09.15.2012 09:40 PM

In Sunday’s Sun: Spaceman vs. Space Cadet

The spaceman vs. the space cadet.

That’s (sort of) what Sun Media’s Mike Strobel famously called the looming Liberal leadership contest between Marc Garneau and Justin Trudeau. There’ll be other contenders, perhaps, but Strobel’s pithy portrayal is the one that fits the race-to-be.

Garneau is a former astronaut, of course, and the first Canadian to go into space. His name is on the side of schools.

Trudeau, meanwhile, is the son of a former prime minister, and (in the view of his critics) a Canadian who lives in space 24/7. He taught inside schools. I’ve been pretty pro-Trudeau in this space, principally because I like the guy. He’s likeable. If the next election comes down to likeability (and elections often do), Stephen Harper and Thomas Mulcair are pooched. They’re both Angry Old Men, and therefore eminently dislikeable.

But Garneau ranks pretty high on the likeability scale, too, so he’d be a worthy adversary for Harper and Mulcair. Some of his critics say he’s a bit dull. But the Conservative leader is about as exciting as dryer lint and it hasn’t hurt him much, has it? It won’t hurt Garneau either.

The space cadet, therefore, needs to take the spaceman seriously. When Trudeau’s campaign is launched — and, rest assured, it will be — his main competition may be Marc Garneau, C.C., CD, Ph.D., F.C.A.S.I., MP.

Each of those letters appended to the end of Garneau’s name mean something. “C.C.” shows he’s not just a Member of the Order of Canada — he’s a Companion of the Order, our equivalent to knighthood. The only higher honour is one that comes directly from Her Majesty.


  1. Dan says:

    I’ve said over and over that the Liberal party doesn’t have a leadership problem. It has a principles problem. There are numerous Liberal voters who are let down by the party bureaucracy, that largely doesn’t listen to them, and lurches left and right for short term wins (and long term damage to the brand).

    However, I do think Garneau can craft a more credible and reality-proof narrative than Trudeau Jr.

    I still don’t know why Trudeau ended up in politics, let alone what his life’s mission is. Almost guaranteed that any narrative about saving the country will collapse because he’s never had any defining character moment or accomplishment. The same way Michael “The Lesser Evil” Ignatieff tried to call on voters to “rise up” against Harper, as if he didn’t just shake Harper’s hand on Afghanistan and basically shit on Canadians for being against Iraq. If your reason for running doesn’t stand up to scrutiny, your whole narrative collapses. Just ask Mitt “Romneycare” Romney.

    But if Garneau said he wanted to make Canada a leader in innovation, or command international respect… you’d have a hard time calling that bullshit. Because Garneau IS credible when it comes to those things, regardless of whether or not he’s likeable. He’s also monumentally decent, and could credibly say he wants to restore ethical government to Ottawa.*

    (*Although I don’t think any of the Liberal candidates being promoted could do that. You’d need someone with an outsider story to credibly clean out the old powerbrokers.)

    • Exactly Dan…..well done. I can honestly say that I don`t think you would ever hear Garneau speak of himself in third person.

      That was a HUGE mistake of Trudeau`s. Don`t think it won`t come back to haunt.

  2. Brammer says:

    I wonder how he would do against the Con attack machine. Dion was also a likeable and thoughtful individual with excellent credentials.

    • bluegreenblogger says:

      But Dion was (is) almost inarticulate in English. Don`t know why it came across like that, after all, Chretien (so the old saw went) was the only Canadian Prime Minister who couldn`t speak either official language, but Chretien overcame his accent and COMMUNICATED whilst Dion said brilliant things that no-one heard.
      The likeability factor will weigh heavily, as it should. What I am looking forward to are the meat and potatoes that (hopefully) a few policy heavyweights will be touting for the new Liberal Party. Don`t forget that there are a lot of excellent Liberals who had better gell together as a team once the leadership is settled, and they had just better be crafting a coherent definition of what the Liberal Party in parrallel with likeability judgements.

      • Austin So says:

        My general impression has been that people who call Dion “inarticulate” in English, never actually saw the guy speak. I’ve seen him speak a few times, and I’ve had no problem understanding him speak. The media chose to feather him after he was tarred by the CPC.

        Hard to succeed when the government, the media, and his own party had it in for the guy…

        • Gary says:

          You must have heard him give prepared speeches.He was pretty good at that. He was, however, not that good in English in a “live” situation. Here is that old chestnut from “Senator Duffy Live”, with “Dirty Mike” nowhere to be seen.


          That turned off a lot of voters. For point of reference, I am a Liberal and never “had it in for the guy”. Should the clip have made it to air? I don’t know. But it did and it left a lot of people scratching their heads. And yes I still made it to the polls on time, so I was not a “stay-at-home Liberal”.

    • Michael says:

      The ads are already in the can.

      “Marc Garneau, he didn’t come back to earth for you.”

  3. thor says:

    Garneau would oblige a LOT of voters, both left and right, to seriously reflect on their choices for PM. I hope he runs, if for no other reason than he will seriously elevate the level of the leadership convention by speaking to policy. If he wins, all bets are off. I imagine, too, that his leadership style would attract the kind of team the liberals were known for. That would be good for the country.

  4. Brian Busby says:

    Exciting as dryer lint seems an apt description of the PM, though I will point out that dryer lint can be warm.

