When Ignatieff spoke of the strategic importance of the Alberta oil sands on a daylong visit to Montreal last month, I could not think of the last time a federal leader had spoken of Canada in Quebec, or at least done so outside the narrow confines of what more the federation could do for Quebecers.
Quebec sovereignists lost the last referendum; their cause has been in decline ever since and yet, almost fifteen years later, the Bloc has a virtual monopoly on speaking of Canada in Quebec and for Quebec on the federal stage.
Ignatieff will not have much of a shot at bringing the boom-and-bust Quebec federalist cycle to an end unless he brings more of the Canadian conversation to Quebec, and a more engaged generation of francophone federalists to that conversation. Those federalists actually exist. But more of that in another column.