Thomas Mulcair has apologized for using "Newfie" as a pejorative term almost 20 years ago.
Reporters asked the NDP leader about the quip after an afternoon rally in the riding of St. John's South-Mount Pearl on Sunday. Earlier in the day, Liberals sent out a media release calling on Mulcair to apologize for his use of the term in Quebec's National Assembly back in 1996.
"There's no question that was a mistake that I made in the heat of a debate 20 years ago and I immediately withdrew it because that was the right thing to do," Mulcair said.
The NDP leader said that coming from a mixed French and Irish background, he got jokes from "both sides" and knows how sensitive that can be. He said he "unreservedly" apologized if any were offended.
Nick Whalen, the Liberal candidate for St. John's East, said in a press release Sunday that Mulcair used the term as a synonym for "stupid" during a June 14, 1996 committee meeting on the Parti Quebecois's strategy of holding two referendums.
In a translated exchange released by the Grits, then-Liberal MNA Mulcair is shown criticizing the PQ plan.
"It's like the two separatists who lose two referendums in a row, who say, 'that doesn't count, but when we do win, then it will count,' for example," he says.
PQ MNA Leandre Dion says, "They are following the Newfoundland example."
"It's true that it's pretty 'Newfie,' your business. You're correct to say it like that" Mulcair says.
Later on, a fellow MNA called on Mulcair to apologize for insulting Newfoundlanders.
"Mr. Chair, if the fact that I compared Newfoundlanders to Pequistes is derogatory towards them, I withdraw my remark," Mulcair said.
Whalen said in the release that Mulcair did not formally apologize.
"Someone who aspires to be Prime Minister for all Canadians should be respectful of all Canadians," he said in the release.
"Someone with the base instinct to use 'Newfie' as a term to denigrate his political opponents, needs to prove that he has changed his ways."
Both Mulcair and Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau are campaigning in the hotly-contested riding of St. John's South-Mount Pearl Sunday. Incumbent NDP candidate Ryan Cleary is being challenged by Liberal Seamus O'Regan, a former CTV journalist.
Trudeau will hold a rally later this evening.
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