OTTAWA - Former astronaut Marc Garneau will tell a Montreal audience on Wednesday that he is challenging fellow MP Justin Trudeau for the leadership of the federal Liberal party.
Garneau, who was Canada's first man in space, will join a crowded field that will include Vancouver MP Joyce Murray who is expected to launch her leadership bid on Sunday. The three sitting MPs along with former MP Martha Hall Findlay are thought to make up the top tier of a field of candidates that could number in the double-digits.
The 63-year-old Garneau flew three space shuttle missions before running the Canadian Space Agency. After being defeated in his first run for office in 2006, Garneau was elected in the tony Montreal riding of Westmount-Ville-Marie in 2008 and was re-elected in 2011.
The former Navy combat engineer is expected to give up his duties as Liberal House leader. Garneau, who also a former director of an energy company, was named his party's natural resources critic this week after David McGuinty resigned from that post on the heels of embarrassing his party with remarks that were aimed at Alberta Conservative MPs.
McGuinty's suggestion that Alberta Conservatives were too narrow-minded for federal office was followed up by Trudeau being forced to apologize for saying in a 2010 television interview that Canada was better off with Quebecers rather than Albertans running the country.
Both stumbles left Liberals reeling in Alberta ahead of a Monday byelection in Calgary-Centre where the party was thought to have a competitive chance of winning a seat in the city for the first time in decades.