Hebert's column today highlights a sentiment that needs to be exploited by the Liberals. I think Ignatieff was wise to gently enter the debate surrounding Bouchard's recent comments on sovereignty. However, we really haven't seen any followup, nor is the Liberal strategy in Quebec apparent, or denoting any urgency. In reality, since the Coderre dustup, the Liberals have been pretty much dormant in Quebec, no overtures or concerted campaigns.
I believe the Montreal Conference could be an interesting springboard, but beyond that, the ground is fertile for the Liberals to seize the initiative, position themselves as the federalist alternative, and in so doing take DIRECT aim at the Bloc. For some odd reason, the Bloc has managed to maintain, even with separatist sentiment waning, their provincial counterpart struggling. I'm not sure this reality is a testament to shrewd politics from the Bloc, as much as it is a FREE pass from its rivals. The Liberals seem hesitant to get aggressive with the Bloc, even though the vulnerabilities are obvious.
As Hebert notes, separatist sentiment is down, the rationale questioned, and federalist affiliation an evolving consideration, waiting for a coherent messenger. Where are the Liberals, beyond isolated forays? We need a focused strategy that targets the underlying debate and re-positions the party to capitalize on old arguments. The Liberals have always thrived on the rigid conflicts, with a more subtle dynamic evolving, it needs to re-invent itself. Some of what Ignatieff has said speaks to the "dual identity" sentiment, but it's hardly a compelling thrust, that moves voters, or engages in any new way.
Everyone is watching to see what the Liberal do on the policy front, how they create the "alternative" that will underpin the future campaign. I'll be watching to see the Quebec specific arguments, because I think that should be a primary and aggressive focus.