Entrenched reactionary elements of Canada's Conservative Party headed by Prime Minister Steven Harper have recently sniped at new Liberal Party leader Michael Ignatieff with a tired old line about him having spent so much time in other countries.
As usual, Canada's Tories have it backwards. What a great advantage and opportunity for Canada to have a man available to serve as prime minister with such an extensive portfolio in an era when technology has shrunk the globe and made us neighbors of people and nations at one time thought to be so distant.
A shrewd political leader needs to possess the scent of the British hunting dog, scenting every opportunity and pouncing on it. Michael Ignatieff sees such an opportunity in Quebec and is acting. Andrew Chung's informative article in the Toronto Star December 29 relates a visit Ignatieff made December 17 for the first time since being selected leader of the Liberal Party.
Ignatieff began his agenda with a breakfast with Quebec's Premier Jean Charest. "I am going to visit other premiers, but I am starting in Quebec," Ignatieff noted, "and that is a sign of the importance I attach to Quebec."
Prime Minister Harper began the last election campaign in Quebec when, in the words of Andrew Chung, "it was thought he had the province in his back pocket as he walked toward a majority."
Harper received a surprise in Quebec as his support dried up. This left a rancid taste that resulted in a pathetic comment reflective of the insular U.S. Bush-Cheney right when, at the time that a coalition government was being sought, a gratuitous slur was delivered about Charest not really believing in Canada.
This comment came alongside another that the coalition partners had never bothered to salute the Canadian flag, another sad comment from the Karl Rove-Bush-Cheney playbook that, like most slurs from such sources, proved wrong.
Charest might well have during that breakfast meeting with Ignatieff mentioned how he had made an effort to get to know the people of Quebec after he lost the 1998 election. After a diligent five year pursuit Charest secured a majority.
With Harper's party turned insular and becoming in some ways a vanilla version of the horrid example to the south of the Bush-Cheney regime, it is up to Ignatieff to stir up the passions of Canadians toward a greater, more inclusive and purposeful Canada.
This is, after all, the same proud nation that had leaders of a broader international stripe that were respected globally such as Lester Pierson and Pierre Trudeau.
Ignatieff needs to instill Canadians with a new sense of purpose and meaning in a broadly national campaign. Quebec is a good start, furnishing positive momentum on which to build.