At first blush, Ignatieff opens up the kneejerk response from seperatists, another rigid, centrist Liberal that will deny Quebecers aspirations. However, it's where Ignatieff moves from the traditional Liberal terrain that could have appeal beyond hardcore federalists:
“In the last election, Quebeckers protested against the right-wing government of Stephen Harper, and many Quebeckers voted for the Bloc Québécois,” he said in a fundraising speech last night. “Quebeckers protested, but Stephen Harper is still there.”
The option, Mr. Ignatieff said, is for Quebeckers to help the Liberals return to power. In exchange, he said, the Liberals will ensure that Quebeckers get a real taste of power.
“The best Canada possible is a Canada inspired by Quebec. The best Canada possible is a Canada with Quebeckers in power,” he said
In an interview before the speech, Mr. Ignatieff said he will increase the number of first ministers' conferences if he becomes Prime Minister, and work toward increasing interprovincial trade. But he insisted he will not offer major jurisdictional shifts to win over Quebec.
“I certainly don't have a constitutional package in my back pocket, and I don't think Canadians or Quebeckers expect me to,” he said. “Let's make the federation work as a practical, operational, day-to-day matter, above all on working together to get us out of the economic crisis.”
The Liberals are manipulating the unhappiness with the Harper government to their advantage, while simultaneously asking soft Bloc support what their vote really achieved. There is a underlying, compelling rationale to the argument that it's better to have some influence on the levers of power, rather than sitting on the sidelines perpetually marginalized. It's about giving Quebecers a voice in government, and it's said without the folly of expecting a new paradigm. Ignatieff is arguing we have the tools already, so the alternative is to make Canada work, within that protect, respect and recognize Quebec's unique standing within, or thumb your nose and revel in your idle purity. Where Ignatieff can pull off this argument, is if he's seen as sincere. There's a real sense that Ignatieff has some measure of intrigue with Quebecers, and while opponents will try and undermine, he still has a relatively attentive audience to get out our perspective.
I have to say, I like the way our approach to Quebec is fleshing out, there's a lot of potential. What I find most attractive, Ignatieff isn't prostituting a core Liberal position with this "woo", unless of course a vocal, engaged Quebec voice at the federal table is considered counterproductive.