Thursday, June 29, 2006

Deux Nations

Lost last week in the Stephen Harper's "is Quebec a nation" dance, was Liberal leadership front runner Michael Ignatieff's take on the question:

"Quebec is a nation, not just a nation, but a civic nation." - Michael Ignatieff

To me, this is farther than any prominent federal Liberal has gone in the past. In Ignatieff's defense, there is a slim chance he's referring to the love of the Honda Civic the quebecois all share. However I have doubts that this is the case.

On the entire nation debate, if you want to call the Quebecois people a nation, that doesn't seem any different than calling the First Nations or Acadians a nation. However, when you call the province of Quebec a nation, that's going a step further than I'm comfortable with. Calling them a civic nation seems to be taking it beyond even that. That implies citizenship. To me, we're into sovereignty association there, or an EU type set-up.

Not that this should be surprising, given Ignatieff's Quebec stance on other key issues. In his pre-launch vision speech, he talked about addressing the fiscal imbalance (which even Harper is backing down from) and served up this gem:

The federal government does not possess a monopoly in foreign affairs but it is appropriate for it to coordinate Canada's external presence to work together with provinces to ensure that Canada speaks with one voice, even if the voice that speaks for Canada comes from a province.

Browsing through Ignatieff's speeches, you can also find countless references to decentralization and of staying out of provincial jurisdictions.

We already know that Ignatieff's foreign affairs vision is nearly identical to Harper's (for better or worse) and, from my perspective, it seems to me that his vision of Canadian federalism is nearly identical to Harper's (and that may be unfair to Harper since I'm sure he wouldn't call Quebec a civic nation). Maybe this will win votes in Quebec, maybe it will appeal to some Liberals, and maybe it will steal votes from the Tories - I don't know. But, for me, I find Ignatieff's vision of Quebec and Canada very upsetting.

UPDATE: Andrew Coyne is all over this and seems to have found an article with a lot more context (including musings about constitutional recognition of Quebec's nationhood which Ignatieff admits would be "somewhat problematic". You think?). As usual, he makes his point a lot better than me too. Go read him.


  • It's important to remember, though, that Ignatieff has a significant background in nationalism - culminating with his book (and BBC series) Blood and Belonging. I suspect that, if you were to ask him about it, he would reveal more intellectual depth than we're used to seeing on this issue.

    By Blogger JP, at 2:57 p.m.  

  • He sounds very Joe Clark (community of communities) on this. I always found Trudeau's rejection of Quebec nationalism delicious - I can think of no better word - given his intense support for multi-culturalism and shared Canadian values (Charter, etc.). I would love to hear Ignatieff's rejoinder to some of Trudeau's old points. That, of couse, would likely require the media to put the points to him.

    By Blogger matt, at 3:23 p.m.  

  • Birds of a feather flock together, you know the old saying.

    By Blogger John Murney, at 3:51 p.m.  

  • Respectfully, CG, is it easy at this point for us to disassociate criticisms of other candidates' viewpoints from our own involvement in those of their competitors?

    Ignatieff is not a decentralist; but he's acknowledged, perhaps alone among the field, that rolling a "We <3 Our Centralism" steamroller across the provinces actually works counter to the party and the federal government.

    As for this particular analysis - isn't this a bit like extrapolating the history of the universe from a piece of fairy-cake? This is a pretty quick comment to base all these criticsms on. Ignatieff has demonstrated before that he has sound, thoughtful ideas about the Quebec issue (eg in Rights Revolution.) His recognition of Quebecois nationhood ought to be party policy, if it isn't yet. And I think he was speaking, far more likely, of political aspects of Quebec distinctiveness rather than a supranational sovereignty-association pact.

    By Blogger Jason Townsend, at 3:56 p.m.  

  • Jason; Here's the quote from the story:

    (Fellow candidate Michael Ignatieff is much clearer: He said on Tuesday that "Quebec is a nation, not just a nation, but a civic nation" and that "it is a historic reality that can not be denied.")

    It seems to me like Ignatieff's position on this is clear. If it isn't, I'd like to see the media poke at him a bit on it to flush out his position. If there are "political aspects" of Quebec's distinctiveness which Canada needs to recognize, I'd be very curious to hear what they are and what this would mean.

    Iggy's position is one I disagree with but, as I said, I think some people will agree with him on it. I've made my views on the need for a strong central government clear here in the past - this really isn't related to my involvement in another campaign.

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 4:04 p.m.  

