Prime Minister Stephen Harper seized the very first public opportunity that followed the unanimous Supreme Court constitutional ruling on Senate reform on Friday to signal his intention to walk away from the battlefield.
Canadians - he opined - were essentially stuck with the status quo.
Harper's words sounded more like the clarion call of a long-planned strategic pullout than that of a hasty retreat on the heels of a legal rout.
On a matter involving a central plank of the Conservative government's founding creed, there was none of the customary talk of taking the time to study the court decision or exploring alternative options.
By speaking out swiftly, Harper pre-emptively grounded the notion floated by some of his MPs that the issue should be taken to the people in a referendum.
It was hardly the first indication that the prime minister was looking for a reason to drop his Senate plans.
From the outset eight years ago, a collection of legal experts, premiers and opposition critics questioned the constitutionality of the Conservative bid to unilaterally turn the Senate into an elected house with set term limits.
Yet it was only after Harper had gained control of both houses of Parliament - at the very point where he could have turned his proposals into law - that he set out to seek the Supreme Court's advice on the matter.
Contrast that with the Conservative approach to other files.
At the time of the 2006 vote on whether to repel same-sex marriage, Harper's answer to queries as to whether there was a Charter-friendly alternative to the existing legislation was to suggest that judges should not dare to overturn Parliament's wishes.
In the same spirit the Conservative government has repeatedly pushed the constitutional envelope on others fronts, most notably in the implementation of its law and order agenda.
If Harper holds the prime ministerial record for defeats in Supreme Court it is because none of his predecessors so systematically set the federal government on a collision course with the top court.
By the time Harper referred the Senate file to the Supreme Court in 2012 some key allies had soured on his proposals.
Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall had decided that he would rather have the Senate abolished than elected along the model put forward by Harper.
The Canada West Foundation - an Alberta think-tank with a long history of advocacy on Senate reform - had cautioned against making the upper house more democratically legitimate by having its members elected without first addressing the under-representation of Western Canada.
Together the four Atlantic provinces hold 30 Senate seats against 24 for their four Western sisters.
All of Harper's Senate proposals could still be implemented with the support of seven provinces making up half of the country's population.
But even if he wanted to try, he would not find enough provincial takers for those measures in the absence of a consensus to also fix the seat imbalance that is a distinguishing feature of the current Senate.
The power of constitutional initiative does not rest singly with the prime minister.
Any province could snatch Senate reform from the jaws of oblivion by moving a constitutional amendment and inviting or enticing its provincial and federal partners to follow suit over a period of three years.
Should at least seven premiers ever agree on a formula to redistribute the seats in the Senate in a manner that is more respectful of the demographical realities of modern Canada, the rest would more easily follow.
The Supreme Court has confirmed that the Constitution has granted the provinces shared custody of Canada's central institutions.
That, according to Friday's opinion, is particularly true of the Senate, a political creature that was conceived with their interests in mind.
It may be time for the premiers to shoulder the maintenance duties that come with the status of equal partners in the institutional architecture of the federation,
Chantal Hébert is a national affairs writer.