VANCOUVER - Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau is positioning his affluent upbringing as a selling point after partisan shots this week that his early home life means he just can't connect with most Canadians.

"I was lucky in my life," he told reporters Friday after a speech to a Vancouver business crowd. "But I believe from the way I was raised that it is important to do what one can to serve one's community and give back."

New Democrat Leader Tom Mulcair aimed squarely at Trudeau's personal life Sunday while rallying party faithful in Ottawa ahead of the next election.

"The problem is, Justin Trudeau will never know what middle-class means," he told the NDP's federal council on Sunday.

He said Trudeau "just doesn't understand" the challenges Canadian families are facing. "Never has. Never will."

The rebuff from Trudeau came after he made a campaign-style speech at a Vancouver Board of Trade luncheon, during which he outlined his broad proposals for creating sustained economic growth.

He told the well-heeled crowd that if he becomes prime minister, he'll contrast the current Conservative government tact by "strengthening the middle class."

It's a message the son of former prime minister Pierre Trudeau has been cultivating for some time. The Liberals, under the guidance of their leader, have been seeking to win wide favour by appealing to mid-income voters.

Talk of consensus building, and synthesizing the talents of all Canadians, is a strategy he began employing even before he won party leadership.

His young life was criticized then, too.

At a leadership debate in February 2013, then-candidate Martha Hall Findlay raised Trudeau's privileged background as a potential obstacle for him to empathize with Canadians. Hall Findlay later apologized, saying the jab overstepped her bounds and that she did not intend to question his character.

On Friday, Trudeau again swept aside Mulcair's attack. He said he plans to ignore the comments and carry forward meeting people from all walks of life.

"I've heard people are struggling and I've talked a lot about the kinds of solutions we need," he said. "I'm going to continue to work hard on that."

Trudeau began his speech to the sold-out crowd of nearly 800 business people by paying respects to former finance minister Jim Flaherty, who died on Thursday.

He said Flaherty was an “extraordinary man.”

“(He) was a great public servant, someone who was committed to his community and to his province, to his country. Who listened and engaged with people who differed in ideas from him, and who really represented, for me, what was great about public service.”

The next election will be held Oct. 19, 2015.

Also on HuffPost:

Loading Slideshow...
  • "Un-parliamentary Language"

    Trudeau channelled his father during an outburst in the House of Commons in December 2011. During question period, then-Environment Minister Peter Kent responded to NDP MP Megan Leslie's questions about Canada's withdrawal from the Kyoto Protocol by saying she should have been at the UN climate change conference in Durban, South Africa. Kent sat down to roars from the opposition, who were outraged that Leslie couldn't have known what went on in Durban because non-government MPs weren't allowed to be part of the delegation. Trudeau took it one step further, <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TZ2FmGOU4tE" target="_blank">yelling out that Kent was a "piece of sh--."</a> He <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2011/12/14/justin-trudeau-outburst-peter-kent_n_1149204.html" target="_blank">apologized right away</a>, calling his language "most decidedly un-parliamentary".

  • Fuel For Conservative Albertans?

    Trudeau apologized in 2012 for comments he made two years earlier to a Quebec television program in which he appeared to blame Albertans for Canada's economic woes. Canada wasn't doing well because "it's Albertans who control our community and socio-democratic agenda," <a href="http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/trudeau-sorry-for-alberta-comments-he-says-were-aimed-at-harper-1.1203056" target="_blank">he told a Télé-Québec program in 2010. </a> Trudeau backtracked when Sun News republished his words, saying the comments were aimed at Prime Minister Stephen Harper and not all Alberta residents. But the remark certainly didn't help Liberals in a Calgary Centre byelection, which was won narrowly by the Tories.

  • "Root Causes" Of Boston Marathon Bombings

    In what some consider a gaffe, Trudeau<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/04/17/harper-trudeau-boston-bombing_n_3103363.html" target="_blank"> implored the public to look at the 'root causes' of terrorism</a> after the Boston Marathon bombings in April 2013. "Now, we don't know now if it was terrorism or a single crazy or a domestic issue or a foreign issue. "But there is no question that this happened because there is someone who feels completely excluded. Completely at war with innocents. At war with a society. And our approach has to be, where do those tensions come from?" In response, Prime Minister Stephen Harper attacked Trudeau's "rationalizing" of the violence and said the right course of action was to find the perpetrators as fast as possible.