  • For a guy who passes himself off as the reincarnation of Trudeau, he sure doesn't agree with Trudeau on many issues.

    Bob Rae is on the right track with his Quebec policy. He's willing to grant some special priviledges, without going to the all out appeasement levels that Ignatieff seems intent on taking us down.

    By Blogger Jeff Thompson, at 4:07 p.m.  

  • CG,

    You are mistaking the outcomes of policy objectives from the philospohy of it. One can come to the same policies while having different viewpoints.

    If you read "The Rights Revolution" you will see that Ignatieff freely states that Canada is founded by three nations - First Nations, Quebecois, and English. There is nothing wrong with that, nor is it similar to Harper. Canadian federalism, therefore, is to to balance these.

    The Quebec motion to me, is similar to what I would expect from aborginal self-government.

    Would you feel different about aboriginal self-gov't and federalism, if they made a similar statement?

    What Ignatieff believes is that Canadians should be able to expect a similar level of gov't services across the country and that is the role of the federal gov't - equality of citizenship.

    On the point the Canada must respect provinicial jurisdiction, I do not see how this a bad thing. We have a Constitution for a reason and if there is a desire to change the Constitution to add more powers to the federal government, so be it.

    With respect to foriegn policy, I have no idea what the philosophy of it is for Harper. I do not know how he thinks the military should operate. But I do know Ignatieff's and it reflects an accurate view of the world.

    For example, the only way to achieve a stable Afghanistan is to provide security so that infrastructure can be developed.

    Enough with my ramblings.

    By Blogger c-lo, at 4:14 p.m.  

  • It is more and more clear everyday that Ignatieff has no chance to win the leadership of the Liberal Party because he is so out of step with the parties grass roots on so many important issues. I bet he takes the largest slate of delegates initially, but has no room for growth and will end up hugging someone else on the stage in December and wishing that new leader well.

    My only question, does Iggy stick around as a Liberal? Or does he go back home to Harvard or Oxford after he loses? Or will he stick it out as an oposition member and a cabinet minister?

    Dion will tear Ignatieff apart in the next debate over that "civic nation" stuff. Ignatieff is looking less and less like a new Trudeau and more and more like another Meech apologist Paul Martin clone.

    By Blogger Manitoba Liberal, at 4:20 p.m.  

  • Ignatieff manages to disapoint more and more everyday.

    By Blogger polarslam, at 4:25 p.m.  

  • c-lo; Call the aboriginal people a nation. Call the english a nation. Call the french a nation. Fine.

    But if you call a province a "civic nation", I think that invites a world of hurt. Especially once you start musing about opening up the constitution to deal with it. And I think comparisons to aboriginal self-government would open a huge can of worms which even Ignatieff is smart enough not do.

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 4:32 p.m.  

  • Once again, CG (and more pointedly, the "I am gravely disappointed in Ignatieff, and not just because I support the guy running against him" crew in comments) perhaps you should read Rights Revolution where he devotes pages to the subject, instead of relying on, to be frank, questionable and overreaching interpretations of a comment.

    Or await the elaboration you mentioned you're looking for. Inferring that Ignatieff has committed to a soft-nationalist-centric "LaPierre strategy" as against a firm-federalist "Dion strategy" is a very, very big leap to make on no evidence whatever.

    Ignatieff's position, which I heartily endorse, is that there has existed and exists a francophone Quebecois nation as worthy of the name as any other; some nations have states, some do not. Rejecting this premise - which I think most Tories and some Liberals do - is a defiance of historical reality, and I think that was what Ignatieff was forcefully speaking of.

    The 'civic nationality' of francophone Quebecois - and the civic discourse of Quebec politics more generally bear the stamp of these political experiences; at least, in so far as such a generalization can be made. The (perceivedly) socially-democratic political assumptions of Quebec are in many ways what we liberals - social liberals like me at any rate - aim for in Canada at large.

    None of that in any way compromises the compatibility of cultural/linguistic nations within Canada - which is the perfect example of a civic nation in the making if there ever was one.

    For all we know, Ignatieff may have waxed pontifical on all of these points; what we are looking at is a soundbyte.

    By Blogger Jason Townsend, at 6:04 p.m.  

  • c-lo wrote: "Ignatieff freely states that Canada is founded by three nations - First Nations, Quebecois, and English.

    Not having much desire to wade through any more of Iggy's writings, and not wanting to be too picky, did you really mean "Canada was founded by many nations: First Nations, French and English?" After all, there are multitudes of First Nations, and the Province of Quebec was "settled" as it were - by the French, not the Quebecois.

