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article imageInterview with Canada's first astronaut Marc Garneau Special

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By Richard Mccallum     Feb 5, 2013 in Politics
Ottawa - Dr. Marc Garneau stepped into history as Canada's first astronaut. In 2013 he entered the race for leader of Canada's Liberal Party in an ultimate quest to serve as chief executive: The Prime Minister of Canada.
Dr.Marc Garneau has a wealth of experience as a former astronaut,retired military officer, engineer and as a seasoned Member of Parliament for the Quebec province district of Westmount- Ville Marie and who has served as critic for Industry , Science and Technology, Natural Resources, and House Leader of the aforementioned Liberal Party.
Garneau served as a chancellor for Carleton University in Ottawa and was head of the Canadian Space Agency from 2001 - 2006.
He is a member of The Order of Canada, is a decorated member of the Canadian Forces, has received a doctorate of Philosophy, a bachelor of Science in Engineering Physics along with a doctorate in Electrical Engineering.
A recent article in Maclean's magazine positions him as the leadership candidate in the Liberal party most likely to threaten the proposed coronation of Justin Trudeau.
In related news Garneau recently spoke with the Canadian University Press about his "raison d'être" and strategies he intends to employ in order to snatch the golden ring in the cacophonous circus that surrounds those who would be kings (or queens as that may be).
In the interests of fairness and transparency in reporting; similar but not identical versions of this questionaire have also been sent to Martha Hall-Findlay and Mr Trudeau and as always when we receive their responses we will publish them in full and verbatim.
If you ere elected leader of the Liberal Party of Canada later this year what would you consider to be the most important legislation that the Liberal party thinks should be passed into law and why those particular issues?
The economy is my priority and my legislative agenda would be consistent with this priority.
My four point economic plan involves:
1) Improving our productivity and innovation record by providing for investors to nurture Canadian ideas and entrepreneurs, such as removing the capitol gains tax on investment in Canadian start-ups and opening the doors fully to competition in telecommunications.
2) Investing in workplace skills by cutting payroll taxes for small and medium size companies that provide training to their employees.
3) Integrating skilled new Canadians into the workforce by extending the Canada Student Loans
program to let the new Canadians complete the necessary steps to get their credentials recognized, including co-op terms and internships and,
4) Tackling our unacceptably high youth unemployment rate by providing incentives to hire young Canadians, ensuring we have a competitive skilled workforce for the future.
Many reporters and politicians of all parties seem to feel the Idle No More crisis has come into being as a result of passage of a recent omnibus bill in Parliament. These types of omnibus
legislation's are proving to be very unpopular with the Canadian public. If you were to become
Leader of the Liberal Party what would you do to make the legislative process more clear and transparent?
Omnibus bills are problematic because their scope is too wide and reasonable limits should be placed on their use.When a government party abuses it's power by proposing unrelated measures in a single omnibus bill, it deprives parliamentarians of their right to debate these various measures.and to express their opinions on each of them by way of a vote.
This way of doing things also gives Canadians less opportunity to share their opinions about the bill-whether favorable or unfavorable-and thus weakens our democracy.
Omnibus bills can play a significant role in the Westminster parliamentary system, but only when they are used to amend many laws that have a single purpose, or at the very least, a limited number of objectives.The Conservative government has abused it's power by introducing several omnibus bills covering dozens of unrelated topics.
I believe the appropriate way forward on this issue is for the Standing Committee procedure and House Affairs to determine what reasonable limits should be placed on omnibus legislation.
Do you feel that lobbies may have had a part in the Federal government's purchase of the F-35 fighter jets?
If you were elected Leader of the Liberal Party would you enact legislation to reduce the political influence of lobbies and do you feel that all military contracts should be offered a public tender?
In my view the military procurement process requires an open competition based on a clearly stated set of requirements. The F-35 procurement was a fiasco that must not be repeated,
The government has failed to tell us what mission capabilities it expects from the CF-18 replacement. It has failed to hold an open competition in order to select the best aircraft possible based on performance,cost, availability and industrial benefits.
Perhaps even more deeply troubling is the fact that the Harper government does not accept any responsibility for this fiasco, nor does it believe it is accountable in any way. There is no other word for this but hypocrisy.
It has been reported that the federal government is currently monitoring the internet activity of many Canadians who are not terrorists or breaking any laws of any type. What do you think that the Canadian government's should be concerning Internet privacy for it's citizens?
I opposed Bill C-30, Vic Teow's Internet Surveillance legislation. It went too far. Additionally, his comments saying anyone who opposed C-30 was "standing with the child pornographers" were abhorrent and showed his contempt for Canadians.
We must strike a balance between privacy and security. Canadians have a right to privacy and the government has a duty to uphold the law and protect Canadians from threats to our security.
If you were elected Leader of the Liberal Party how do you feel you could empower, educate and retrain citizens living below the poverty line so that they may be enabled to join or rejoin the country's workforce?
