Northern Reflections

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"There is no greatness where simplicity, goodness and truth are absent." Leo Tolstoy
Updated: 29 min 15 sec ago

Building A Country

8 hours 57 min ago


When Barack Obama addressed Parliament two days ago, he recalled what the other Prime Minister Trudeau said about building a country:

A country, after all, is not something you build as the pharaohs built the pyramids, and leave standing there to defy eternity. A country is something that is built every day out of certain basic shared values.
In 1867, Canada seemed like an impossible dream. In 1995, we almost lost it. But the country has endured.

May it continue to endure. And may we continue to build it.

Image: ottawacitizen.com

They Also Begin At Home

Thu, 06/30/2016 - 04:26


During the 2015 election, Justin Trudeau made a number of promises to immigrant communities across the country. He has kept some of those promises. Avvy Go writes:

To his credit, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has either delivered on a number of his promises, or has taken some critical first steps towards their implementation, not the least of which are the inquiry into the missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, the reinstatement of the Court Challenges Program, and the acceptance of more than 20,000 Syrian refugees.
In some immigrant communities, the change in government has even generated rumours that there are now more generous rules granting permanent resident status for non-status immigrants. Several ethno-racial legal clinics are seeing a sudden surge of clients who have lived underground for many years in Canada, and are now reaching out for help to regularize their status.
But Trudeau promised much more. And there is much more to do:  On other issues, repeated assurances have been made for reform with no concrete action. An example of this is the Liberal promise to revoke the Conditional Permanent Resident (CPR) status, which forces sponsored spouses to stay in a relationship with their sponsors for two years or risk losing their permanent resident status. This CPR provision has been shown to increase the risk of domestic violence and abuse. Immigration Minister John McCallum has said that the CPR will be revoked, without stating when or clarifying whether the revocation will be made retroactive to cover all those who have been, and continue to be, subject to investigation by immigration authorities.
Further, while there has been talk to reform the Temporary Foreign Workers Program, the consultations to date have been skewed towards employers and agencies that broker contracts, as opposed to the migrants living in precarious conditions.
True, the “to do” list for the new government is long. But it is not long enough. Missing from the list is the much needed renewal of Canada’s Action Plan Against Racism (CAPAR) instituted by the Paul Martin government in 2005. Little to no action has been taken over the last 10 years to maintain programs that were once designed to combat systemic racism, let alone implement new measures to address growing colour-coded disparities. Although it is encouraging to see significant commitments and initiatives with respect to Indigenous issues and concerns, for peoples of colour Canada has effectively wasted 10 years on this important file.
Yesterday Trudeau, and Presidents Obama and Pena Nieto made a joint commitment to co-operation and openness. Like charity, they also begin at home.
Image: huffingtonpost.ca

That's When They Turn On You

Wed, 06/29/2016 - 05:08

As the leaders of the United States, Mexico and Canada meet today in Ottawa, they're feeling pretty good -- particularly after last week's vote in Britain. Tom Walkom writes:

Their cheery collaboration is being deliberately portrayed as a counterpoint to the British public’s gloomy rejection of the European Union.
In effect, the three NAFTA amigos are saying: Hey don’t worry overmuch about Britain and the EU. Global integration is going gangbusters. Look at us.
If it were only that simple.
It's not that simple. Donald Trump is talking about getting out of NAFTA -- unless he gets his way:
In fact, NAFTA is on uncertain ground. In the U.S., presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has taken a hard line against it.
On Tuesday, in an unusually coherent speech, he repeated his promise to either radically renegotiate NAFTA in America’s favour or have the U.S. withdraw from the pact.
And Canadians themselves are not that gung-ho on the deal:
In Canada, a poll this week found support for NAFTA is split, with roughly 25 per cent in favour, 25 per cent opposed and the remainder indifferent or unsure.
No wonder. The addition of Mexico in 1994 to the original Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement has helped manufacturers who locate in that country. But it hasn’t necessarily helped Canada.
Cheaper Mexican wages have encouraged auto plants to build there — often at the expense of jobs in Canada. Even Toronto’s troubled new Bombardier streetcars are being built, in part, in Mexico.Canada’s trade deficit with Mexico stands at about $10 billion.
What the Amigos should remember as they meet, writes Walkom, is that sometimes people get fed up. That's when they turn on you.
Image:care2.com

Incapable Of Complex Thought

Tue, 06/28/2016 - 04:46


Everywhere in the English speaking world, Lawrence Martin writes, conservatism is in trouble:

