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.