"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.