December 24, 2006 by Allen George
Keep Your Friends Close
Your enemies closer.
I met Ignatieff at the 2006 Liberal AGM. There was an event at Traders in downtown Sheraton and I, by virtue of association with his campaign’s youth, was invited there as well. This was right around the time he’d first made the comments on Quebec nationalité and I wanted – needed – to know what his justification was.
So I asked him.
It was obvious that he didn’t want to talk about it. The fake smiles of the other onlookers were painfully obvious and I was flushed, embarrassed – embarrassed because at that moment I felt like an outsider. Everyone else was there to congratulate him, give him the push he needed to coast to leadership victory. I was there because I was pissed.
“Look, I’ve traveled all over Quebec during my campaign and I’m telling people what I’ve been hearing…”
He continued, dismissing my fear that this would simply increase the isolation of Quebecers from English speaking Canada, that this would continue the de-facto partition of the Canadian confederation, that the word nation could mean very different things. He pointed to the Basque, the Scots, the Fleming – there he said, were ethnic groups that attained nationhood status within a country. No worries right?
Of course, Ignatieff never won the leadership race. His comments and opinions proved too divisive; the grassroots subsequently rejected the establishment choice and voted in Stéphane Dion. Shortly afterwards, Ignatieff was rewarded with a deputy leadership. Wise move. He had the strongest organization, a huge cadre of loyal supporters and a strong youth contingent. No one wanted a repeat of the Martin-Chretien rift.
I’m still wary.