Conservatives seize on Trudeau's Alberta remarks as byelection fight heats up
Published Thursday, November 22, 2012 5:53PM EST
Last Updated Thursday, November 22, 2012 8:39PM EST
Conservatives are attacking comments made by Liberal leadership candidate Justin Trudeau two years ago about “Albertans who control our community,” as the Liberals hope to win an upset victory in the Calgary Centre byelection.
Trudeau’s remarks, made during an interview in November 2010 with the Quebec television show Les francs-tireurs, resurfaced in a news report Thursday.
When asked whether Canada is "better served when there are more Quebecers in charge than Albertans," Trudeau said the best prime ministers have been from Quebec.
“I’m a Liberal, so of course I think so,” Trudeau 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,” he added.
Conservatives were quick to slam Trudeau over the remarks.
“When I first saw Mr. Trudeau’s quotes I thought it was a parody,” Immigration Minister Jason Kenney told Power Play on Thursday.
Kenney linked Trudeau’s comments to his late father’s “divisive” policies towards Western Canada like the National Energy Program.
“This is not just a one-off, this is not just a lapse in judgment, this really reflects the core ideal the Liberal party has towards Alberta,” he said.
Kenney said voters in Calgary Centre will have a choice to make: “Do they want to return an MP who’s going to be a strong voice for Calgary in a government led by this prime minister who’s got the best economic record in the developed world, or do they want to give licence to these kinds of divisive attitudes?”
Ahead of the Nov. 26 byelection, a recent Forum Research poll had Liberal candidate Harvey Locke at 30 per cent and Conservative candidate Joan Crockatt at 35 per cent.
That suggests a close race, relative to the results of the last election, when the Conservatives took 58 per cent of the vote and the Liberals finished in a distant second with 18 per cent.
Trudeau’s campaign advisor Gerald Butts said the comments are being publicized two years later because the Conservatives are afraid of what could happen in Calgary Centre.
“The Conservatives are very afraid that they’re losing one of their stronghold ridings to a Liberal in a byelection, and that’s why all this stuff is coming out right now,” he told Power Play.
In a statement released earlier Thursday, Trudeau’s campaign staff said the Conservatives had resorted to “smear campaigns to stop their slide.”
“Justin knows that Calgary, Alberta and all of western Canada are at the very heart of Canada’s future,” the statement said. “That’s a message he has taken to every part of the country, from the beginning of the campaign. We need to get beyond the divisive politics of the Conservatives and include all Canadians.”
Here is a translation of what Trudeau said about Alberta during his interview on Les francs-tireurs:
Are you on the same page as the Quebec nationalists who say French needs to be defended?
"It’s funny. It’s a question I get asked when I go door to door. In 40 per cent of my constituency -- especially in Villeray, where the majority voted yes in the referendum -- they’re sovereigntists who see me coming and say, “No, we don’t want a Trudeau!” But I say, listen, at a basic level we both agree that our language, culture and values need to be defended. We have something special here in Quebec that deserves to be defended so it can go on for another three or four centuries, for millennia. But we’re not in agreement about how to go about doing that. You say the best way to protect French is to close in on ourselves, build walls, protect ourselves like that. I think 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. That doesn’t work."
Is Canada better served when there are more Quebecers in power than when there are more Albertans in power?
"Well, I’m liberal so I think yes, and certainly when we look at the big prime ministers of the 20th century, the only ones who really handled things where those from Quebec. It was Trudeau, it was Mulroney, it was Chrétien, it was Paul Martin. So, we have a role. Canada belongs to us."