  • He Has A "Level of Admiration" For China

    Trudeau again came under fire for a comment he made about China's "dictatorship." At a widely-criticized Toronto fundraiser geared towards female voters, an audience member asked Trudeau which country's administration he admired the most. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/11/08/trudeau-china-dictatorship-answer_n_4241777.html" target="_blank">He responded by saying</a> that he had a "level of admiration" for China. "Their basic dictatorship is allowing them to actually turn their economy around on a dime and say we need to go green, we need to start, you know, investing in solar. There is a flexibility that I know Stephen Harper must dream about: having a dictatorship where you can do whatever you wanted, that I find quite interesting.” He seemed to be aware of how opponents would spin his comments, saying he knows right-leaning Sun News would report that he "prefers China". Both the NDP and the Conservatives jumped on Trudeau's comments, with the NDP <a href="http://news.nationalpost.com/2013/11/08/justin-trudeau-seemingly-admires-chinas-basic-dictatorship-at-toronto-fundraiser/" target="_blank">even comparing him</a> to U.S. Republican politician Sarah Palin.

  • Hockey Joke About Ukraine

    During an interview in February on Radio-Canada program <em>Tout le monde en parle</em> that took place while thousands were protesting in Ukraine, the Liberal leader compared the situation in eastern Europe to Russia losing in Olympic hockey. "Canada should do more," Trudeau <a href="http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/justin-trudeau-under-fire-for-ukraine-joke-1.2549392" target="_blank">said in response</a> to an interviewer's question about our country's role in Ukraine. "President Yanukovych has been made illegitimate. It's very worrying, especially because Russia lost in hockey, they'll be in a bad mood. We fear Russia's involvement in Ukraine."<a href="http://globalnews.ca/news/1171201/trudeau-apologizes-after-hockey-ukraine-joke/" target="_blank"> He later apologized</a>, but told reporters he thinks Canadians appreciate politicians who aren't <a href="http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/justin-trudeau-apologizes-for-ukraine-joke-1.2550790" target="_blank">"tightly scripted"</a>.

  • Will It, Justin? Will It?

    Trudeau faced some criticism, while others agreed with him, for comments he made on CPAC in February about the 2014 federal budget, in which he claimed that "the budget will balance itself" if economic growth were greater. The clip can be viewed at the 27:35 minute mark <a href="http://www.cpac.ca/en/programs/primetime-politics/episodes/30396042/" target="_blank">here</a>.<a href="http://globalnews.ca/news/1192723/finance-minister-jim-flaherty-talks-budgets-and-leprechauns/" target="_blank"> Finance Minister Jim Flaherty</a>, along with Sun News, mocked Trudeau's comments, but writer Mike Moffatt <a href="http://www.macleans.ca/politics/ottawa/one-thing-justin-trudeau-and-stephen-harper-agree-on/" target="_blank">pointed out in Maclean's</a> that both Flaherty and Harper have made essentially the same point in the past.

  • UP NEXT: Trudeau Glam Shots

  • Justin Trudeau, leader of the Liberal Party of Canada, sitting on a bench in Lafayette Square across from the White House before a television interview, Washington, D.C., Oct. 24, 2013. Trudeau was on his first trip to Washington to attend a policy conference held by The Center for American Progress where he sat on a panel titled "Global Perspectives" with former Australian prime minister Julia Gillard and former U.S. secretary of state Madeleine Albright. THE CANADIAN PRESS IMAGES/Louie Palu

  • Justin Trudeau, leader of the Liberal Party of Canada, sitting in the lobby of the St. Regis Hotel, Washington, D.C., Oct. 24, 2013. Trudeau was on his first trip to Washington to attend a policy conference held by The Center for American Progress where he sat on a panel titled "Global Perspectives" with former Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard and former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. THE CANADIAN PRESS IMAGES/Louie Palu

