Garneau launches bid for Liberal leadership
MONTREAL—Former astronaut Marc Garneau joined the federal Liberal leadership race yesterday, touting himself as the party’s best chance to defeat Stephen Harper.
Garneau cast himself as the candidate with the most leadership experience and someone who would make diversifying the Canadian economy a top priority.
Garneau is expected to give Trudeau, the presumptive front-runner, one of his biggest tests in the race for the top Liberal job.
The two candidates’ respective campaign kick-offs, however, were starkly different.
Garneau, the first Canadian in space, strode into a packed hotel meeting room in his Montreal riding yesterday to a standing ovation from some 100 people.
But the event featured no big-name Liberals, no music, and only a few chants of “Garneau, Garneau, Garneau.”
It was significantly more reserved than Trudeau’s rally in another part of the city last month. Trudeau received a rock-star welcome when he made his announcement before a boisterous, adoring throng of 500 supporters.
When asked by reporters yesterday about Trudeau, Garneau replied that Liberals must consider one key question when choosing the party’s next leader: “Who is the best candidate to defeat Stephen Harper?”
“That is the fundamental question and I believe that I am this person,” he said of the April 14 leadership vote.
“I believe that they will recognize that I’m the best candidate to become the leader.”
Trudeau has long been seen by his critics—some of them fellow Liberals—as a man of more flash than substance.
Garneau, meanwhile, is well-regarded on Parliament Hill as an earnest, hard-working, intelligent MP. He is known as a soft-spoken politician who rarely displays hyper-partisan bombast often expected of political leaders.
On several occasions during his speech yesterday, Garneau appeared to force himself to make an extra effort to raise his voice to a booming level.
“Join me today and together we will take Canada to new heights,” he shouted into the microphone in closing out his address.
His speech touched on issues such as streamlining taxes to make them fair for everyone, ensuring Canadians can enjoy a secure retirement, and generating more jobs inside and outside the natural-resources sector.
He told the crowd it’s time for Canada to put more focus on developing knowledge-based sectors, rather than relying too much on volatile natural resources.
“Under Stephen Harper, we’ve returned almost to our colonial past—we are the hewers of wood and the drawers of water,” he remarked, underlining the need to build existing industries such as biotechnology, aerospace, and video-game development.
“Believe me, this is isn’t rocket science,” Garneau stressed.
“I know something about rocket science and this is not about rocket science.”
He also urged the Liberal party, reduced to a shadow of its once-mighty self in the 2011 election, to embrace change.
“We must build on the past, but not live in it,” he argued.
“We don’t have a natural entitlement to be the government of this country—we have to earn it from Canadians and we are going to earn it from Canadians.”
Garneau also closed the door on any formal partnership with the New Democrats, insisting that if he becomes leader, the Liberals will run candidates in all 338 ridings across the country.