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Canada’s first astronaut and Liberal leader candidate talks science, students, and Star Trek

Dan LeRoy | Fulcrum Staff

Dr. Marc Garneau, federal Liberal Member of Parliament and prospective leader of the Liberal party, took time out of his campaign to participate in the University of Ottawa science faculty’s lecture series on Feb. 27.

Although Garneau talked briefly about his leadership campaign, he focused on the field of science and the environment, sharing his views on policy surrounding students, the economy, and the country at large.

Garneau spoke of his commitment to ensure that students will not have to pay back their student loans until they have a job that pays over $40,000 per year, thereby taking the pressure off of recent graduates. He also touched on his promise to lowering cell phone bills by increasing competition in the telecommunication industry, and “implement[ing] economic policy to diversify and increase trade, particularly with Asia.”

Garneau discussed the balance between environmental imperatives and economic possibilities, and where these two concepts conflicted.

After his presentation, Garneau opened the floor to audience members, some of whom asked questions regarding job prospects and the 14.2 per cent youth unemployment rate in Canada. Garneau responded by telling students, “We [politicians] are expecting a great [deal] from you, so it only makes sense for us to invest in you.”

Student issues weren’t the only hot-button topic of the evening. Garneau, who voted in favour of maintaining the gun registry, said he would not bring it back now that it has been abandoned, but would revise the list of “restricted” guns, and potentially move some firearms  that can still be purchased legally into the “prohibited” category.

In response to many science-related questions, Garneau referred to what he views as an antipathy that the current Conservative government has toward the scientific community. He brought up the massive cuts that have affected many research fields and said he would bring back a program that was created under the Chrétien government that created 200 chairs across the country whereby scientists could apply for research grants to pursue their cutting-edge ideas.

“There are not enough scientists and engineers in the House of Commons,” Garneau said. “[We] need to use science to formulate policy.”

As for how such things would be paid for, Garneau mentioned that Chrétien brought in the program when Canada was still running massive deficits, and years later the country was back in the green. His point was that such a program costs money—money that is being spent on private contractors and fighter jets by the Conservative government.

Garneau, who was the first Canadian to fly on a NASA mission to space, finished the evening on a lighter note, describing to students what strapping into a space shuttle and heading for the stars feels like. And for those of you who were wondering, Garneau says Star Trek trumps Star Wars.