In Britain, party hardliners pushed David Cameron into calling a referendum on the European Union. With the Brexit result, they are now in control. The consequences for Britain and well beyond Britain, as the great wealth of analysts agree, could be dire.
In the United States, the Republican Party fell under the sway of Dick Cheney and his ilk. They brought on the Iraq war, the consequences of which have been dire and still are. The Republican Party then fell into the grip of the radical-right Tea Party. Now they are under the control of demagogue Donald Trump. His appeal has similarities to that of the rebels in the British Conservative Party. It is driven by aging, angry-man populism.
If you like Brexit, if you liked the Iraq war, if you favour the retrograde prejudices of Donald Trump, you will like the direction of modern-day conservatism.
And that's the point. Increasingly, modern day conservatism has shown itself to be retrograde, morally bankrupt and incapable of meeting the demands of the new century.  However, Canadian conservatives haven't figured that out yet:
They don’t see Brexit as a step backward. They don’t see the new conservatism as a sure bet to lose the battle of the generations. In Britain, surveys showed the youth were most opposed to Brexit, seniors most in favour. In the correctly named Grand Old Party, the appeal under Mr. Trump is primarily to aging, less-educated voters. Stephen Harper’s Conservatives played mostly to the old-age demographic as well. Millennials being the voice of the future, what are these parties thinking?
It would appear that conservatives -- Canadian conservatives particularly -- preach selfishness and are incapable of complex thought. 
Image: quotesgram.com

Remaking The World

Mon, 06/27/2016 - 04:58

The ripples from Britain's decision to leave the EU keep spreading. The most immediate shocks, of course, are being felt in the UK. Michael Harris writes:

David Cameron and his government, gone; Britain’s senior EU official, Jonathon Hill, gone. Aflame with divorce anger, European leaders wanting the UK out of the marital home tout de suite. More than a million Europeans living in London potentially gone. The opposition Labour Party in chaos with half the shadow cabinet resigning after millions of voters rejected Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s injunction to stay in the EU. And the unthinkable prospect of a Donald Trump/Boris Johnson transatlantic political axis.

On the economic side, Moody’s lowered the UK’s “outlook” from stable to negative. Overnight, Britain slipped from the fifth-largest economy in the world to sixth, leap-frogged by France. The pound dropped like a stone. There are reports that Brexit wiped out $2-trillion in wealth, though it is far from certain whether those assets were made of anything more substantial than paper.

And then there is Scotland. Scots recently voted against independence largely because they were told that if they split with the UK, they would also be splitting with the EU. Now that Scotland has apparently lost the highly valued EU connection, there has been an immediate call for a second vote on independence. In fact, Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is threatening to veto the Brexit vote, and directly lobby EU member states to allow Edinburgh to remain inside the pan-European trading bloc.

The United Kingdom may soon be a thing of the past. And, likewise, the EU -- at least as it is presently constituted -- may soon be assigned to the dustbin of history:

The whole European shooting match is now in play. What is to stop hard-right nationalists in places like France and the Netherlands from demanding a referendum of their own on their futures in the EU? There is already the same anti-immigrant sentiment in those countries waiting to be exploited by native populists cut from the same cloth as Boris Johnson and Michael Gove.

Both countries will be facing elections next year and it’s a safe bet that leaving the EU will be front and centre on the political agendas, pushed by National Front vice-president Florian Philippot in France, and the Freedom Party in the Netherlands. And they are not the only countries that might be thrown into chaos by the euroskeptics taking heart from the Brexit vote.

The Wall Street Journal reports that the political opposition in Sweden has been inspired by Britain bailing out of Europe. Opposition leader Mattias Karlsson told the WSJ the British vote was inspiring and that, “We will start campaigning for a Swexit.” Likewise with Italy’s Northern League and its leader Matteo Salvini. He said that it’s time Italians had the chance to pass their own judgement on EU membership. Salvini, who is an unabashed Trump supporter, is known for his vitriolic attacks on migrants, and his praise for the “good works” of fascist Italian dictator, Benito Mussolini. Trump in turn has expressed his hope that the Northern League leader will be the next prime minister of Italy.

The world is being remade -- and whether or not it will be for the better is entirely uncertain.

