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Editorial cartoon by Brian Gable

Brian Gable/The Globe and Mail

Without a doubt, the key development in this election so far is the apparent decision by a great number of francophone Quebeckers - possibly a winning plurality of francophone Quebeckers - to stop parking their votes with Gilles Duceppe, and to re-engage in the governance of Canada by voting for Jack Layton and the New Democrats.

A voting decision that - maybe just maybe - is catching on in English Canada as well.

Inevitably, this has led Mr. Layton's opponents to claim he has sold his soul to Quebec separatists to obtain this result.

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A foolish thing to say, in the case of Michael Ignatieff. Mr. Ignatieff said substantially everything Mr. Layton has said on the question of Quebec's constitutional status, essentially word-for-word, in 2006.

And a foolish thing to say, in the case of Stephen Harper - author of the House of Common's "Quebec is a nation" resolution, flowing directly from Mr. Ignatieff's 2006 statements.

So what is there is to say about this matter, one of many issues (by no means the most pressing) on the minds of those francophone Quebeckers, who are - maybe just maybe - a few days away from re-engaging with federal governance?

There is this: It remains true that the Quebec National Assembly has not ratified the 1982 amendments. This is an issue that will have to be addressed at some point. The time to address it is when we can be sure we will succeed.

There is this: One of the necessary preconditions to "succeeding" is having a new and better federal government that francophone Quebeckers see themselves in, and that is working on priorities they support.

There is this: In the 1998 reference case, the Supreme Court wrote the rulebook on any future referendum, should there be one but hopefully there won't. Both then-Quebec premier Lucien Bouchard and then-prime minister Jean Chrétien welcomed this ruling at the time.

And there is this: Fewer Bloc MPs in Parliament is good for Quebec and good for the rest of Canada. Working to re-involve francophone Quebecers in the governance of Canada is what Canadians hope and expect an aspirant for prime minister to do. Acknowledging this issue, as Mr. Layton did when asked (as anyone campaigning in Quebec inevitably will be) is respectful of the views of francophone Quebeckers, and is therefore good nation-building.

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Mr. Layton is making a remarkable contribution to Canada in this election by reaching out successfully to French-speaking Quebeckers - something that has eluded all other national leaders in Canada for over twenty years. He has addressed these issues responsibly and with due respect for Canada's unity, our laws, our democracy and our respect for each other.

That's what people who are fit for office do.

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