    I hope that was c-lo's wording and not Ignatieff's.

    And would someone please explain to me what a "civic nation" is? and others define "civic" as "of, relating to, or belonging to a city, a citizen, or citizenship; municipal or civil."

    Or, referring to the root word I immediately thought of: "civitas": "The name given to a territory occupied by a conquered tribe." LOL!!!

    But of course, I wouldn't presume to think I could outsmart Iggy. He must have had some other thought in mind.

    By Blogger Penny, at 6:12 p.m.  

  • And just a reminder, guys: We have an incredibly weak federation. No Liberal is going to weaken it further. The problem is that every time anyone has ever attempted to finally make things right for all the false-steps in the Québec-Rest-of-Canada saga, some helpful folks in the other party (or in this case, in the same party) realize that they have a great chance to play loyalty politics.

    "You're pandering to Quebec"
    "Your concept of Canada is not visceral enough to be sustainable"

    etc. etc. And every time it happens - most notably Meech and Charlottetown - Québec sovereigntists just have to turn on their microphones and record all of the anglophones argue about who is "pandering to Quebec" and who is "tough on the Quebec" when the real governmental autonomy questions are long-answered, and the Quebec debate is about recognition and respect and very long overdue postnational patriotism. And denying those isn't a slap in the face?

    Penny: The definition in question would be civics - the political science of rights and duties, or in this case, the shared political discourse of same. There's a good discussion of it towards the end of Rights Revolution, which I didn't consider 'wading,' myself.

    I wouldn't want a wading-free political leader if I had my choice; we're traditionally presented with a glittering choice of one whose views fit succinctly into a glossy pamphlet and possibly a coffee-table book.

    By Blogger Jason Townsend, at 6:22 p.m.  

  • Calgary Grit,

    If Quebec is a nation Ontario is one too.

    Ignatieff said Quebec qualifies as a nation in that its people has its own language, a deeply felt attraction to a territory, a collective memory and specific values.

    Well Mr. Harvard, so does Ontario. It just a minor matter that Ontario's language is the same as every other province bar Quebec.

    No wonder Mr. Harper shook his hand.

    By Blogger mezba, at 6:45 p.m.  

  • I think at the core, Quebecers and Canadians don't give a shit if you call them a nation or not.

    What they want is respect and results. This civic nation bullshit pisses me off because I'm an Iggy supporter, and the further you go down this road, the further you APPEASE sovereigntists. It's best to leave the question blank and MOVE ON.

    I agree with CG we need a strong central government and no more of this spread out federation crap. Enough appeasement of everybody. Let's start talking about the NATION of Canada, and enough about the thousands of individual nations we encompas.

    By Blogger Riley Hennessey, at 6:55 p.m.  

  • By any cultural standard, Quebec is a nation. Using that same standard, Canada inclusive of Quebec is also a nation. There's no reason those two are mutually exclusive. I find the larger, richer nation is the one that ought to be pursued, both within and without Quebec.

    By Blogger matt, at 7:04 p.m.  

  • Jason Townstead is reaching a Jason Cherniak level of spinning in favour of Ignatieff.

    I eagerly await to see if he can pass Cherniak in terms of blind loyality as we approach the Decemeber convention and Igantieff's defeat.

    By Blogger polarslam, at 7:16 p.m.  

  • This is sovereigntist appeasement, and I'm afraid that Mr. Ignatieff has just lost me....

    By Blogger Lois, at 7:24 p.m.  

  • PS: I'm not interested in this getting personal; leadership factionalism is unpleasant enough without that.

    I really like Ignatieff's federalism having read about it. What I don't like is negative leadership campaigning; trying hard to get things to stick to Ignatieff, and dragging Quebec-pandering rhetoric into it to boot is not my idea of smart politics. Our party needs all the positive debate it can get, and if you haven't noticed, we could use a coherent Québec policy. "Just leave the question blank?" Yeah, the Québecois will never be able to tell we're bullshitting, right?

    Getting in both Dion and LaPierre style support in Quebec isn't some dry, academic argument or a horrible flashback to the 1980s. It is vital to our party getting back into power. If we stay in the crapper in Quebec, we're in big trouble nationally.

    So debate it; talk about Canadian federalism and your candidates' views on it. It's an important subject. But there's no need to bring straw man caricatures of Ignatieff into it just because there's a perception (real or otherwise) that other people's candidacies rely on diminishing Ignatieff's pickup on multiple ballots.

