Thursday, September 07, 2006

Ignatieff Finds Balance

I have to admit, I find Ignatieff’s strong federalist stance quite attractive. While Harper speaks of “firewalls” and shows a preference for further de-centralization, Ignatieff is unapologetic in his view that the nation needs a strong central voice:
Although his new platform states that Quebec should be recognized as a "nation," as should aboriginal nations, in a Canada that is a "multinational state," Mr. Ignatieff made it clear that he believes Ottawa's power cannot be eroded.
"What you see is that Quebec has all the powers necessary to make its society flourish and grow," he said…

"I think we have to have an honest dialogue with Quebecers. I think it's important to have a federalism of recognition and respect. Recognition of what is specific to the Quebec people. I speak for all of those who say that Quebec is my nation but Canada is my country…"

". . . If the federal government transfers further fiscal power to the provinces, the capacity of the national government to promote and sustain the equality of citizenship will be damaged," his platform states.

Instead of the Harper appeasement, Ignatieff puts principle above political expediency. On the surface, Ignatieff’s view is risky, in that it could alienate soft nationalists in Quebec. However, if you look beyond the headline, Ignatieff shows great respect for Quebecers, while at the same time arguing for the larger nation. I like the balance and you have to appreciate the honesty on a subject that is full of potential landmines.

The role of the Prime Minister is to provide the federalist check to the natural regional aspirations of the Premiers. Ignatieff seems to understand his constitutional responsibility in a way that doesn’t try to pacify, which isn’t easy given the current climate. Say what you will about Ignatieff, the man expresses his views in unedited fashion, which is a refreshing break from the usual political rhetoric.


Anonymous said...

Now we can end with comparisons of Ignatieff to Trudeau.

PET is most surely rolling over in his grave right now.

Steve V said...


Isn't this much the same as Trudeau's worry about "a loose collection of promises"?

Anonymous said...

the quebec nation concept is downright dangerous and irresponsible. It is so ridiculous to say as Ignatieff often does that Canada is not a nation, but really just a state. I certainly hope he doesnt mean the 51st!

...but that's where we could be headed with the social divisions this "nation of nations" nonsense is inevitably leading to

Anonymous said...

its not just about equality of provincial power. By saying "no new powers to quebec" ignatieff is really just saying he's comfortable with the level of assymetry that already exists.

So much for individual equality.

Anonymous said...

I think if Trudeau were around he would be penning his latest "j'accuse" letter directing it at Ignatieff and then end by writing that he never thought that the Liberal party would be headed by a wimp.

Steve V said...

I don't see how you avoid asymetry in a Canada that includes Quebec. The two solitudes premise demands "special" status for Quebec, which I have no problem accepting. Other regions can claim a "uniqueness", but its really laughable in comparison to Quebec.

dalestreet said...


The classical understanding of a nation is a population with a common language, ethnicity, culture and history, while a state is a politically unified population. Canada has always been a state made up of many nations. Perhaps this is what Mr Ignatieff is alluding to.

The big worry of Asymmetrical Federalism is not the Provinces' ability to protect/promote the aspects of "national identity" (e.g. language, culture, history), but their ability to seize, and utilise the powers of the state to lead the regions of this country in vastly different directions from one another.

The fracturing of Canada into regional "statelets" is the big worry and has been exaserbated more by federal and provincial "deficit-reduction downloading", over the last decade and a half, than was ever accomplished by Quebec's language laws.

Steve V said...

Well said Dale!