Lessons Learned

Sun, 06/26/2016 - 02:59

We don't know what the long term consequences of Britain's decision to leave the EU will be. But, Tom Walkom writes, there are already lessons to be learned:

First, democracy and advanced capitalism aren’t always compatible. Britain’s voters were asked whether they wanted to stick with a globalized system designed to increase wealth in the aggregate. The majority looked at what they were getting out of the arrangement and said no.
Second, nationalism is alive. There was a time, not so long ago, when the nation-state was viewed as passé. It is not. When Britain’s leavers said they didn’t want to be governed by bureaucrats in Brussels, they meant it.
Third, full labour mobility is, politically, a step too far. The conceit of the European Union was that it had erased borders — that EU citizens could travel, work and live anywhere. Thursday’s referendum showed that a lot of Britons simply don’t agree. If the polls are right, a lot of other Europeans don’t agree either. They fear an unrestricted flood of newcomers will drive down wages. Sometimes, these fears are justified.
Fourth, the refusal of centre and left parties to deal with any of this has allowed the hard right to monopolize antiglobalization sentiment. In Britain, the right dominated the leave campaign in part because there was no one else.
In the United States, would-be presidential nominee Bernie Sanders articulated a centre-left critique of globalization. But his Democratic party didn’t agree. Now demagogue Republican Donald Trump has the field to himself.
The United States has its critics of globalization on both the Left and on the Right. In Britain, it was the Right that won the day. And there are lessons, too, about the kind of leadership the Right espouses:
The motives of those who voted to leave the EU in Thursday’s referendum were not always noble.
Racism played a role as did plain old xenophobia. Those leading the leave campaign were hardly Churchillian. They included Nigel Farage, the odious leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party as well as former London mayor Boris Johnson, a buffoonish toff who may well end up being the country’s next prime minister.
But the most important lesson was simply this:
Global integration may serve that abstraction known as the economy. But it doesn’t always help real, flesh-and-blood people.
The lessons are there. We'll have to wait and see if people around the world are paying attention. 
Image: quotehd.com

Brain Damaged

Sat, 06/25/2016 - 05:20

 The Harperites have never liked the courts or judges. Michael Harris writes:

Remember Stephen Harper’s attack on Supreme Court Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin — the one that had her squirmin’ in her ermine? And then there was Dean Del Mastro’s assertion that his guilty verdict on four counts of electoral fraud was only Judge Lisa Cameron’s “opinion.”

The CPC crew has always been happiest being judge in its own cause. It treated the judiciary like interfering busybodies good only for rubber-stamping the government’s agenda, constitutional or otherwise.

So on one level, it’s no surprise to see the Harper appointees who control the Standing Committee on Internal Economy returning at warp speed to a scandal that’s a political shade of kryptonite. They are once again in full-throated pursuit of Senator Mike Duffy for — you guessed it — disputed expense money. Nearly $17,000.
The problem is that Justice Charles Vaillancourt found Duffy's expenses allowable under Senate rules -- something Duffy's lawyer, Donald Bayne, has reiterated:

Bayne points out that this amounts to challenging and attacking Justice Vaillancourt’s finding of facts on those very same impugned expense matters now being regurgitated by the Senate. As Bayne reminds the Clerk of the Standing Committee on Internal Economy in a hand-delivered letter dated June 22, “leading evidence which is inconsistent with findings made in the accused’s favour in a previous proceeding” is precluded from subsequent proceedings. “Thus Justice Vaillancourt’s positive factual findings about all of the impugned expense matters cannot be challenged, attacked or contradicted.”

Justice Vaillancourt had all the evidence available to arrive at his decision. There was no new evidence, as the Standing Committee on Internal Economy originally claimed in their June 8, 2016 letter to Duffy asking for repayment of $16,955 in ineligible expenses.
I have written earlier in this space that perseveration is a symptom of brain damage. One has to wonder if the Conservative caucus in the Senate is brain damaged.

 Image: quotesgram.com

For Good Or Ill

Fri, 06/24/2016 - 04:12


Britain is out. Yesterday was momentous and there is no telling what the consequences will be. But, Andrew Nikiforuk writes, yesterday had everything to do with what he calls, "the misery of bigness:"

Years ago, the great Austrian economist Leopold Kohr argued that overwhelming evidence from science, culture and biology all pointed to one unending truth: things improve with an unending process of division.

The breakdown ensured that nothing ever got too big for its own britches or too unmanageable or unaccountable. Small things simply worked best. 

Kohr pegged part of the problem with bigness as "the law of diminishing sensitivity." The bigger a government or market or corporation got, the less sensitive it became to matters of the neighbourhood.

