Federal Liberal Party leadership candidate Justin Trudeau (L) puts his arm around fellow candidate Martin Cauchon as Martha Hall Findlay (R) looks on following a debate in Vancouver, British Columbia January 20, 2013.
Credits: REUTERS/Andy Clark
OTTAWA -- Former Liberal MP and leadership hopeful Martha Hall Findlay apologized to Justin Trudeau on Sunday for making waves by criticizing his understanding of the middle class during a debate in Mississauga, ON.
"There are some who believe that I overstepped a line in the leadership debate (Saturday). To Justin, his family and to those who were offended, I apologize," Hall Findlay said in a statement on her website.
"My comments were not meant to be personal... I have the greatest respect for Justin's passion, enthusiasm and commitment."
During Saturday's Liberal leadership debate, Hall Findlay said she found it "a little challenging to understand" that Trudeau appreciates "real challenges facing Canadians."
"You yourself have admitted that you actually don't belong to the middle class," she said.
Trudeau subsequently shot back at Hall Findlay and received acclaim from political observers who believed her comments were a huge mistake.
"I've been lucky in my life to have been given an opportunity to go to grade school, to travel around the world, and what is important for me is to put everything that I've received like each of us wants to in service of my community," Trudeau said. "That is what my identity is all about."
Hall Findlay may have anticipated Conservative attacks on Trudeau.
Immigration Minister Jason Kenney slammed the Quebec MP in Toronto on Sunday for being out of step with average Canadians.
"Mr. Trudeau is not in touch with the values or the real issues that face ordinary Canadians," Kenney said. "I don't think he's ever run anything."
Kenney also hammered Trudeau's level of professional experience.
"If I were a Liberal, as I used to be, I wouldn't be inclined to vote for a guy who has zero executive experience, zero governing experience and zero record of putting forward substantive ideas to address the tough issues of the day," he said.
Trudeau's main challenger, former astronaut Marc Garneau, also has taken aim at Trudeau, 41, over his qualifications.
"Leadership is about much more than being a motivational speaker," Garneau told Trudeau on Saturday.
Trudeau said he has discussed different policy ideas for the party, including on education. He is a certified teacher.
"You can't win over Canadians with a five-point plan," Trudeau said.
There will be two more leadership debates before the party names its next boss April 14.
Trudeau has raised more money than all other candidates combined.