    It's ugly politics. We're colleagues, not enemies.

    By Blogger Jason Townsend, at 7:29 p.m.  

  • I tend to agree with both Jason and CG.
    In the first place I am in favour of a strong central government and less powers for the provinces.
    I also think that skin level ananysis of what Iggy is saying does no one any good and a good healthy debate on this in the leadership contest is good for us all. Here is where we will start to see the real differences and move towards new Liberal thinking on this idea.
    We as a party really need to come up with some new ideas on htis issue as acceptance of the french fact in Quebec rather then promoting its assimilation (conservative attitude) has always been a Liberal tenet.
    How to go about that acceptance is what we are talking about and setting up the parameters of that disscusion for the next 50 years would be a great result of the leadership race and go a long way in reminding Quebecers about the special relationship they have long had with the Liberal party.
    As an Iggy supporter do I find his position troubling personally, yes. I tried to discuss this with him at one point and it is really impossible to have a nuanced discussion in a crowd of 300. Do I think Cg is playing a little partisan in his characterization of Iggys position sure. It is his blog and he is supporting Kennedy, he should be doing it.
    As Iggy supporters at some point we have to get past saying things like "just read X book yourself and you will see what he means" because as much as it may work in a Liberal leadership race when people want to be informed about this stuff, it will not work in a general election.
    If it is that community of Communities crap he loses me too.

    By Blogger Aristo, at 9:43 p.m.  

  • This is pretty strange. Wasn't it Ignatieff who said Harper was appeasing Quebec?

    By Blogger Dan McKenzie, at 10:36 p.m.  

  • Aristo and JT; I think attacking another candidates position on a very important issue like this is valid. Quebec issues are going to be a key role in the next election and if Ignatieff's position is ambiguous now, it needs to be flushed out.

    The fact is:
    a) Ignatieff said Quebec is a civic nation
    b) He mused about reopening constitution talks
    c) Ignatieff has accepted the gvt needs to do something about the fiscal imbalance

    I don't think this is misrepresenting his position. If it is, then he really needs to clarify things.

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 12:27 a.m.  

  • Unfortunately Jason Townsend, you're not willing to realize that Canadians are hard-working people, many with families, who have trouble figuring out when they'll make it out to catch Superman Returns - they're not going to sit down and read Rights Revolution to get a better grasp of what Mr. Ignatieff "really meant".

    It's a leader's job to explain himself succinctly to the nation he wishes to lead: it is not our job to read a provided appendix.

    By Blogger Lois, at 1:05 a.m.  

  • One of the ways that this particular race is bizarre is precisely this: that Ignatieff's supporters think that they can get around current SNAFUs by referring to past writings. Certainly can't remember an analogue to this in 2000 or 2004 down in the U.S.

    (Usually it's the OTHER way around.)

    As for the argument in question... if Ignatieff cannot say things without jamming his foot so far down his throat that he can tickle his duodenum, then he shouldn't be the Liberal leader, should he? "Civic nation" implies "state within a state", which in turn implies that Canada isn't a real state nor that "Canadian" is a real identity, just an administrative convenience.

    Is that really how Canadians think of their country?

    By Blogger Demosthenes, at 5:12 a.m.  

  • It isn't how I think of Canada.

    By Blogger Lois, at 5:44 a.m.  

  • C-Lo,

    It would be fine if he had reffered to French Canadians as a nation, because, as you point out, that was the case at confederation. His explicit reference to Quebec nationhood, however, as CG correctly points out, is another matter. Trudeau himself makes the case in "Federalism and the French Canadians" that to acknowledge Quebec as the keeper of French culture and to bestow the title of 'nation' is to do a disservice to French-Canadians of Manitoba, Eastern Ontario, and the Maritimes. do they not share, by others definitions of 'nation' the same values and history as Quebec? Are they any less the members of the founding French Canadian nation than the Quebecois? I recognise that settled Canada comprised two nations; however, French-Canadian, not Quebecois, is the other.

    Further, to those who would point to his writings on the matter, I would encourage you to read the defeatist chapter on Quebec in "Blood and Belonging". I retain serious misgivings about a potential PM who concludes that Quebec separation is inevitable.

    By Blogger Obi, at 5:51 a.m.  

  • Lois: Constitutional affairs are complex and it's a lucky situation when someone's got writing on the subject that one can refer to.

