PQ leader Pauline Marois
Credits: MAXIME DELAND/QMI AGENCY
Oh, sure, the controversy over federal cuts to artists' subsidies - and a joke about artists being dependent on taxpayers - may have riled Quebecers enough it cost Harper and his Tories a majority in the 2008 election.
And every leader in the just-concluded Quebec provincial election may have talked tough about battling Harper and the feds if elected. Harper certainly is the bogeyman of Quebec politics.
But name the last ugly confrontation between Ottawa and the Quebec government.
Harper is a provincial-rights believer. He abides by a more or less strict interpretation of the division of powers laid out in Sections 91 and 92 of the Constitution. He (mostly) honours those powers given to the provinces by keeping Ottawa's nose out of their business.
The Constitution gives authority over health, education and welfare to the provinces. For decades, the federal government used transfer payments to buy influence over provincial policy in those fields. In return for billions in federal tax dollars each year to pay for hospitals, schools and social workers, Ottawa demanded the provinces run their health-care systems, for instance, the way Ottawa thought was best.
Want to let doctors extra bill their patients to cover office expenses? Want to let private clinics offer public health services? Tough luck. Provinces were routinely threatened with penalties against their transfer payments if they didn't run their health systems in Ottawa's image.
BC once wanted to impose a six-month waiting period on new residents before they qualified for welfare. Having the mildest winters in the country means B.C. is the preferred winter home of lots of homeless and other habitual welfare recipients. A six-month wait would have discouraged many transients from moving to Vancouver and Victoria when the snow flew at home.
But under the former Liberal government, B.C. was told it could impose its own welfare rules only if it wanted to lose federal subsidies.
Over the decades, there've been plenty of similar disputes between the federal and Quebec governments - but not since Harper took over.
Last winter, there was some groaning from the provinces when federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty announced a new health-care funding formula through 2024 without consulting the provinces first. Still the controversy was small and short-lived because under the Tories, health funding does not come with the same strings attached it has under previous governments.
The provinces may not have been getting as much money from Ottawa as they wanted, but they also weren't subject to Ottawa dictating their hospital policy either.
In the past, a new health funding formula would have come with lots of animosity and only after months of very public, often-heated negotiations. Not this time.
Newly elected Quebec Premier Pauline Marois has said it will be one of her first priorities to go to Ottawa and pound her first on the PM's desk demanding provincial control over employment insurance, telecommunications, language and other jurisdictions.
Good. I just hope she doesn't expect Harper to take the bait. Unlike recent past PMs - most of whom have come from Quebec - Harper doesn't have a dog in the personal feud between the separatist vs. federalist camps.
He doesn't have to try to overpower Marois to prove his side superior.
He can (and likely will) say: "Sure, Pauline. Here ya go. Now how do you intend to pay for all your new powers, because if you take new authority, you'll also have to accept financial responsibility?"