In the end bigness, just like any empire, concentrated power and delivered misery, corruption and waste.  
Kohr was an iconoclast whose

masterful and humorous work, The Breakdown of Nations, argued the root of most evil lies in big government and big institutions. Whenever power reached it, a critical mass, its wielders, no matter how nice or educated, tended to abuse it. Bigness not only allowed but invited the abuse.   

The only way to stop the cancer of bigness was to return to the modesty of smallness.

"If a society grows beyond its optimum size, its problems must eventually outrun the growth of those human faculties which are necessary for dealing with them," wrote Kohr.

The problem, he added, "is not to grow but to stop growing; the answer not union but division."

Yesterday the Brits put another nail in the coffin of globalization. Despite what its cheerleaders say, it's falling apart. The centre cannot hold -- for good or ill.



Restoring Faith In Environmental Assessments

Thu, 06/23/2016 - 04:16
 
By the time Stephen Harper left office, no one believed a word of any environmental assessment issued by the federal government. Jason MacLean writes:

In 2012 the Harper government gutted the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, the National Energy Board Act, the Fisheries Act and the Navigable Waters Protection Act. Thousands of natural resources projects were exempted from assessments of their potentially significant adverse environmental effects.

Energy projects — including politically charged pipeline proposals — were subjected to far narrower reviews with radically restricted public participation. Fish habitats have been put in serious jeopardy, with 99 per cent of Canada’s rivers and lakes left unprotected.
Summing up the state of Canadian environmental law following the controversial 2012 omnibus amendments, Devon Page, the executive director of Ecojustice, frankly observed that “Canada has some of the worst environmental laws in the world.”
The Trudeau government has declared that it will review all environmental assessment procedures:
Building on its interim measures announced earlier this year, it will appoint expert panels to review the key environmental laws gutted in 2012. They will report back in January 2017, have a mandate to rebuild trust in environmental assessment processes, modernize the National Energy Board and introduce safeguards to the Fisheries Act and Navigation Protection Act.
The government has before it a Herculean task, given the cynicism that Harper left in his wake. For the review to be successful, Maclean writes, three things must happen:
First, the government’s review truly has to be an overhaul, not merely a touch up. With just over 1,000 days until the next election, the government may be tempted to do the bare minimum to declare victory. At a recent meeting of leading environmental assessment practitioners and scholars, for example, the Minister of Environment and Climate Change asked whether there was anything “worth keeping” in the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012. The answer, no matter how politically inconvenient, is no.
Second, the fundamental assumption underlying environmental assessment must shift from how a proposed project will proceed to whether it proceeds at all. And the way to answer that question is not by mitigating adverse biophysical impacts, but by assessing whether a project will make a net contribution to sustainable development and decarbonization, thereby helping us meet our Paris climate change commitments.
Finally, the government says that public consultation will be the core of its review. It promises a co-ordinated, open and transparent process based on scientific evidence, working in partnership with indigenous peoples, provinces and territories and input from the public, industry and environmental groups. 
Getting agreement on expansion of the CPP took considerable effort. But it will be much more difficult to restore faith in the government's ability to conduct objective environmental assessments.

Image: Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press

Now For The Tough Stuff

Wed, 06/22/2016 - 04:24


It's interesting that one of the loudest voices from the Right is giving the Trudeau government a thumbs up. Michael den Tandt writes:

There was good, bad and more than a bit of ugly in the first sitting of Canada’s 42nd parliament. On balance, however, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberals are hitting the 2016 BBQ circuit with a breeze at their backs — as much because of how they’ve adjusted to mistakes, as their successes.
There were mistakes and miscues. But the government recognized them -- publicly:

The Liberals have shown themselves nimble enough to adjust on the fly. The same goes for their handling of Bill C-14, the law regulating assisted dying, which was a hot potato foisted on them by the Supreme Court of Canada’s 2015 ruling and the Harper government’s refusal to address it.

As I argued last time, the passage of C-14 through the Senate Friday is not only a triumph for the ministers responsible — Health Minister Jane Philpott and Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould — but a positive signal about the viability of Trudeau’s new, independent Senate. It has passed its first major test.

Finally, voters who opted for the Liberals last year will note the party promised them three core, bread-and-butter reforms in the campaign: a new Canada Child Benefit, a tax cut for middle-income earners and national pension reform.
It's too early to call the Trudeau government a success. But it's doing politics differently than the previous government. This week's pension deal underscores that fact.

Now for the tough stuff.

Image: torontosun.com

Isn't That How Democracy Works?

