Justin Trudeau apologized Friday for a two-year-old television interview in which he blamed the country's problems on Albertans controlling the "socio-democratic" agenda, but he continued to suggest his comments have been misinterpreted.
The interview, broadcast in 2010 on the French-language television station Tele-Quebec, was resurrected a day earlier in news reports from Sun Media and immediately seized upon by the Conservatives.
Trudeau apologized during a stop in Vancouver, insisting he was really just making a clumsy attack on Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who rose to power as an MP from Calgary.
"I was wrong to relate the area of the country that Mr. Harper is from ... with the policies that he has that don't represent the values of most Canadians," Trudeau told a gathering of reporters.
"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."
The Conservatives have used the interview as fodder to attack Trudeau and his party, particularly in Calgary, where a federal byelection scheduled for next week has become more competitive than expected.
When asked how the controversy might affect his party's byelection chances, Trudeau largely ignored the question, instead accusing the Conservatives of resorting to attacks in a moment of panic over the prospect of losing in the Calgary-Centre byelection.
In a 2010 appearance on the program Les francs-tireurs, Trudeau said: "Canada isn't doing well right now because it's Albertans who control our community and socio-democratic agenda. It doesn't work."
He also said Canada would be better served if there were more Quebecers than Albertans in charge, arguing "the great prime ministers of the 20th Century" have come from Quebec.
On Friday, Trudeau said his comments about the lack of Quebecers, and the abundance of Albertans, in power was an attempt to urge voters in Quebec to vote for a national party capable of forming government.