Marc Garneau, largely seen as Justin Trudeau’s biggest challenger in the Liberal leadership race, bowed out Wednesday and threw his support behind what he described as Trudeau’s inevitable leadership.
“I entered this race believing that I had a chance to win. The odds were long but not impossible,” said Garneau, a former astronaut.
“But it is my opinion now, based on internal analysis, that the party has chosen. Justin must be commended for contributing to renewed interest in the Liberal Party of Canada.”
Garneau pledged his allegiance to the party and Trudeau’s leadership, promising to be a “loyal soldier” who would be around for years to come.
During the race, Garneau criticized Trudeau’s campaign for a lack of policy and not spelling out where exactly he would lead the party or Canada should he become prime minister. He also suggested that Trudeau lacked relevant experience.
Justin must be commended for contributing to renewed interest in the Liberal Party.
— Marc Garneau
But on Wednesday he dismissed those criticisms, saying he had been a constructive and respectful candidate, and that Trudeau has risen to the occasion and has begun to outline his policies. He also offered to help Trudeau flesh those policies out further.
He said he had no doubt Trudeau was good for the party.
“He darn well is, because he has brought in a huge number of people, and people speak very, very highly of how he rallies people. And I will work for him as a loyal Liberal when he becomes the leader of the party.”
The decision to drop out was purely mathematical, Garneau said. His internal polling of over 50,000 Liberal members and supporters resulted in 6,000 respondents. Among them, Trudeau was heavily favoured.
“I am an engineer. I believe in math, I am not into denial. The numbers indicate very clearly that Justin is the overwhelming favourite,” he said.
That polling put Trudeau at 72 percent, Garneau at 15 percent, and Joyce Murray, at 7.4 percent.
But Murray rejected Garneau’s numbers in an interview Wednesday, describing them as unscientific.
Murray, who has emerged as a dark horse in the race, suggested Garneau made the decision to pull out based on questionable information.
“I was very surprised. He has been a good contributor in the race,” she said, adding that she is far from discouraged about her own chances to win the race.
It is not a done deal. I am very encouraged.
— Joyce Murray
“It is not a done deal, I am very encouraged by the number of people that signed up to support me … I have a good shot at it.”
Murray has been critical of Trudeau’s efforts to extend a deadline for supporters to register to vote in the leadership election.
Many supporters—a new category of potential voters who can cast a ballot without being paying members of the Liberal party—did not provide emails when they signed up.
Of 294,000 supporters, only a third has registered to vote in the race, according to reports.
Murray says 70 percent of her supporters have registered and that number is climbing. Trudeau’s camp has said as many as 60,000 of their supporters did not provide email addresses.
The challenge of reaching those people to get them to register to vote has Trudeau’s camp asking for the registration deadline to be extended a week. It is set to close March 14.
If it is not extended, many supporters may not have the chance to vote. Murray opposes extending the deadline, but said she will accept the party’s decision.
Murray has distinguished herself by calling for left-leaning parties to cooperate in the next federal election and run a single candidate in ridings where the Conservatives scored less than 50 percent of the vote in the previous election.
Race Productive, says Garneau
Garneau dismissed the suggestion that the leadership race is little more than a coronation.
“I think people have been interested by what I had to say, I think they’ve been interested by what the other candidates have had to say.”
The race has also earned the Liberals media coverage above what a third-ranking party might expect, he said.
Trudeau tweeted his thanks to Garneau for the support and “a lifetime of service to Canadians.” He also invited Garneau’s supporters to join his camp. Murray said she was hopeful many would also join her camp.
With Garneau out, Trudeau faces seven candidates including Murray.
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