On the heels of Lucien Bouchard's stunning statements on the prospects for seperation, Ignatieff has quickly come out with his own comments, aimed at filling any political void which may well come. It's just a letter, and somewhat vague at that, but it puts the Liberal foot in the door, within a discussion that is sure to rage on in Quebec:
Like manna from heaven for the Liberal Leader, Mr. Ignatieff has seized on Mr. Bouchard’s remarks to lay out the Liberal vision for Quebec in Canada, where Quebeckers participate in every aspect of the country’s culture and decision-making.
“Mr. Bouchard had the courage to say what many have been thinking deep down,” Mr. Ignatieff wrote in a letter distributed by his office this afternoon. “Instead of passively waiting for a so-called ‘historic night’ [a yes vote in a referendum], it is crucial that Quebeckers actively participate in the changes happening within Canada.”
Mr. Ignatieff writes that Mr. Bouchard, who is not known for “mincing his words,” has made comments that “are far more important for advancing the debate on the nature of our country and the role Quebec should play in it.”
Indeed, the debate provoked by Mr. Bouchard’s comments, Mr. Ignatieff argues, will resonate more than the debate over the lack of French at the Vancouver Winter Olympic Games opening ceremony.
“His statements will surely prompt further discussion on whether sovereignty is attainable or not,” Mr. Ignatieff writes.
In the meantime, however, the Liberal Leader says that the “new dream Quebeckers should be part of is a dream shared with their fellow citizens in other parts of Canada.”
Part of the Liberal problem in Quebec, apart from obvious past scandal, is that they have yet to re-position themselves outside of the old federalist/seperatist debate. With the immediate threat waning, the Liberals have failed to find a rallying cry to bring people into the fold. Ignatieff is being pro-active here, because Bouchard's comments will ultimately challenge the intellectual necessity of the Bloc and ask a simple question- is their presence protecting Quebec's interest or serving as an ideological obstacle to progress within Canada? Very premature to say where the discussion will lead, but with a Conservative Party under Harper having a past it's "best before date" feel in Quebec and a very unproven NDP, the Liberals do have the best opportunity to capitalize.
The Liberals would be wise to push this debate, and Ignatieff's quick letter suggests the OLO senses an opportunity. Curious to see how the Liberals follow up, hopefully not a one off, because we must make a major push in Quebec if we have any realistic hopes for the future.
Others have a more intimate understanding, but I would describe Bouchard's statements as seismic. Those advocating near term separation are now on the defensive, and will have to rationalize their existence and energy designation. The Bloc wall looks a little less formidable, what is required is an alternative that can respect the "nation", without getting drawn into outdated debates. I have a feeling, Ignatieff's letter is a first salvo, which hopefully is followed by a sustained campaign to reposition the Liberals as chief beneficary should the Bloc's hold on Quebec federal politics fade.
Great move, and perfectly timed.