Liberal leadership candidate Justin Trudeau
Credits: DARREN MAKOWICHUK/QMI AGENCY
OTTAWA - Justin Trudeau said Friday he was only bad-mouthing one Albertan in a televised rant that has come back to haunt his quest to follow in his father's footsteps and become prime minister.
The Liberal leadership hopeful used a hastily called news conference in Vancouver to issue what critics called a half-hearted apology to wiggle out of a jam opponents have seized on to paint the Liberal party as anti-Alberta.
Trudeau's campaign hit the skids Thursday when a French interview he gave two years ago surfaced with him bemoaning western influence on national affairs and arguing that Canada does better under prime ministers from Quebec.
On Alberta, Trudeau said he didn't mean to smear the whole province - just Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
"I'm sorry I said what I did," he said. "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 that he has that don't represent the values of most Canadians."
On prime ministers from Quebec, Trudeau sidestepped that one and said Canada "is better off with a prime minister who chooses to bring people together and not play up insecurities and divisions and regional resentments any chance they get."
NDP House Leader Nathan Cullen and others scoffed at Trudeau's mea culpa.
"This is one of those half apologies that politicians seem to have so much trouble with," Cullen said.
Bal Gosal, minister of state for sport, called on interim Liberal leader Bob Rae to fire Trudeau as sports critic.
"He should just apologize and then put a period on the end, none of this in-context and I-was-taken-out-of - he wasn't taken out of context," said Cullen.
Trudeau's campaign originally said Thursday his remarks were misinterpreted and that he was being castigated on the eve of three federal bye-elections Monday, including one in Calgary where the Liberals have been gaining ground.
Earlier in the week, Liberal natural resources critic David McGuinty quit his post after an anti-Alberta energy diatribe.
While some Liberal MPs rallied around Trudeau, another Liberal leadership wannabe used the Trudeau interview to feather his own ambitions.
Alex Burton described Trudeau's apology as "halfway" and said that his opponent's views were off base and did not reflect those of the party.
Liberal MP John McKay said Trudeau was being knocked about because Conservatives feared his potential candidacy in the next election.