A first astronaut makes a small step towards becoming a prime minister

Marc Garneau’s place in Canadian history books is already assured: in 1984 he became the first Canadian in space. Garneau flew on three Space Shuttle missions and, after retiring as an astronaut, went on to become head of the Canadian Space Agency. He left the CSA to pursue a career in politics, winning election to Parliament in 2008 as a member of the Liberal party. Now, he’s seeking higher office.

On Wednesday, Garneau formally declared his candidacy to lead the Liberal party, a position that would put him in line to become prime minister should the party regain control of the House of Commons in a future election. In his bilingual “launch speech”, Garneau cited his space background, but also his desire to move beyond it. “Yes, I was an astronaut,” he said. “But I don’t want to be defined by what I did up there, but rather who I am. I am proud to have had the singular honor of being Canada’s first astronaut. But I am more than that.”

However, being a former astronaut also provides plenty of fodder for campaign speeches—and jokes. After describing his desire to “focus on what we care about — the economy, jobs, a fairer society,” he added, “Ladies and Gentlemen, believe me, this is not rocket science. And, I know a little bit about rocket science!”

Achieving his desire of becoming Canada’s next prime minister, though, may have a level of difficulty similar to rocket science. Garneau is entering what the CBC calls a “crowded” race for the party leadership, which won’t be decided until April. Garneau is also not considered the frontrunner: that title belongs to Justin Trudeau, son of former prime minister Pierre Trudeau. Moreover, the Liberal Party is far behind both the ruling Conservative and the New Democratic parties for control of Parliament, with only 35 of 308 seats in the House of Commons.

3 comments to A first astronaut makes a small step towards becoming a prime minister

  • Ian

    First, it’s not (yet) a very crowded field. Aside from Trudeau, who’s name recognition and heritage is sucking up all the attention, most of the other self-described candidates are relative nobodies in Canadian politics. As for Garneau, he certainly has recognition that competes somewhat with Trudeau but I personally find it hard to take his candidacy too seriously. I’ve heard Garneau speak back when he was head of the CSA and he came off as one of the most boring speakers I’ve ever heard. Unless something has changed, I don’t see him as motivating the crowds anywhere near as much as Trudeau or other potential candidates that have so far stayed out of the race. My two cents.

  • Jeff

    I agree with Ian that this isn’t (yet) a crowded field. Trudeau and Garneau are the only major contenders so far. And though Trudeau is the flair candidate, he may not be perceived as a risky choice because his family name has a mixed legacy, especially in Alberta and Quebec. Garneau could end up being chosen since he is seen as a safe, steady statesman who also has a bit more experience than Mr. Trudeau. My pick would probably still be Trudeau, but I would want him to be amply surrounded by men just like Mr. Garneau.

  • Jeff

    And women! (of course)

Leave a Reply




You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>