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Blessed normalcy and quiet dignity settled over the city of Ottawa and the country's government Thursday in the aftermath of violence and tragedy.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his wife, Laureen, laid a wreath at the National War Memorial, where Corporal Nathan Cirillo, a reservist from Hamilton, was slain. It was a moving and appropriate gesture, to be followed, one hopes, by a more lasting testimony to the 24-year-old who died so cruelly by being at the right place at the wrong time.

Every political party leader rose to the occasion with appropriate remarks in the House of Commons. All made the proper point that the best response to Wednesday's attack is for the nation's elected officials to reassemble quickly and to carry on the work of democracy.

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All paid appropriate tribute to Sergeant-at-Arms Kevin Vickers, who is believed to have killed the terrorist, Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, in Parliament's Hall of Honour. Mr. Vickers, a much-respected figure around Parliament before the shooting, is now hailed as a hero.

As thunderous and prolonged applause from MPs resounded through the House of Commons chamber, Mr. Vickers stood, and then sat, his face stoic, as if to convey that he had only done what was expected of him. The MPs didn't see it that way – for them, he and Commons security staff had kept them safe and, by extension, had kept safe the Parliament of Canada.

How often do Stephen Harper, Thomas Mulcair and Justin Trudeau embrace each other? That's what the three party leaders did after their respective remarks, a fitting sign of solidarity and a signal that while political opponents, they and other MPs are all democrats and patriots.

The Prime Minister thanked Canadians for their messages of support and solidarity, remarking that he and his fellow politicians are more accustomed to receiving brickbats. On behalf of the country, he thanked world leaders for their messages of solidarity and condolence. A hockey fan himself, he noted the classy gesture by the Pittsburgh Penguins to have O Canada sung before Wednesday night's game against the Philadelphia Flyers.

Police removed the barriers that had cordoned off sections of downtown Ottawa since the day before. Police had previously confirmed that the killer acted alone, which came as a relief given the rumours that flew through the parliamentary precinct about multiple terrorists being involved.

And so, work interrupted by tragedy resumed. But the week's two murders by homegrown terrorists have raised a host of questions, not only about the events themselves but about how best to protect Canadians from future attacks.

Wednesday's events do need a thorough investigation by impartial people, because if Mr. Zehaf-Bibeau had planned his attack more purposefully, many people would have died in Parliament. The country was very lucky that no one but him died there.

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The Prime Minister, who has often warned about the world being a "dangerous place," referred to known terrorist events in Canada, carried out or apprehended. He then referred, with understandable lack of precision, to other situations – the details of which could not be revealed, the inference being that security services have disrupted other threats before they occurred.

The government already has a bill ready for Parliament giving additional powers to the Canadian Security Intelligence Service. Further measures might be in the works after this week's attacks. Certain civil libertarians and defence lawyers might well object to these proposals, but the deaths of two soldiers and the fact that their killers were Canadian citizens will put these groups on their back feet.

No politician would dream of trying to score points from a specific tragedy. Nonetheless, warnings of "danger" do fit the Conservatives' overall narrative about being "tough on crime," strong on national defence, militarily engaged abroad, and led by a seasoned, resolute Prime Minister.

That serious crime rates have been falling, that the defence budget has been pared back and that the government's rhetoric on foreign affairs has usually outpaced any tangible contributions it has made are all observable facts that won't be allowed to get in the way of the Conservatives' self-portrayal.

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