  • Justin Trudeau, leader of the Liberal Party of Canada, sitting in the lobby of the St. Regis Hotel, Washington, D.C., Oct. 24, 2013. Trudeau was on his first trip to Washington to attend a policy conference held by The Center for American Progress where he sat on a panel titled "Global Perspectives" with former Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard and former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. THE CANADIAN PRESS IMAGES/Louie Palu

  • Justin Trudeau, leader of the Liberal Party of Canada, sitting in the lobby of the St. Regis Hotel, Washington, D.C., Oct. 24, 2013. Trudeau was on his first trip to Washington to attend a policy conference held by The Center for American Progress where he sat on a panel titled "Global Perspectives" with former Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard and former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.

  • UP NEXT: Memorable Trudeau Photos

  • Come At Me, Bro

    Justin Trudeau trains at Pan Am Boxing Club in Winnipeg on Friday Feb. 1, 2013.

  • Peekaboo!

    Justin Trudeau & co. making faces.

  • Riiiiip!

    Justin Trudeau splits his pants while pushing the "scrum machine" in support of Prostate Cancer Canada in Toronto Thursday, July 21, 2011.

  • Don't Shoot!

    Justin Trudeau gets his geek on at Montreal Comiccon in September 2012.

  • So Long 'Stache

    Justin Trudeau has his moustache shaved off to raise money for the Judy LaMarsh Fund, that supports female candidates, at the Liberal Party convention in Ottawa on Saturday, January 14, 2012.

  • Coming For MacKay

    Minister of National Defence Peter MacKay (left) is chased by Liberal MP Justin Trudeau in a motorized wheelchair during a wheelchair race relay on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Wednesday, May 12, 2010. Twenty-five MPs and senators used a wheelchair for the day in support of the Canadian Paraplegic Association's Spinal Cord Injury and CPA awareness month.

  • All For One, One For All

    Justin Trudeau all dressed up for the Montreal Movember Gala in 2010.

  • Get Him!

    Pierre Trudeau's sons, Sacha, left, and Justin, tackle their mother's paperboy in Ottawa in this undated photo.

  • 'Family... And A Cow.'

    'Nuff said.

  • He Can Certainly Take A Punch

    Alexandre (Sacha) Trudeau delivers a right hook to his older brother Justin during a play fight in 1980 at Ottawa airport as the boys await a flight with the return of their father, then-prime minister, Pierre Trudeau.

  • Be Honest With Me, Who's Cuter?

    Justin Trudeau strikes a pose with an adorable baby.

  • A Very Furry Christmas

    Justin Trudeau poses with his family on his 2010 Christmas card.

  • Game On!

    Former Liberal MP Ken Dryden, left, and Justin Trudeau play table hockey as they visit Sun Youth, a community organization, Monday, Jan. 14, 2008 in Montreal.

  • Yanking Their Chain

    Then-prime minister Pierre Trudeau, left, watches as his 11-year-old son Justin swings on a chain during a tour of an old fort in the Omani town of Nizwa Dec. 2, 1983. Trudeau and Justin spent the day visiting the towns of Jebel and Nizwa 165 kilometres south of Muscat.

  • Rocking Out

    Justin Trudeau in Muskoka, Ont.

  • YeeHaw!

    Liberal MP Justin Trudeau, centre, has his cowbay taken by his son Xavier, 4 years-old, while his wife Sophie Gregoire, second from left, holds daughet Ella-Grace, 3 years-old, while they attend the party's annual Stampede breakfast in Calgary, Saturday, July 7, 2012. This is the 100th anniversary of the Stampede.

  • Like Mother, Like Son

    Eleven-month-old Justin Trudeau, urged on by his mother Margaret Trudeau, crawls up the steps of an aircraft in Ottawa on Dec. 5, 1972 to meet his father, then-prime minister, Pierre Trudeau on his return from Britain.

  • Cutting A Rug

    Justin Trudeau dances with wife Sophie Grégoire before his speech at the Liberal showcase on April 6, 2013.