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Ignatieff comments spark backlash

Mark Dunn, QMI Agency
Michael Ignatieff holds a crying baby in Toronto, April 8, 2011. (Alex Urosevic/QMI Agency, file)

Michael Ignatieff holds a crying baby in Toronto, April 8, 2011. (Alex Urosevic/QMI Agency, file)

OTTAWA - Former Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff stepped out of the classroom long enough this week to remind voters why they sent him to detention.

Ignatieff came under fire Tuesday for suggesting in a BBC Radio interview broadcast in Scotland on Monday that Quebec will "eventually" leave the federation.

Heritage Minister James Moore was stunned by the admission from a former leader of a party that wraps itself in the unity flag.

He called it an "arrogant, irresponsible and narcissistic" position to suggest the Liberals were the party best suited to keep the country together.

Ignatieff led the Liberals to their worst electoral showing last May, winning 34 seats - including seven out of 75 seats in Quebec - and dropping the Grits to third-party status for the first time.

NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair said that the comments show the Liberals are out of touch and that their reluctance to recognize the Quebecois as a nation within Canada are an indication of why Quebecers have shut them out.

"Every time we've tried to give real meaning to that recognition, the Liberals have voted against it. That's why the Liberals are not there in Quebec and that's why Michael Ignatieff is not there anymore."

Liberal MP Justin Trudeau said the comments were not helpful.

"But those of us who are continuing to fight for a united Canada and for Quebec's strong place within Canada, we'll prove Mr. Ignatieff wrong in the long run."

In the interview, Ignatieff said that Scottish separatists would breathe new life into the Quebec sovereignty movement if they win a 2014 referendum.

He said on his Facebook page his comments were taken out of context and couldn't be boiled down to a talking point.