Trudeau apologizes for anti-Alberta remarks
Published Friday, November 23, 2012 1:46PM EST
Last Updated Saturday, November 24, 2012 12:31AM EST
Liberal leadership hopeful Justin Trudeau apologized Friday for comments he made two years ago about "Albertans who control our community," saying the Conservatives are bringing the comments to light now over fears they could lose the upcoming Calgary byelection.
Speaking in Vancouver, Trudeau addressed the comments at the tail end of several days campaigning in British Columbia.
"I'm sorry I said what I did," he told reporters. "I was wrong to relate the area of the country that Mr. Harper is from with the people who live there and with the policies he has that don’t represent the values of most Canadians."
Trudeau came under fire Thursday after comments made during a November 2010 interview with the Quebec television show Les francs-tireurs resurfaced in news reports.
When asked whether he believes Canada is "better served when there are more Quebecers in charge than Albertans," Trudeau responded that Canada’s best prime ministers have been from Quebec. "I'm a Liberal, so of course I think so," he said. "When we look at the great prime ministers of the 20th century, those that really stood the test of time, they were MPs from Quebec."
Conservatives quickly pounced on the comments, and Trudeau was forced to apologize Friday.
"It was wrong to use a shorthand to say 'Alberta' when I was really talking about Mr. Harper's government, and I'm sorry I did that," he said. "I think what this really demonstrates is the Conservatives are panicking at the thought they might lose the byelection in Calgary Centre."
Trudeau suggested the Tories had dug up the comments to feed them to the media, noting that voters are looking for an alternative in the riding – something he says is making the Conservatives nervous.
"When they get scared, they do this: they attack, they draw out old comments and they try to divide and set people against each other. This is a response to the great news were starting to get out of Calgary Centre."
In the two-year-old interview, Trudeau was also asked whether he sided with Quebec nationalists who say French needs to be defended in Canada. Trudeau said he disagrees with those who believe protectionist measures are needed to preserve the French language, saying instead "the best way to protect French in North America is to expand and conquer Canada."
"Things are hard in Canada right now because it's Albertans who are controlling our community and socio-democratic agenda," he stated. "That doesn't work."
On Thursday, Immigration Minister Jason Kenney said he first thought the quotes were meant as parody, as they smacked of Trudeau’s father's "divisive" policies towards Western Canada.
However, Calgary-based political pollster Bruce Cameron said the comments will likely not have a substantial impact on Liberal support in the riding.
“I think Calgary Centre voters will look past this whole politics of divisiveness,” Cameron told CTV’s Power Play on Friday. “When Justin Trudeau was here on the ground he was talking about challenging the Conservatives to approve the Nexen deal and have a consistent, pro-business oil sands development policy with China. That was music to the ears for many people here.”
The riding of Calgary Centre will cast ballots in a byelection on Nov. 26.
The latest polling numbers released by Cameron’s firm Return on Insight show the Conservatives ahead of the race with 37 per cent of the vote, followed by Liberals at 32 per cent, the Green party at 17 per cent and 12 per cent support for the NDP.
The numbers are much closer than the 2011 election when Conservative candidate Lee Richardson won with 57 per cent of the vote in was has traditionally been a staunch Conservative riding.
Though Cameron points out that the riding has changed drastically in the last decade.
“It continues to change and shift, and the mood is quite a bit different,” he said.