    The "ordinary hardworking Canadians who want to watch Superman Returns" are not currently posting on this nerdy political blog about constitutional affairs after a candidate made a brief remark; we are, and that puts an extra investigative onus on us.

    Except, of course, those of us (Hi, Demosthenes!) who hate Ignatieff's guts, always have, and are just looking for yet another opportunity to be preciously "disappointed" in him.

    By Blogger Jason Townsend, at 6:27 a.m.  

  • But if you can't convince us, us nerdy constitutional analysts, of his position, how in the world will you convince Joe Blow Canadian what he means on this matter?

    By Blogger UWHabs, at 9:39 a.m.  

  • This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    By Blogger Tybalt, at 10:09 a.m.  

  • I suspect that, if you were to ask him about it, he would reveal more intellectual depth than we're used to seeing on this issue.

    People don't want intellectual depth on the issue, though, because as Canadians it's a lived experience for all of us. We instinctively understand the conflicting claims of nation, region, language and culture, and we understand them implicitly, because our life experience has buried it deep within our bones. We've been through Levesque, bheen through 1980, been through Trudeau, been through Patriation, through Meech, Mulroney, Bouchard, Chretien... through Charlottetown, through the second referendum, through "money and the ethnic vote". We've nearly lost our country and we've turned out, hundreds of thousands of us one day in Montreal, to come together and reach out to save it.

    We don't need to be told about "civic" nations and "social" nations and "states". We don't need to be lectured to and we don't need to be categorized. Especially not Liberals, who have in many cases let the "Big L" become a part of themselves precisely because they wanted to proclaim their allegiance to something larger than a "social" nation, larger than a province, larger than themselves.

    Michael Ignatieff wasn't here through that. He saw it from afar, an observer, an anthropologist from another culture. It's all very well that he can present high-flown and beautiful ideas about what makes a nation and what makes a people - as a person who's studied in great depth the law of self-determination, it's a subject close to my heart. But it's not close to my learned experience as a Canadian buffeted by the winds of separatism and nationalism. It's not close to our shared experience as a people who, for want of true leadership at a crucial time, nearly lost our country. It was an outburst of passion, and not the cool dictates and lofty arguments of reason, that saved us from ourselves.

    He has the hard-won academic authority to tell us about nationalism. But he has no authority - NONE! - to tell us about Quebec and about Canada. He doesn't know what it's been like.

    By Blogger Tybalt, at 10:14 a.m.  

  • Which nerds am I convincing less, the Dion nerds or the Kennedy nerds? ;)

    Until this little flap, it never occurred to me that the Liberal Party was still liable to head into "Quebec-appeasement" issues over endorsing Quebec's distinctiveness. Repeating 1980s slogans about a single homogenous nation is a very, very bad idea. "Unhyphenated nationality" is a south-of-the-border concept - which is kind of funny given who is advocating it whilst trying to tar Ignatieff with that brush.

    Canada isn't under threat from Quebec nationalism; it is under threat from the fear of Quebec nationalism perpetuating a seperation that does not reflect the real congruence of values between Quebec and the rest of Canada - especially Liberal Canada.

    Tybalt: Come off it; he wasn't on Venus. What, so us being here in the 80s and 90s gives us some bred-in-the-bone constitutional insight that is beyond intellectualization? That borders on a sort of geographical solipsism that would logically mean everyone should stick to hoeing their own little experiential row, even if one granted the dubious assertion that Ignatieff didn't think about Canada for 30 years.

    By Blogger Jason Townsend, at 10:22 a.m.  

  • Jason, I agree with Arnie - I'm almost as much a nerd as most of you, and while I'm sure that Rights Revolution is good, I just can't take the time to read it.

    Trudeau was often labeled an "intellectual", but he was a man that people understood easily, whether they agreed or not. Ignatieff can't be defended as an "intellecual" when he's far too complex for us ordinary denizens to grasp.

    I don't feel it's acceptable to be pointed to a candidate's books in order to fully appreciate him - I too am busy, and can't even fit in Sue Grafton! :(

    By Blogger Lois, at 10:45 a.m.  

  • Actually, Tybalt is exactly right - I could not have expressed it better. This is an emotional issue, and I don't care to be condescended to by Ignatieff on a subject I care as deeply as I possibly can on.

    In my mind, it's not his "absence" that bothers me - I actually admire his time out of Canada, and I think it is a great positive. It's instead his cool and lofty intellectual rather than passionate approach - I begin to feel that he watches the federation with an academic interest, and not a personal stake.

