Canada’s first astronaut, Marc Garneau, one of nine Liberal leadership candidates hoping to launch the beleaguered party back into relevance, landed in Brandon on Sunday morning to speak with supporters.
Garneau, 63, spent about 90 minutes speaking with about half a dozen Liberal supporters at Smitty’s in the city’s north end, answering questions about his policy, and of course, his 677 hours logged in space.
This is the Montreal MP’s second run at the party’s top spot after coming in eighth place in the 2006 race, and Garneau has grounded his Manitoba campaign on fostering the nation’s knowledge-based economy, with a plan to rely less on the ebb and flow of natural resources.
"The main preoccupation with Canadians is the economy," he said.
Calling Stephen Harper a "one-trick pony," Garneau is criticizing the government’s focus on natural resources.
"He actually has no policy with respect to the knowledge-based economy. The resources economy is good … it brings wealth to the country, as long as we’re doing it in a responsible manner."
Canada’s economic health will be hinged upon an untapped educated labour market, comprised of both Canadians and immigrants, he said.
"We have a well-educated population and we need to do better … in terms of innovation, in terms productivity … and we’re not."
With much of the attention gravitating around the apparent front runner Justin Trudeau, some see Garneau as the biggest threat to Trudeau’s campaign.
"It’s not going to based on popularity," Garneau said. "It’s going to be based on who’s best to take on Stephen Harper and Thomas Mulcair because that’s the big decision."
The battered and bruised party will have to show Canadians that it has it’s act together, he said.
"We’re united, we’re disciplined, we have good policy … and if we do all that, I think we’re going to do well."
Other than former Manitoba agricultural minister Andy Mitchell, Garneau’s campaign hasn’t specified any other backers in the province, in which he has raised $1,100 as of Dec. 31.
Garneau’s stop comes hot on the heels of a well-attended appearance by Trudeau, which attracted more than 200 people at Brandon University on Thursday.