Or is it? The Mike Duffy trial opens today and the media circus with it. But is this examination of the Wright-Duffy $90,000 payment and related matters just bread and circuses or a serious constitutional moment?

By that I don’t mean will we finally fix the Senate? As I’ve argued elsewhere, we can’t until we fix much deeper structural problems in our Constitution reflected in the unworkable, nay incomprehensible amending formula. What I mean is, will we hold the branch that does matter to account, the “4th branch,” the cabinet that is half legislature and half executive and dominates both in an unhealthy fusion with the PMO at its apex?

Andrew Coyne in today’s National Post (and Ottawa Citizen and others) is marvellously scathing on how happy various parties should be that they can finally prove their tales about this sordid business were true. Especially the Prime Minister. And here’s the serious issue.

Few people think much of the Senate these days and it has little power. But the PMO increasingly dominates every aspect of government in Canada other than the judiciary. And if we do not find out what the Prime Minister knew, when he knew it, and why his story kept changing, we will have missed an important opportunity to insist that we still have a government of laws not men.

John Robson is a documentary filmmaker, an Invited Professor at the University of Ottawa and a commentator-at-large with News Talk Radio 580 CFRA in Ottawa. He holds a B.A. and M.A. in history from the University of Toronto and a Ph.D in American history from the University of Texas at Austin. He has worked in academia, think tanks and politics as well as doing print, radio and television journalism in Canada, and produced and hosted the documentary The Great War Remembered for Sun News Network in 2014. He is married to Brigitte Pellerin.

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