PM Stephen Harper would not be Prime Minister if he was not adept at playing all the angles to his advantage and the latest Parliamentary test of wills has the potential makings of a Conservative electoral opportunity.
Indeed, a case can be made that a persistent Conservative blind spot to the environment has done more to lead the party to a minority dead end in Quebec and elsewhere than clumsy marketing
A week after the return of Parliament, the Conservatives and the Liberals remain more or less deadlocked in voting intentions, with the NDP and the Bloc Québécois in a holding pattern.
Like a plant whose buds fail to open, his government is consistently failing to thrive in the polls. It could be that the Conservative party was uprooted from opposition too quickly for its own good.
It is too early to tell whether Lucien Bouchard's public tiff with the PQ is just a one-off from a bored political retiree or the embryo of a game-changer for Quebec politics.
With a Senate opposition majority bolstered by electoral victories, the risks of legislative gridlock between the two Houses of Parliament would be increased rather than the opposite.
Watching Michael Ignatieff these days is like watching a movie rerun, in the dubious expectation of a different ending.
With the main players at Finance, Environment, Foreign Affairs and Defence, all staying put, the ripple effect of the makeover will be localized rather than widespread
The result is an environment that is almost completely devoid of passion about and faith in the conventional political process.
At the same time, the bills the government ran up to deal with the recession are about to come in.
While the current Prime Minister has a well-deserved reputation for pushing back aggressively when under attack, Stephen Harper has—in this—been empowered by a weak-kneed Liberal opposition.
To all intents and purposes, an opposition-controlled Parliamentary investigation has been successfully hijacked by the government's spin doctors.
Richard Colvin, among others, was supposed to be their eyes and ears in Afghanistan.
That's the main message from last week's byelection foursome. As a result, it is no longer a given that Quebecers will again stand in the way of a Conservative majority in the next general election.
But in the future, the competing aspirations of Quebec francophones are more likely to erode the consensus that underlies Bill 101 than the House of Commons or even the Supreme Court.
Michael Ignatieff has so far demonstrated no capacity to rewrite it on his own. Filling the Quebec intellectual vacuum at the top of the Liberal pyramid should be an absolute priority.
This reference comes at a time when sovereignty has been steadily running out of steam; it will be a test of the recent resilience of federalism in Quebec.
It does not mean Conservative strategists will be burning the midnight oil to engineer their own defeat, but it does mean Stephen Harper has no cause to bend over backward to avoid an election
Unless the Grits' intellectual vacuum is addressed, the Liberal machine in Quebec will continue to rattle on empty.
NDP MPs on Wednesday morning at the corner of Metcalfe and Wellington streets outside the Langevin Block, where the prime minister has an office, across the street from Parliament Hill. They include Rosane Doré Lefebvre, far left, Hélène Laverdière, second from right, and Charlie Angus, far right.
NDP MP Charlie Angus and other MPs wait in front of the prime minister's office at Langevin Block, after leaving the Hill on Wednesday morning.
Ottawa Police cars on Wellington Street in front of the Hill on the morning of the attack.
RCMP officers on Sparks Street between Elgin and Metcalfe streets on Wednesday morning. Surroundings buildings were locked down and later evacuated.
Reporters and camera crews are pushed back to the corner of Sparks and Metcalfe streets.