    At any rate, I was quite enthusiastic about him last week, but have given up on the man, I'm afraid. I want a PM who cares about Canada, not a future textbook on "civic nations".

    Perhaps I'll forget and be attracted to him again as new events in the race unfold - one never knows.

    By Blogger Lois, at 10:51 a.m.  

  • CG I certanly never critized you for going on Iggy on this issue. I merely said you are partisan in supporting Kennedy and view things from that spectrum, and that it is ow it should be as it is your blog. If you help your candidate by analyzing others policy I think that is how it should be and entirly fair. You are looking at what Iggy is saying and discussing it. This disscusion here is really good.
    Jason as a fellow Iggy supporter we do really really really have to get past "go read his book" it may work with Liberals but it will not work in an election.

    By Blogger Aristo, at 11:27 a.m.  

  • Oh, I know, but some issues are more of a problem among Liberals then they would be in a general election.

    And in large measure I'm saying it because people are saying "What do these 5 words mean?" My answer is a brief synopsis and a reference to where he wrote on it at length.

    By Blogger Jason Townsend, at 12:43 p.m.  

  • Honestly CG

    Comparing me to Jean Lapierre is a little harsh, considering I have always been loyal to my country which is Canada.

    I am not shy to say Quebec is a nation because it is a nation. To quote Jean Chretien in 1995. "Le Canada c'est mon pays, mais le Quebec c'est ma patrie" Canada is my country, Quebec is my homeland. Canada is composed of many nations, perhaps even more than the three there were when the country was founded.

    Our battle must not be fought over whether or not Quebec is a nation. It must be fought over whether or not the Quebec nation should stay in Canada, which is only made more difficult when the federal government disrespects the constitution and invades provincial jurisdiction.

    It is made harder when the federal government denies the existence of fiscal imbalance, or worse acknowledges it during an election and then ignoring it afterwards.

    Until we open our eyes, we give the sovereigntists more arguments to persuade Quebeckers to reject Canada.

    By Blogger Antonio, at 12:48 p.m.  

  • Antonio; I think if you keep making concesions to the separatists, separation becomes somewhat inevitable. The fiscal imbalance and the nation question are separate issues. On the fiscal imbalance one, once you recognize it exists, you give ammo to the separatists when it's not solve since it never will be to their liking (even Harper has backed down because he knows he won't be able to please everyone). Plus, at a time when the provinces are cummulatively running large surpluses and were just given the ability to raise taxes 1% to make up for the GST cut, it's hard to justify the existence of a fiscal imbalance.

    On the nation question, lois, tybalt, and others have said it really well so I won't rehash what they said.

    Aristo; Yeah, fair enough.

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 1:02 p.m.  

  • Darling, you inflate my ego unreasonably! ;)

    By Blogger Lois, at 1:10 p.m.  

  • I will ask you a question CG although all are welcome to answer. Has the federal government restored funding to the provinces after Martin wielded the axe in 1995?

    By Blogger Antonio, at 1:14 p.m.  

  • And in large measure I'm saying it because people are saying "What do these 5 words mean?"

    No - I believe we've all read much more than 5 lone words. I don't feel a bewilderment or confusion over what Ignatieff meant or intended to say: he was clear, and I feel his message is not an appropriate one.

    You may feel it is appropriate, which I appreciate and respect.

    I feel he's out of the running - which saddens me to say.

    By Blogger Lois, at 5:00 p.m.  

  • Lois, I haven't kept a running count, but people have shaken their heads sadly and said "Alas; Ignatieff is out of the running, now" at least 10 times since February.

    In fact, those using the "stick a fork in him, he's done" phrase should probably recall that it's already been trotted out two or three times itself.

    When I point to something Ignatieff wrote, it was in response to a request for a definition of what Ignatieff meant by saying civic nation; indeed, a request for a definition of civic as an adjective in that context.

    If you 'know' what Ignatieff meant, well, good on you, but given your reaction I don't think we're interpreting it the same way; this, I point to where I come by my interpretation.

    By Blogger Jason Townsend, at 6:44 p.m.  

  • Jason: It's not so much that I hate Ignatieff's guts, as that I can't abide "liberal hawks" and self-proclaimed "centrists" and what they've done to liberalism.

    Trust me, were Thomas Friedman or Joe Lieberman running in Canada, I'd be just as critical.

    As for the issue of being inside or outside Canada, though... Americans weren't biting their nails during the Quebec independence referendum. Canadians were.