I have entered this race because I want to build a better Canada- a Canada where all Canadians have an opportunity to succeed, to have rewarding, stable jobs, the opportunity to give our kids a quality education no matter where we live, and a society that is open, tolerant and accepting.
At the core of that vision is a stronger economy where we are on the leading edge of discovery.
An economy in which our companies, our scientists and our universities are pushing the boundaries of innovation in every way: in the arts, in developing new technologies, in improving environmental stability or energy efficiency .
Through innovation, creativity and leadership we can build the progressive society that we all seek. As Leader, as Prime Minister my economic strategy would focus on four structural challenges to our economy:
1) Improving our productivity and innovation record,
2) Addressing investment in workplace skills,
3) Ensuring skilled, New Canadians are properly integrated into the workforce, And,
4) Tackling our unacceptably high youth unemployment rate.
Addressing these four challenges will make Canada's economy work for all Canadians., particularly groups that are sadly over-represented among those struggling economically, including young and New Canadians.
While the concept of social design is for the most part progressive; many feel that politician's should return to simply representing the will of the majority of the population.
If you were elected Leader how would you employ this idea into practice?
I have heard the frustration of Canadians with a system that elects Members of Parliament
and governments when more than 60% of the population votes against them. Canadians want a system that is more reflective of the will of the people.
If elected, my proposal would be to reform Canada's electoral system by changing our voting process to a preferential ballot or a ranked ballot.
Used by many other nations, as well as the Leadership races for the Liberal Party of Canada, the federal NDP, and the Conservative Party of Canada, a preferential ballot better reflects the will of the people.
Using a ranked ballot, Canadians would no longer tick only one box indicating their first and only choice. Rather, they would rank their choices and tick not only their first choice but also their second, third, fourth and etc. choices.
If no candidate wins more than 50% when the first choice votes are tallied, the bottom candidate is dropped and his or her second choice votes are allocated to those who remain.
The process continues until one candidate has achieved at least 50% plus one from that riding.
The preferential ballot fundamentally addresses the challenge of vote splitting. Parliament will better reflect the real preferences of it's people.
If you were elected as the Prime Minister with a majority of seats in Parliament what law would be the first on your agenda?
My priority is the economy. My legislation would reflect my economic plan as outlined in this interview.
Could you elaborate on your concept of a new four point economic plan for Canada's western provinces and territories?
If we do not engage more fully with China,India, Singapore,Vietnam and the rest of the Asia-Pacific region, our economy will stagnate. Seeking out and re-orienting Canada's economy
is and must be a national imperative.
My four-point plan represents a new national economic strategy. It calls for:
1) Embracing trade and attracting foreign investment by creating clear, concrete and transparent foreign investment rules to give markets certainty.
2) Investing in transportation infrastructure to ensure more reliable and efficient rail service and diversify shipping routes to get our grain, oil, and manufacturing goods to market.
3) Protecting our environment through science and evidence based research so we can facilitate development in the interest of both communities and businesses.
4) Partnering with our Aboriginal communities with respect in mutual interest in the full understanding that our national success is tied to their success.
Without environmental sustainability or Aboriginal cooperation, any plan will lack the moral authority to move forward.Without adequate investment in transportation infrastructure, without open investment, without open trade, the doors to Canadian opportunity will remain closed.
How do you feel your work with NASA and as Administrator of The Canadian Space Agency
may have uniquely prepared you as Leader of The Liberal Party and ultimately as Prime Minister?
As President of The Canadian Space Agency, I was responsible for Canada's space program.
I managed $300 million per year in taxpayer funds and oversaw the work of 700 people in a high risk business. That is just one example of my track record of performance. On the space shuttle, you've got to trust your team- your life is in their hands- and know how to find common ground. I try to bring that with me when I am in the House of Commons.
What is your opinion of the on-going crisis in the middle east,Syria and what is quickly shaping up to become an impending crisis in Mali?
The cases in Syria and Mali are quite different but beg the question of what Canada's role in the world should be.Following ten years of conflict in Afghanistan, we must be aware of the impact of this heroic effort from our men and women in uniform and ensure that any Canadian involvement abroad recognizes that sacrifice as well as our international obligations. The key to future foreign involvement rests with the government insuring that the Canadian people
are made aware of the case for action and that it is discussed openly and without bias in the House of Commons. Only then can we say we have done our due diligence at home before risking the lives of Canadian soldiers again.
As Canada's first astronaut could you tell us what it is like to have been in space and how it may have impacted you personally?
I have been around the world more than 400 times and spent over 640 hours in space. Seeing the Earth from above hammers home how we are in this together.There are no political boundaries, no country borders visible from above. It especially made me realize how important it is to protect the environment, because pollution doesn't only affect the country where it is created. We need to work together with all countries to take the necessary steps to protect the environment, because ultimamatly all we've got now
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