David Olive is right. Michael Ignatieff does not understand Canada. Certainly his conclusion that Quebec independence is inevitable must have Pierre Trudeau hurling curses at him from beyond the grave. On the other hand, it's hard to disagree with Jeffrey Simpson's conclusion that, "not since the first Diefenbaker government of 1957 has a federal government been weaker in Quebec and apparently cared so little about the province."
It was, after all, Diefenbaker's insouciance towards Quebec which radicalized Rene Levesque and gave birth to the Parti Quebecois. Simpson goes on to detail what amounts to the Harper government's collective stupor on the subject of Quebec:
For most Quebeckers, the Harperites seem determinedly disdainful of their preferences. Almost every position or policy adopted by the Conservatives drives the party base wild with excitement outside Quebec, but drives Quebeckers further from the Conservatives.
The “tough on crime” policies, for instance, are reviled in Quebec, not because Quebeckers want to mollycoddle criminals but because most citizens believe in rehabilitation and attacking the social and economic causes of crime.
The long-gun registry came about after the 1989 massacre at Montreal’s École Polytechnque. That horror imprinted itself in the population’s consciousness. Quebec has as many hunters as any other province, but the ideology around gun ownership that drives the Conservative base wild with fury over the registry finds scant echo in Quebec.
The Harperites’ affection for the British monarchy and its toy-soldier plans to celebrate the obscure War of 1812 leave Quebeckers totally indifferent and remind them of what a strange lot are the Conservatives, who used to be thought of as the Protestant/British party for decades, and appear to be so again.
If Pierre Trudeau is cursing Michael Ignatieff from beyond the grave, then surely Rene Levesque is hurling similar barbs at Stephen Harper. Trudeau and Levesque -- who didn't agree on much -- would undoubtedly agree that Ignatieff and Harper are "tetes carres."