If things had gone as he hoped, Marc Garneau would be Minister of Foreign Affairs today, continuing his run in the cabinets of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau that began when the Liberals took power in 2015.
But the 73-year-old former astronaut – once a high-profile member of Mr Trudeau’s cabinet for his roles as transport minister for five years and foreign minister for nine months – was left out after the Liberals won a minority government. last fall, a turn that surprised more than one.
In an interview, the member for the Montreal riding of Notre-Dame-de-Grâce-Westmount refused to say whether he would have run for a fifth term if he had known he would not return to cabinet.
“Obviously when I went to the elections I was hoping to continue my work in foreign affairs, but I am also grounded in reality and I know that every new government is a new decision point for the Prime Minister to decide. how he wants to compose his government.. I was aware of these things, but I decided that I wanted to represent myself,” Mr. Garneau said from his office on Parliament Hill.
Now, says Mr. Garneau, all is well and he enjoys his roles as chair, co-chair and member of various Parliament Hill committees.
“I’m fully occupied with things that are close to my heart, so you move on in life and you enjoy what you have the chance to do, and as long as you feel the desire to serve, you keep doing it.”
He is chair of the Standing Committee on Indigenous and Northern Affairs and co-chair of a special joint committee on medical assistance in dying.
“For me to have had the opportunity to work, essentially, on reconciliation through this standing committee and to work on a subject so important that it can affect everyone, namely medical assistance in dying , these are very rewarding new responsibilities. benefit immensely.
For seven years of his political career, he asked questions in committees as a member of the opposition, then for six years he answered questions as a cabinet minister. “I was the one, if you will, in the hot seat,” he said. Being the president is a new experience. “It requires that you have a certain level of impartiality so that the committee can function properly as it should and everyone has a voice. It was a bit of a learning curve for me.
Peter Trent, the former mayor of the Montreal suburb of Westmount, is a longtime friend of Mr. Garneau. He was so taken aback by Mr. Garneau’s removal from cabinet that he wrote a column for The Montreal Gazette which appeared last October under the title: “Marc Garneau, the “anti-politician”, deserves better. He strongly criticized Mr. Trudeau’s judgment.
But, he said, Mr. Garneau took his fate well. “He accepted what happened in a very Zen way,” Mr Trent said. “The rest of us aren’t quite as zen and still harbor strong resentments about how they were treated.”
Mr. Garneau writes his memoirs and writes an account of a life story that saw the Quebec native serve in the navy and become, in 1984, the first Canadian in space when he served as a payload specialist on the space shuttle Challenger. He returned to space on subsequent missions and served as President of the Canadian Space Agency.
But elected politics beckoned. Mr. Garneau was first elected to Parliament in 2008, when Stephen Harper was Prime Minister. In 2012, he ran for the leadership of the federal Liberal Party, rivaling, among other things, his future boss at the Cabinet table. He eventually left the race and supported Mr. Trudeau, who won.
Mr. Garneau intensified work on his memoir for a few weeks in December and January as he recovered from hip replacement surgery.
“I did a lot of things,” he said. “I had the chapters written from the beginning of my life until I entered politics, and I had these reviewed by my dear wife and my daughter, so they are in fairly good condition.” He has no agent or publisher.
When he was kicked out of Cabinet, Garneau says his constituents and the media reacted more intensely than his colleagues on Parliament Hill. “Here in Ottawa, I think people understand how things happen and what are possible outcomes.”
Mr. Garneau says the Prime Minister offered him the opportunity to be Canada’s ambassador to France, but he turned it down for reasons he was not going to discuss.
As for running for another term, he noted that the next elections will take place in three years. “My health is good,” he said. “We’ll see.”
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