Liberal leadership candidate Justin Trudeau distanced himself Tuesday from an assertion by his party's natural resources critic that Alberta Tories have a protectionist, provincial view of energy policies.
Asked at a campaign appearance in Edmonton what he thought of reported remarks by David McGuinty, Trudeau would not comment directly but stressed his priority is national unity.
"My entire campaign has been about bringing people together, about not pitting region against region and about being a strong representative and a voice that says the same thing in Chicoutimi as we say in downtown Calgary as I'll say in Toronto as I'll say in B.C.," said Trudeau.
"That's the kind of politics that I am trying to do here."
McGuinty was reported by Sun Media as saying that Alberta Conservatives should "go back to Alberta" and that they don't belong in Parliament unless they adopt a more national view of the energy industry. McGuinty did not return calls from The Canadian Press.
The comments sparked outrage in Conservative Alberta, where the Liberals are working hard to try and gain even a toehold. Trudeau has been to the province twice already and his leadership rival Martha Hall Findlay chose to launch her campaign in Calgary.
Joan Crockatt, a Conservative candidate in Monday's byelection in Calgary-Centre, quickly issued a news release invoking the ghost of Trudeau's father, former prime minister Pierre Trudeau.
"This anti-Alberta prejudice is the same the Liberals had when they brought in the disastrous National Energy Policy in the 1980s that did tremendous damage to our economy and cost Albertans billions of dollars," she said.
"David McGuinty's role as official energy critic should make every Albertan worry."
The comments also set the Internet a-Twitter with vitriol.
Pierre Poilevre, an Ottawa Tory MP, called McGuinty's comments "shocking" while Calgary Tory MP Michelle Rempel challenged McGuinty to make the comments to her face in the House.
"Seriously, 'Go back to Alberta,'" she wrote. "Like it's some backwater, uncultured, non-entity in our nation. Unbelievable.
"Last time I checked, this sector was important to the entire country."