"Canada isn't doing well right now because it's Albertans who control our community and socio-democratic agenda," he told Les Francs-Tireurs in 2010. "It doesn't work."
And he didn't stop there, adding, "Certainly 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. This country — Canada — it belongs to us."
A day later, Trudeau apologized for the comments during a brief media scrum in Vancouver.
"I'm sorry I said what I said," The Globe and Mail reported him as saying Friday. "I'm here to serve."
But the Tele-Quebec interview couldn't have emerged at a worse time for the star Liberal candidate, who is actually trying to win friends in Alberta, as a key by-election in Calgary nears its conclusion.
The Liberals have a rare opportunity to gain a seat in Calgary-Centre, with candidate Harvey Locke threatening to capture what has been a bastion of Conservative power for the last 40 years.
A star contender for his party's leadership crown, Trudeau seems to be single-handedly transforming a battered Liberal party into a national contender again.
While a recent Nanos poll shows the Conservatives ahead with 34 per cent of popular support, the Liberals appeared to make astounding gains. They now trail the Tories by just five per cent and are in a dead heat with the NDP.
Trudeau's candidacy is widely seen as the reason for the Grits' much-improved fortunes, with his name even pushing Liberal support to 24 per cent or higher in the four western provinces — not a traditional bastion of Liberal support.
But the 2010 Alberta comments threaten to derail that momentum.
For its part, the Trudeau camp issued a statement on Facebook, laying blame, predictably, on the Tories.
"The Conservatives are using out-of-context statements made years ago in a long interview. They are clearly concerned that they are losing the by-election in Calgary Centre and are resorting to smear campaigns to stop their slide," the statement said.
“It was a very long interview in French," the statement said. "What he was saying was that Quebecers see a government that doesn’t share their values."
In a brief media scrum in Vancouver, Trudeau said the interview was focused on urging Quebec residents to stop voting for the Parti Quebecois. He also said that he spoke of Alberta but he should have clarified that he meant to say Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
But pundits and analysts were not buying it.
On CBC's At Issue on Thursday night, panellists essentially took turns extolling the damages to Trudeau's prime ministerial ambitions.
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Political analyst Bruce Anderson suggested Trudeau's comments were not only a serious setback to Liberal hopes in upcoming Alberta by-elections, but to Trudeau's aspirations to become a national leader.
Don't call it a mere gaffe, added columnist Chantal Hebert. "To me, that is a major error in judgement and it speaks to something you don't look for normally in a national leader."
During the segment, columnist Andrew Coyne was no less charitable.
"He gave no indication in the interview that he didn't actually believe what he was saying," he said. "If you're running for national office in a famously fractious country where your job is to be a unifier not a divider, this is the kind of thing that's certainly going to be a lot of marks against you."
Newspapers joined the chorus of condemnation. Matt Gurney of the National Post wasted no time in reminding readers why the Liberals were drummed out of power in the first place.
The Papineau, Quebec MP 's words, Gurney wrote, "reek of arrogance".
"This certainly won’t help the Liberals in Alberta, particularly in the upcoming Calgary Centre by-election," he added.
And in the Twitterverse, Trudeau's name was trending for all the wrong reasons on Wednesday.
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Trudeau really stepped into it in Alberta eh? Quebec leader????
No one outside of Alberta cares that Trudeau dissed Alberta. But the appearance of favoritism for Quebec, that hits a nerve.
Trudeau said something bad about Alberta. Since when are cowboys so sensitive?
I'm from Alberta. Trudeau is right.
If anti-Alberta Justin Trudeau is elected, Western Canada should separate.
Anti-Alberta Trudeau interview reminds Canadians why the Liberals were voted out
Is Justin Trudeau still popular in Alberta today?
Part of me is offended by Trudeau’s anti-Alberta comments. Part of me wonders who are these nasty Albertans giving rest of us a bad name.
Justin Trudeau just keeps bashing #alberta. If you live in Western Canada and vote for Trudeau,hit yourself with a frying pan. #yeg #yyc
Hey to break it to the tories but if they attack justin trudeau as "anti alberta" it may work for him
Justin Trudeau found out what it's really like to play in the big leagues today. And Andrew Chantal and Bruce are eager to talk about it.
If I were Trudeau I would get out in front of this thing and challenge anyone to a boxing match.
I've watched a lot of TV on Trudeau's comments tonight but with rare exceptions, only non-Liberals speaking. What's that about? #cdnpoli
btw, it's comments like those from Justin Trudeau that convince me Alberta is better off as it's own country.
@petermansbridge all the dirty secrets will come out now. It's not even election time! Are the Cons threatened?
Long history of English reporters ignoring what happens across the river, my guess. MT @aaronwherry: How did Trudeau comments escape notice
I said it earlier and I'll say again. Justin Trudeau makes Thomas Mulcair appear sane. #cdnpoli #shinypony #tcot
To those upset by Trudeau's Alberta comments remember we have a Prime Minister who said Atlantic Canada has a "culture of defeat". #cdnpoli
Hold the phones everyone; a Liberal spoke out against western focused political interests. Honestly, I am stunned. http://t.co/VnTCtcJP
Let us all learn a valuable PR lesson: Tape never dies. #justintrudeau http://t.co/hwGkTe6a
Cause most LPC agree with western bigotry sentiments MT @SusanDelacourt: .only non-Liberals speaking Trudeau's comments. What's that about?
Aghhhhh Trudeau *palm face* CTV News: Conservatives seize on Trudeau's Alberta remarks as byelection fight heats up http://t.co/7KgYhFRB
Justin Trudeau caught on video with anti Albertan slant. SUN NEWS journalists will take turns masterbating to the video for the next week.
So Trudeau controversy asks if Laurier, St-Laurent, Trudeau, Mulroney, Chrétien were better for Canada than Bennett, Clark and Harper...
Trudeau should just come out and back the stamps in the grey cup. Problem solved.
#nevervoteliberal Ahhh...the old #Trudeau #Liberal #Quebec arrogance comes out again. Justin's comments on AB in 2010 http://t.co/vBtx30Xy
The govt now wants #LPC to fire Trudeau from his portfolio as critic for amateur sport, suggests 2010 comments were "anti-Alberta" #cdnpoli
TOstar headline: "Justin Trudeau faces uproar for alleged anti-Alberta comments" Alleged?! He said it! via @PartyOfSunshine cc: @shephardm
The NDP is jumping on the Trudeau Alberta comments, too. @nathancullen speaks to how great Alberta is #hoc
Trudeau anti-alberta bias- hardly believe he has changed his tune since 2010. He was raised by his father after all. http://t.co/7W1QPQF4
Wonder if Harvey Locke knows no good Liberals come from Alberta, according to J Trudeau. #tcot #yyccentre #yyc #abpoli #ShinyPony
Anti Alberta comments "Taken out of context" Justin Trudeau? Proves he is arrogant and delusional. #cdnpoli #abpoli #qcpoli
Trudeau's comments surfaced on the heels of another Liberal misstep, again involving Alberta.
This week, Ontario Liberal MP David McGuinty resigned as natural resources critic after suggesting Alberta MPs need to expand their energy policies to include the rest of Canada or "go home".
Any bad news for the surging Liberals, of course, is good news for the Tories, who piled on with all the expected enthusiasm.
Federal immigration minister Jason Kenney denounced the comments of both politicians as evidence of anti-Alberta bias within the Liberal party.
"This is the worst kind of divisiveness, the worst kind of arrogance of the Liberal party and it brings back, for many westerners, the kind of arrogance of the National Energy Program, which of course devastated the western economy," Kenney told the CBC.
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