politics will trump Canada-U.S. relations every time. The idea that somehow Canada's historical relations and friendship with the United States will induce a president to give priority to relations with Canada when domestic U.S. politics are at play fundamentally misunderstands Washington and how little Canada counts there. The Obama administration strung Canada along for five years over Keystone, hardly the way to treat a 'friend.' " – Jeffrey Simpson (for subscribers) on the lessons from Keystone.

Alison Howell (Globe and Mail): "If Canadians care about the suicides reported in The Globe and Mail – and they should – they should also think about how these suicides relate to the increasingly militaristic turn over the past decade in Canada's foreign policy agenda."

Lysiane Gagnon (Globe and Mail): "Those who want the proportion of female cabinet ministers to reflect the female population should insist that the political parties present many more women in 'good' ridings – ridings where they have a real chance of being elected."

Benjamin Shinewald (Globe and Mail): "This is nuts. Any asset must be maintained, and a valuable asset like 24 Sussex Drive should be treasured."

Tarek Fatah (Sun Media): "What is it about the Sikhs that has made them such a driving force in Canada's multitude of communities?"


This newsletter is produced by Chris Hannay and Steve Proceviat.


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