Commentators and journalists have been attracted to the story like bees to honey or like flies to......well... suffice to say there's been a lot of ink and bandwidth devoted across Canada expressing universal rage and condemnation coupled with the supplication that Mr. Harper must do the honourable thing and reject the unholy demand that Quebec be paid off to insure that the government of the day remains in power.
In politics we call Mr. Duceppe's demand, gamesmanship or horsetrading. In real life we call it blackmail.
But no matter.
While columnists rage at Mr. Duceppe's unmitigated effrontery, they have unfortunately entirely missed the point.
It should be patently obvious, even to the most naive political observer, that Duceppe formulated his demands to pick at the scab of Anglo resentment in relation to Quebec entitlements and to generate the exact anti-Quebec reaction that he has.
If he really wanted the money, he would have pursued the matter behind closed doors, horsetrading with a senior Conservative operative to 'cut a deal.' That's how things are done in Ottawa.
And so it was never about the money, it was about exacerbating the never-ending Canada versus Quebec polemic. In that respect Duceppe has again scored a brilliant victory as Canadians fall neatly into his 'piege'. It's surprising that so few commentators are able to see past the ridiculous demand, such is their hatred for Duceppe and their belief that he is an unsophisticated clown.
Canadians are used to taking people at face value, they assume that if someone says something, they actually mean it. When it comes to Gilles Duceppe, it's a rather naive assumption as he is a grand master at negotiating in bad faith.
As ridiculous as Canadians find his demands, not so in Quebec, where the theme that the province is chronically short changed by Ottawa plays well and where that special ability to employ voodoo accounting methods leads to the inevitable conclusion of financial oppression.
In Quebec, defending the principle of asymmetrical benefits has been raised to an art form and where any argument, no matter how vacuous can be invoked to justify the notion that Quebec is a financial victim of federalism.
Illustrating this phenomenon is the recent demand that Quebec receive in excess of 50% of the economic spin-offs in relation to the F-35 warplane contract signed with Lockheed Martin, based on the fact that Quebec is the historic home to Canada's aircraft industry.
Notwithstanding, when Ontario is awarded a disproportional slice of contracts in relation to military vehicles, because the automotive industry is Ontario-based, the howls of favouritism are raised in Quebec by nationalists claiming that Ottawa is once again, unfairly advantaging its favourite son.
Quebeckers are champion debaters and can always find an argument to counter any claim that they somehow advantaged. With just 22% of the population and 60% of the equalization pie, Quebec nationalists will tell us, with a straight face, that certain other provinces get 'proportionally higher benefits than Quebec.
When called out on the discrepancies, Quebec will claim that they are short-changed in other programs including military spending, native subsidies (because Quebec has comparatively few natives) or fishery programs because they are not an ocean province.
On and on it goes.
The debate is such that by the time all the facts and figures are bandied about by both sides, enough confusion reigns so that those who are predisposed to believe Quebec is spoilt, or alternately, deprived, can satisfy themselves that their position is solid.
Voters have only so much capacity to absorb facts and figures and let's face it, considering that most can't balance their own cheque-book, understanding the vagaries of federal/provincial transfers is like quantum mechanics.
Most voters end up siding with the politician that they intend voting for and so any argument that makes the least sense, is accepted, as long as it sounds good. The Bloc is expert at making the 'these' shallow arguments, meant to confuse and confound the truth.
Ask Mr. Duceppe to explain why the Earth is flat and he'll produce a perfectly rational argument that will undoubtedly convince his constituency that it is indeed so!
So why did Mr. Duceppe stir the pot?
Well it seems that he smells an election coming or is ready to trigger one himself.
Mr. Duceppe, flush with Canadian cash via federal election campaign grants, favourable polling numbers and the likelihood that another hung parliament is in the offing, is looking for an issue to which the party can hang its hat onto.
It is clear that Mr. Duceppe will base his campaign on what Quebec doesn't receive from Ottawa, rather than what it does.
It's simple clean and appealing, as long as nobody challenges him on the numbers, he'll be fine. In Quebec there remains no federalist a la Stephane Dion (who is now a spent force) to challenge or call out Mr. Duceppe over his fantastical and self-serving numbers.
If polling numbers remain firm, there will be no majority government. Mr. Harper will be returned to power under the very same circumstances as before.
There will be no coalition between the losing parties and that means we'll be right back where we started, 300 million dollars poorer (the cost of an election) and an almost identical minority government.
And so Mr Duceppe and the Bloc endure.
While some commentators in Quebec are questioning the wisdom of voting for a party that is delivering nothing to Quebec, the Bloc has once again cleverly found a new argument to justify its existence.
It now portrays itself as the only political option available that can thwart a Conservative majority government, a scenario which they portray as apocalyptic. A Parliamentary majority would deliver to Mr. Harper the means to chop down Quebec and to reduce it to 'just another province' status, something they portray as an unmitigated disaster.
They may be right.....