Tue, 06/21/2016 - 05:19


Despite howling from the Conservatives and the Fraser Institute, Ottawa and the provinces have reached a deal to expand the Canada Pension Plan. A short time ago, such an outcome seemed impossible. However, Canadian Press reports:

Following weeks of talks and an all-day meeting in Vancouver on Monday, finance ministers emerged with the agreement-in-principle.

Even provinces such as Saskatchewan and British Columbia, which had expressed concerns about the timing of CPP reform, had signed on. Only Manitoba and Quebec declined to agree to the terms.

The agreement came together as pollsters pointed to overwhelming popular support for public pension reform amid concerns about the adequacy of retirement savings.

The federal Liberals ran on platform to upgrade the public pension system, as did their Ontario cousins. The result also means Ontario will abandon its project to go it alone with its own pension plan.
Why such an abrupt change in the winds?

Sources familiar with the talks said doubters had concerns about the potential economic impact of boosting the CPP, even at the late stages of negotiations.

They said Ottawa made a major push in the final days and hours, which helped secure enough country-wide support to expand the CPP. To make the change, they needed consent of a minimum of seven provinces representing at least two-thirds of Canada’s population.

The sources also suggested Prime Minister Justin Trudeau himself was involved in the extra effort.On top of that, Ontario, which had been moving forward its more-ambitious pension plan proposal, backed away from its earlier demands that CPP reform should be just as robust. 
But, then, isn't that how democracy is supposed to work?

Image: nupge.ca

A Pretty Accurate Assessment

Mon, 06/20/2016 - 04:19
Now that the House has risen, Michael Harris has given Justin Trudeau his report card. He has given Trudeau quite a few A's (or dimes, which we used to get with good marks):

Trudeau gets another dime for keeping the promise to pass legislation on medically assisted dying, despite the political, ethical, and emotional minefield that had to be navigated to pull this off. For all the dark murmuring about Trudeau’s alienation of the Senate, he got Bill C-14 through the Red Chamber without compromising the government’s commitment to retain some limits on access to doctor-assisted suicide.

Who knows? With his arm’s length advisory board recommending merit-based senate nominees, the PM may be well on the way to transforming the Red Chamber into an independent body capable of fulfilling its parliamentary obligations without a constitutional amendment. That’s a lot better than a Senate that played partisan stooge to the PMO’s dark machinations during the Harper years, culminating in the Wright-Duffy fiasco.

 Trudeau gets an A+ and a big bag of dimes for each of unmuzzling scientists (with the notable exception of Patricia Sutherland) withdrawing Canadian jets from Iraq and Syria; bringing gender equality to the cabinet table; bringing back the long-form census; and lowering middle-class taxes while creating a new tax bracket on income over $200,000 — all in jig time.

This gives hope that the momentous issues ahead might actually be delivered as promised — the inquiry into missing and murdered native women; a revamped electoral system that will do away with the partisan nonsense that the Tories tried to pass off as democratic reform; the legalization of marijuana; a nation-to-nation relationship with First Nations; the amending of the secret police provisions of Harper’s so-called national security legislation, Bill C-51; a new Health Accord with the provinces, and a national framework for fighting climate change.
But not all of Trudeau's marks are the praise worthy:

The guy who paddled the Rouge River in Scarborough and then set McDonald’s aflutter by dropping in for a bite, gets a D for leaving Canadian veterans waiting on key elements of his reform plan to undo the damage of the Harper years. Disabled veterans are still awaiting pension reform promises and the reopening of those nine Veterans Assistance Centres closed during the Harper years to help his government “balance” the budget.

The PM gets an F for allowing Harper’s sleazy “future appointments” to stand, largely it seems, from fear of lawsuits that might arise if he cancelled these jammy gigs. For that matter, he gets another F for letting Harper-appointed public servants hang around key departments he must ultimately redirect if he is to fulfill his legislative agenda. Insiders saw stark evidence of that at the climate talks in Paris. Too much retro-Harper think.

He also gets an F for not sending all of the proposed pipeline projects back to square one of the environmental assessment process. For starters, a complete reset was what he promised First Nations, environmental groups, and several British Columbia mayors during the election campaign. But more importantly, Harper had made a mockery of the assessment process and the National Energy Board to the extent that none of its previous decisions can be trusted. They need to be revisited if public confidence is to be restored in how the government green lights major pipeline projects.
And then there's the biggest F of all:

And now for Trudeau’s biggest F — as in FU — the Saudi arms deal. No matter how many tortured political yoga positions adopted by Foreign Affairs minister Stephane Dion, this is a stinker. It is not about Canada keeping its word: it is about Canada abandoning its core values. This is checkbook pragmatism at its worst. This is feeding people to the sharks for money.

