November 28, 2012 10:07 am
Updated: March 7, 2013 11:28 am

Does Marc Garneau create problems for Justin Trudeau?


The federal Liberals have another leadership candidate in Marc Garneau and, thanks largely to his former life as an astronaut, he’s got widespread name recognition, which can go a long way in politics.

Just ask Justin Trudeau, son of the late Pierre Elliott Trudeau, one of Canada’s most popular prime ministers of all time and an icon in Liberal circles.

The big question is whether Garneau has much hope of beating Justin Trudeau, who’s seen as the favourite to win the leadership contest in April.

Darrell Bricker, CEO of polling firm Ipsos Public Affairs, doesn’t think so.

“Marc Garneau is just eclipsed – no pun intended – by somebody (Trudeau) who is just a total rock star,” he said. “It’s going to be tough for Marc Garneau to get traction. I mean, another grey-haired guy in a red tie?”

That said, Bricker said Garneau immediately occupies the second-place rank of leadership contenders, surpassing Martha Hall Findlay, who just isn’t well-known enough.

“He’s a national hero,” Bricker said of Garneau. “Being Canada’s first man in space, he certainly has name recognition. There’s schools all over the place named after him. He’s obviously a very credible candidate.”

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Bricker said for Garneau to succeed in this race, he would have to “have a compelling policy agenda” and face a situation in which “Trudeau stumbles, and I mean really stumbles.”

He compared Garneau to Ken Dryden, who ran for the Liberal leadership in 2006 but, despite his widespread prominence as a former hockey superstar, failed to emerge as a leading candidate in the race that was ultimately won by Stephane Dion.

Bricker said his polling shows Garneau is generally seen favourably by Canadians, but not to the degree Trudeau is.

Another pollster, Mario Canseco, vice-president of Angus Reid Public Opinion, wasn’t so quick to write Garneau off.

“Anything can happen,” he said. “I don’t think a lot of people expected Stephane Dion to win the Liberal convention back in 2006. . . . Things can go very well for you once you’re on the floor of the convention and you get the support from some of the minor candidates as you move along.”

Canseco said his polling has shown the Liberals would enjoy a boost in popularity under Garneau’s leadership, but not as much as they would under Trudeau.

He said Garneau – like Trudeau – has the benefit of name recognition, and it also helps both men to be from Quebec. He explained that Quebec is one of the key areas where the Liberals should hope to make gains, perhaps at the expense of the NDP, which dominated Quebec in the 2011 election.

“When you look at the rise of the NDP in the last election, it’s basically a combination of the collapse of the Bloc Quebecois and the emergence of the NDP because of Jack Layton,” Canseco said. “Whether Thomas Mulcair can be able to sustain the momentum in the next election as a Quebecer remains to be seen. But if you have somebody as the Liberal leader from Quebec who could get some of those voters back . . . the NDP is not going to hold onto the seats they have.”

Garneau joins a field of candidates that includes Trudeau, Hall Findlay, Joyce Murray, Deborah Coyne, Alex Burton, David Merner, David Bertschi, Karen McCrimmon, Jonathan Mousley and Rene Roy.

Up until the recent announcement that he would become governor of the Bank of England, there was speculation Bank of Canada governor Mark Carney would run for the Liberal leadership. A National Post column suggested the likely prospect of losing the race to Trudeau might have played a role in his decision to accept the Bank of England position.

Here’s a look at the declared leadership candidates.




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