    (Funny thing, though- the last time somebody tried to declare "sovereignty" in America, it wasn't, well, pretty, and I doubt that an attempt at secession would go over any better today.)

    What WAS Ignatieff doing when the referendum happened? Was he following it? Was he in Canada during one of the most important moments in its history? Was he even paying attention?

    I'm personally skeptical, because if he had, he wouldn't be so politically hamfisted on the issue.

    By Blogger Demosthenes, at 12:38 a.m.  

  • Well, I've done my homework, and I didn't find the concept of a civic nation to be over my head....

    Briefly: "According to the civic nationalist creed, what holds a society together is not common [ethnic] roots but law."

    While Professor Ignatieff admits that traditional [ethnic/cultural] nationalism's 'psychology of belonging' has 'greater depth than civic nationalism's', he is not interested in national belonging anyway. He apparently considers himself to be a post nationalist cosmopolitan, or a cosmopolitan post nationalist...whatever.

    "I am a civic nationalist, someone who believes in the necessity of nations and in the duty of citizens to defend the capacity of nations to provide the security and rights we all need in order to live cosmopolitan lives" he says.

    "Traditional nationalism 'confines' our identity to something 'provincial'," he says.

    Tsk tsk. We wouldn't want to be brute provincials, would we we?

    OK, apart from disliking immensely the feeling I have of being lectured and talked down to by the Prof - rather than being enlightened - civic nationalism sounds like what we already have here in this country - a fait accompli - not something that needs to be debated, legislated or approved.

    But how does this apply to Quebec? Why is Quebec not "just" a nation, but a "civic nation"? How about Ontario, Nova Scotia, Nunavut...???And if I was just one of the unlettered few who failed to grasp the gist of his sermon, why was he apparently getting roars of approval when he stated these obvious facts?

    Somehow, whenever I hear some new pronouncement from The Great Mind, I feel as if I'm being proselytised for the purpose of being converted to a Michael Ignatieff-led new religion, rather than hearing what he will do for my country.

    By Blogger Penny, at 12:58 a.m.  

  • Penny,

    I've always admired Ignatieff's intellect and have enjoyed listening to his thoughts many times over the years with a great sense of, er, civic pride.

    His comments have taken him off of my Leadership dance card, but I do look forward to listening to his thoughts many more times in the future.

    I love your glasses! :)

    By Blogger Lois, at 2:59 p.m.  

  • Indeed, Penny. Civic nationalism is simply nationalism based on belonging to a country (like Canada, of the United States, or Mexico, or whatever) and the values and ideals that that country is supposed to represent. It's like the distinction often drawn between "patriotism" and "nationalism". It is not only perfectly acceptable, but often preferable to the ethnic variant of nationalism, which has had a bad history of late.

    But think about what this means. "Civic nationalism" is the nationalism of belonging to a country. If you state that Quebec is a "civic nation" in this vein, you're saying that Quebec isn't just a nation within a nation, but a state in its own right. He could mean that in the sense that every province is a prospective independent state (I'm sure Calgrit's fellow Albertans would be fond of that idea), but it fatally undermines the entire idea of a distinctly "Canadian" identity.

    That's why the "read the book" contingent have no ground to stand on here. If you read the book, the implication is worse. He's essentially saying that Canadian identity is unimportant.

    While Kennedy may catch some heat for his "international country" line (which seems to just be a repackaging of multiculturalism, but anyway..) at least he's willing to admit that Canada is, well, a real country.

    By Blogger Demosthenes, at 3:03 p.m.  

  • Thanks for the laff, Lois!! (I was reading along, moving my lips and tracing my fingers across the page, and then suddenly it's my glasses!!! LOL!... Glad you like'em!)

    Yep, I'm all for a goodly dose of philosophy and intellect, but when it comes to leading the country, I want a leader who can make himself understood, without requiring us to buy his books!

    And I want someone who is one of "us" - the "us" tybalt described so eloquently:

    "People don't want intellectual depth on the issue, though, because as Canadians it's a lived experience for all of us.

    "We instinctively understand the conflicting claims of nation, region, language and culture, and we understand them implicitly, because our life experience has buried it deep within our bones."

    I probably talk about myself far too much, but during my 31yr career with Scare Canada, I met people of all ethnicities, new and old Canadians, hyphenated French, English, Chinese, etc etc, and foreign visitors - including Americans - and I could tell immediately who the Canadians were, regardless of their appearance or accents. It's hard to put into words, but we just speak to each other differently. It's like the language of family only on a broader scale...