The Saudi Royal family makes Henry VIII look like a new-age, sensitive guy. They cut off heads at the drop of a veil. They mete out a thousand lashes for a few words of free expression. They crush the slightest movement toward democracy and they do it with equipment purchased from the Americans — and now from Canada. And if that isn’t enough reason not to sell them armoured vehicles mounted with heavy machine guns, how about the Saudi-led genocidal war against Yemen?
All in all, it strikes me as a pretty accurate assessment.

Image: DiurnaLearn.blogspot.com

Making Three Point Shots

Sun, 06/19/2016 - 03:12


Justin Trudeau is changing the rules about how to do politics. Evan Solomon writes:

“We were perhaps behaving in a way that was resembling more the previous government,” Trudeau told stunned reporters as he explained that he would cede to opposition requests to more fairly distribute seats on his electoral reform committee—a sudden and surprising climbdown. Did Trudeau just compare himself to Stephen Harper? Yes, he did. This was after he’d already reversed course on the assisted-dying bill’s Motion 6, which would have limited opposition debate. And after he’d apologized—numerous times—for the infamous elbow incident. Trudeau was just doing what he has done since the campaign: breaking the five cardinal rules of political communication.
Those five cardinal rules -- up until now --  have been:

1. The flip-flop rule: Reversing decisions makes you look indecisive. Stick to your promises or people will stop trusting you.
2. The loser rule: Never repeat your negatives because you end up validating them. It goes without saying that you don’t compare yourself to the man you just defeated.
3. The blabber rule: Once you’re explaining, you’re losing. Keep messages simple.
4. The message-control rule: Never let the opposition or caucus take over the agenda. Leaders control; leaders look strong.
5. The wimp rule: Never give in to the opposition’s criticisms. Their job is to oppose. Your job is to lead.
Trudeau's approach, Solomon writes, is the equivalent of the three point shot in basketball:

Every time Trudeau fades back and launches another of his high-risk moon shots—legalizing pot, pricing carbon, buying navy ships, changing the way elections are won—you think he’s going to fail.

There are misses, for sure, lots of them, as Trudeau is the first to admit. But when he scores, he scores big. The age of political incrementalism, the policy layup shot, is over. Trudeau is breaking the rules and hitting all net.
There are a few other mistakes I'd like to see him admit -- starting with the Saudi arms deal. But, if he admits too many mistakes, his fans may not fill the seats.

Image: celticslife.com

Until It Has Had Its Say

Sat, 06/18/2016 - 04:57


Chantal Hebert writes this morning that the battle over Bill C-14 signals a new source of opposition for any Canadian government -- the Senate:

The legislative discussion over bill C-14 is over but the debate over the role of a more independent Senate in the larger parliamentary scheme of things has only just begun. It is already eliciting some diametrically opposed views as to the way forward.
There are two clearly different views about how the Senate should function:

At one extreme, there are those who would invest a more independent upper house with the mission of perfecting the work of their elected colleagues. In their book, a decrease in partisan attachment increases the moral authority of the senate, to the point that it should use the powers vested in it by the Constitution to the fullest — even when it means going against the will of the House of Commons.
But power is intoxicating. Its fumes are addictive. Almost every governing party eventually succumbs to the delusion of believing itself infallible and invincible. The cure usually involves a voter-imposed spell in opposition rehab.
And there's the rub. The Senate is unelected. Recognizing that fact, a majority of senators sent the bill back to the House, with its most controversial clause, "reasonably foreseeable," in tact.
The second theory of how the Senate should operate is also intriguing:
At the other extreme, there are those who feel that a still unelected but more independent Senate is ultimately even less accountable than its previous partisan version. No particular party is responsible for its actions. They argue such a Senate should be content to play the role of if not silent at least always compliant partner to the elected majority in the Commons.
Except that under the current electoral system, a majority government does not de facto speak for a majority of voters, it just speaks for more of them than any other of its opposition rivals.
I suspect this version of how the Senate works will go the way of the Dodo -- thanks to the Mike Duffy trial. The days are gone when the PMO can call the tune and have senators do its bidding.
In fact, the Senate will no longer do any government's bidding -- until it has had its say.