  5. Anne Peterson says:

    What could the conservative attack machine say about Garneau? We all know everything about him and most of it good. Why am I cheering for him. I’m an NDP and Garneau as leader probably means that the conservatives would come up the middle again and Yikes! Canadian can’t seem to win nohow.

  6. pomojen says:

    How does he feel about mergers?

  7. frmr disgruntled Con now Happy Lib says:

    Has Jean Charest officially ruled himself out?……..aside from the “Liberal o’ convenience” label that seems to stick with the pur lainers, I still think he could make this thing a horse race, rather than the coronation I expect it will be….nothing against M. Trudeau…..but the Liberal Party will not find success on his name alone……

    • Tim Sullivan says:

      Charest is not a Liberal. He is a Conservative. He would and should run for the Conservatives. He is not a Liberal. He is a federalist, but that does not make him a federal Liberal.

      Can we stop it with the “Charest should run for the Liberals” crap?

      • Realist says:

        He was a Progressive Conservative, an orientation that has been ruthlessly expunged by the Harper CPC. The people who identified themselves that way are now politicalIy homeless. I would have thought that Libs would have the foresight to make room for them. The fact that Charest has been calling himself a Liberal for the past 14 years just makes it all that much easier. But hey, if you want to keep him out of the party in the name of some completely chimerical ideological purity (in the Liberal party?? You’ve got to be kidding), go wild.

        • Tim Sullivan says:

          I will admit that I was wrong about Charest’s chances of sucess in politics. He’s lasted 28 yrs in electoral politics and far exceeded my expectation. After all, he called a judge while he was a cabinet minister and he lost the leadership to Kim Campbell.

          I’m not in to the idea of ideological purity — we’re Liberals, after all. However, if there is no party for the PCs, that’s their own doing, not ours. That’s Orchard’s prediction, not ours. That’s McKay’s lie, not ours.

          Charest can make whatever moves he wants to join us — we welcome all comers — but he has not been a federal Liberal, he’s worked against the federal Liberals, he’s defeated federal Liberals. He’s not the only person in Quebec we can have run the party, an if he wants, he can run in the next election as a Liberal, contribute, and be part of a team. One does not have to be a leader to contribute.

          He can pay some dues. We should know a bit more about the corruption allegations, however. The Liberals do not need that baggage to fend-off. We weren’t about to help Rae with his time as NDP premier. We’re not taking on Charest’s issues.

      • frmr disgruntled Con now Happy Lib says:

        Sorry I mentioned it…..but enjoy the coronation…….

  8. Tim Sullivan says:

    We don’t allow knighthoods in Canada.

    Ask Lord Black about something higher than a C.C.

  9. Realist says:

    Marc Garneau is a good man who has as yet shown no sign that he could inspire people sufficiently to reverse the Liberals’ relentless slide. Justin Trudeau is a good man who has as yet shown no sign of being ready for national leadership. Result: unless somebody else appears on the scene, the Liberals are destined to end up as roadkill in the next election.

    My own view is that Liberals will eventually come to rue the endless and eventually successful efforts in the party since 2006 to deny Rae the leadership. He may not have won, but he would have known how to keep the party’s head above water in a campaign against Harper. But that battle is over. If I were Harper I would be viewing the current stste of the Liberal party with much satisfaction. He has achieved his dream of destroying the Liberal party, at least for now.

  10. Realist says:

    Reply to Dan: Stephane Dion had a credible narrative (remember the Green Shift?), for all the good it did him.

    • Dan says:

      And then Ignatieff pointed out (correctly) that on the most important environmental treaty of our lifetime, Dion did nothing.

      Albeit, as a part of the right-leaning Martin government. But all the failures of the Martin government were recent enough that they could be hung around Dion’s neck. And considering his role in the party until then, I’d say THAT was a more credible story about Dion than his green shift.

      • Dan says:

        Watch the voter movement carefully. When Dion lost, it wasn’t because more people voted Conservative or even New Democrat. It was because disappointed Liberals stayed home. (They didn’t move to the New Democrats until 2011.)

  11. JStanton says:

    The LPC has already elected two middle-aged PHDs to the leadership. Both are perfectly nice, generally competent, but successfully characterized by the MSM as dull and then pilloried into oblivium.

    Is it the party’s intention, I wonder, to repeat this a third time?


  12. Brad says:

    Garneau couldn’t win the first time he tried to get elected, supported Iggy for the Liberal leadership in 2006, and then only won a seat after getting the nomination in a safe LIberal seat. ‘Nuff said.

  13. He couldn`t communicate it though, Realist.

    • Realist says:

      I agree. I was responding to Dan’s argument that all the Libs need is a leader with principles. I was pointing out that Dion fit that bill. (I could have mentioned his very important work on the unity file in the ’90s as well.) Clearly, something more was needed.

      • Dan says:

        Like I said, I think Dion was a victim of bad timing. He was also a victim of his own party’s establishment. First the Martinites who tarnished him with their corruption and lack of principles, then the leadership vultures who pointed out his (really Martin’s) lack of action on Kyoto (among other things).

        That matches up with the numbers. Liberal voters didn’t go Conservative OR New Democrat. They stayed home. By the end of the last run, they felt let down, and many of them left the party completely.

        Dion would have made a good PM.

  14. Ronald O'Dowd says:


    Looking back only reminds us of dysfunctional regrets.

    Future Leader,

    I don’t ask for much: come up with a humdinger of a platform that shines brightly in the sky like the stars.

    Then, win!

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