    Iggy's "cosmopolitanism" has kept him from developing the deep sense of "being" a Canadian that many of us have. He can talk about us, but he isn't one of us.

    By Blogger Penny, at 5:17 p.m.  

  • penny: I don't think it's simply cosmopolitanism, as many Canadians are cosmopolitan and many Canadians who have spent their lives abroad still identify as Canadians. Many Americans abroad still identify as Americans, and Japanese abroad still self-identify as Japanese, Indians still self-identify as indians, etc. It is that self-identification that forms the core of multiculturalism, and when it works properly, it means that the host culture benefits from the balance in its population between respect for their roots and identification with their new home.

    The problem, though, is that Ignatieff's past statements (particularly the infamous "we Americans" one) suggests that he "went native" when he was in the United States; that he had pretty much given up thinking of himself as Canadian. It wasn't even that he was "stateless"; while he did spend time outside North America, there's no indications that he identified with, say, being a Briton like he had in the United States.

    Had he returned to Canada and shown the Canadians that he wanted to serve as much as lead, I doubt this would be an issue. His minimal attempts to win over his riding and immediate grab at the leadership of the Liberal party, however, puts across the impression that he's just there because of the opportunity.

    Using the colloquial term of his fellow Iraq war supporters, it was "low hanging fruit".

    By Blogger Demosthenes, at 8:49 p.m.  

  • I should add: there is a danger in nativism, Penny, that you should be aware of. "He's an outsider, and not to be trusted" is probably not a fruitful way to look at things. It's not where he was, but what he did and what he said that's the problem.

    By Blogger Demosthenes, at 8:50 p.m.  

  • Comparisons to Joe Lieberman or Thomas Friedman are highly misplaced, imo. I've been in conversations with you early enough not to try to change your mind, Demosthenes, but I have to register my strong objection there. When I checked out Ignatieff in 2005, it was specifically to make sure that he wasn't one of those figures.

    Lois, Penny: I say this very respectfully, but... I really don't know how you get these vibes off of Ignatieff. The books are accessable, I only mentioned them because they were relevant and I enjoyed them. I've dealt with condescending politicians and condescending academics, and I've dealt with Ignatieff and his folks; he isn't either. In person, or in writing.

    However, these things are subjective; I wish, tbh, that we could talk about the strengths of our perferred candidates and let the faults of candidates demonstrate themselves on their own (they are, after all, supposed to be the sort that hardly need advertisement.)

    By Blogger Jason Townsend, at 9:41 p.m.  

  • I found this site and just posted it on a blog with a passage, I thought that this topic well suites the website.
    This website is based on predictions of different events in 2020. It is written by 20 authors. The site is It also has a blog on it where some real pushing comments were said. Here is one of the authors.

    Andrew Cohen: End of Federalism
    “While a wave of immigrants was flooding across our borders, the provinces were re-asserting themselves. They demanded more powers – and they got them. Once the province of the province was the province; now the province of the province is the nation. The “quiet devolution” has created swaggering potentates presiding over wealthy fiefdoms. In 2014, the centre collapsed. The provinces already had spending power, taxing power, and their own pensions and social programs. They were choosing their immigrants and even running their own foreign policies. Indeed, for more than a decade they had embassies in international capitals. Now a once-influential country speaks to the world not with a single, eloquent voice, but in a contradictory and confusing cacophony.
    Now, in 2020, we look around in despair. In the voiceless country, there is no one left to recall its past, no one left to celebrate its principles, and no one left to speak its name”.

    Right on, Andrew. It’s high time we Canadians realized the folly of this disastrous path of reckless decentralization down which we’ve been traveling at breakneck speed for several generations now. Forget the year 2020; Canada, in practice if not necessarily in theory, is already arguably little more than an agglomeration of largely self-governing and totally self-interested provincial fiefdoms, with no belief in a unifying Canadian identity and no interest in the common good. Pierre Trudeau put the choice to Canadians best: what do we really want to be as a nation—“A loose coalition of provinces governed primarily by the provincial premiers…or a real country?”
    As Paul Martin might say—choose your Canada.

    By Blogger rev28, at 11:21 a.m.  

  • I've been debating in my head if weather or not Quebec is a nation.

    Under the political science definition it's not clear at all.

    By Blogger The Liberal Times, at 12:15 p.m.  

  • He's an outsider, and not to be trusted" is probably not a successful way to look at factors. It's not where he was, but what he did and what he said that's the issue.

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