That great and passionate defender of Canadian unity, Paul Martin, can bluster his way through a prepared text at a debate about not letting Gilles Duceppe take away his country, but he hasn't got the brass to take him on, one-on-one, in a real public debate.
Stephen Harper does.
And we'll see it live in Quebec on TV.
Pierre Trudeau and Brian Mulroney would never have shrunk from such a challenge. Not even Jean Chretien.
This is how a prime minister defends national unity during an election campaign, folks.
For Harper, this is a win-win proposition. Even if he doesn't shift many Bloc votes to the Tories, he will show federalist Quebecois that the Conservative Party will stand up to the separatists, and that the Liberals are too afraid and too tainted by scandal to show their faces in the debate.
He has nothing to lose, and Paul Martin nothing to gain, by accepting the debate challenge.
Bring it on!