I’ve argued for some time, the Liberals need to update their presentation to Quebecers. This belief doesn’t abandon former stances, but the Liberals are perpetually stuck in outdated dichotomy that lacks any evolution. It could just be that Trudeau’s apparent departure from traditional Liberal stances might register as a breath of fresh air. Truth be told, the old hardcore federalist "option" that Liberals have always played in Quebec appeals to an ever narrowing pool of voters. Quebec society is moving beyond the distinct lines that dominated the debate during Trudeau’s fathers era. The recent NDP surge, while built on a singular persona, was also underpinned by a nuanced dance between the old federalist/separatist distinctions. Rather than "out there", Trudeau’s recent musings might also simply serve as more of a mirror of current perceptions and realities, a bit of a weather vein.
There has been a great misconception in English Canada. With sovereignty numbers waning- separatism on the backburner- we’ve all assumed that the federation is in relatively good shape. The collapse of the Bloc only adds to this perception, but a look with any depth, reveals more malaise, alienation and disconnect than some grand endorsement of the status quo. Hebert’s column touches on the state of things in Quebec, how this Harper government has fostered a disconnect, all is not well, unless withdrawal is a positive. Trudeau goes too far of course, but the sentiment he espouses isn’t off side, rare or radical, in fact I suspect he’s resonating quite well with mainstream Quebec society.
This may be an odd characterization, but Trudeau may have moved the ground in Quebec and made the Liberals "cool again". Beneath the unfortunate threatening language, opinions that speak to Quebecers values, what they stand for, Trudeau is championing those sensibilities. There is nothing offensive in the comments to Quebecers, if anything Trudeau is merely expressing a widely held opinion about the Harper government and how deep the chasm that has developed. Never has a federal government been so completely marginalized in Quebec, a state that begs for an alternative and we’ve seen the manifestations.
Trudeau was crude and unsophisticated, his words poorly chosen, but I’m not sure what most are fixating on truly captures the entire tone and how that may resonate. In English Canada, Trudeau’s comments a blip on the screen, I fail to see any "legs". However, in Quebec, Trudeau may have modernized the Liberal view, not the official party line, but a sense that the conversation is current. We can pontificate how we feel Quebecers should view the federation, but that never understand how they DO view the federation, so let’s be careful in assuming or declaring someone "dead" due to pointed musings. If anything, we may just look back on this entire Trudeau maelstrom as freshening up the Liberal brand in Quebec, because at the core Justin has a receptive audience in terms of frustration.