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Brownstein: Retirement is ‘a visit into the unknown’ for Marc Garneau


“If the prime minister had stated to me earlier than the election that I wouldn’t be in cupboard, I wouldn’t have run.”

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Marc Garneau is dutifully cleansing out his soon-to-be-former Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Westmount using workplace in a non-descript workplace constructing throughout from Alexis Nihon Plaza.

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Like the person himself, there’s nothing remotely flashy about this workplace.

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“I’m not an worker of the federal government as of the day I made my last speech on Wednesday the eighth of March, however they offer you a sure period of time to filter your desk till they name a byelection,” Garneau matter-of-factly states in nearly military-like parlance.

No theatrics right here. By no means have been, be it as a navy captain, Canada’s first astronaut in house, head of the Canadian House Company or, for practically the final 15 years, a Liberal member of Parliament with stints as minister of transport and minister of international affairs.

And no second ideas about retirement, both.

“I had been serious about leaving politics for fairly some time,” says Garneau, who simply celebrated his 74th birthday. “However it is a journey into the unknown for me, going into retirement. There’s a complete bunch of issues it’s a must to do to liberate your self out of your earlier life, however I’m actually feeling fairly serene already.”

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Some in political circles, like federal Well being Minister Jean-Yves Duclos, stated they had been “shocked” that Garneau resigned. They shouldn’t have been. Even earlier than Prime Minister Justin Trudeau turfed him from the cupboard — to the shock and chagrin of many — following the 2021 federal election, Garneau had pledged that he would bolt politics to spend extra time together with his household. However political issues simply stored pulling him again in.

“The reality of the matter is that after the 2019 election when the prime minister despatched me again to move, I informed my household that may be my final election. I used to be absolutely anticipating that it being a minority authorities, we’d in all probability have one other election in two or 2 1/2 years, and I used to be simply not going to current myself within the subsequent election.”

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Then in January 2021, Trudeau appointed him to the plum international affairs posting, and eight months later got here one other election. Garneau defined to his household that he had been in Overseas Affairs for mere months and there was nonetheless loads for him to do. The household gave him a cross to run once more, however, alas, he discovered three weeks after the election he wasn’t going to be within the cupboard.

“If the prime minister had stated to me earlier than the election that I wouldn’t be in cupboard, I wouldn’t have run. However I didn’t really feel it might be applicable to say after that I used to be leaving, so I attempted to contribute over the past yr and a half.”

Marc Garneau campaigns during a byelection in 2008.
Marc Garneau campaigns throughout a byelection in 2008. Photograph by Graham Hughes /Montreal Gazette recordsdata

These with lengthy reminiscences will recall that, though he was to give up the race later, Garneau sought to run in opposition to Trudeau for the Liberal celebration management in 2013 and he took pictures on the latter’s stage of substance and inexperience within the course of. Payback for that?

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“I don’t assume so, as a result of he appointed me as a minister instantly in 2015 and once more in 2019, after which he gave me a really senior portfolio in international affairs,” Garneau says. “I don’t assume he bore a grudge. Management races are sensitive issues, however I may see folks wished him as their chief. I informed him I’d be supporting him after I pulled out of the race, and I did.”

In his last time period, Garneau had served because the chair of the Standing Committee on Indigenous and Northern Affairs after which because the co-chair of the Particular Joint Committee on Medical Help in Dying. However he additionally made one of many largest splashes of his political profession, going in opposition to each Trudeau and nearly all his celebration in taking situation with Invoice C-13, which seeks to guard linguistic minorities all through Canada, with emphasis on the French language.

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Garneau’s concern is that English-language minority rights in Quebec might be jeopardized if there have been a conflicting interpretation between C-13 and Quebec’s Invoice 96, whereby the federal invoice couldn’t be challenged due to the pre-emptive use of the however clause of the provincial invoice.

“I’ve stated this was a hill to die on. It’s. My downside is that my authorities determined to incorporate in C-13 references to the Quebec Constitution of the French Language, Invoice 96, and I felt to reference it in a federal invoice was not applicable.”

As a consequence, Garneau has garnered an enormous quantity of flak in Quebec for his place.

“The French media in Quebec basically equated my place to defend anglo minority rights in Quebec as being in opposition to French and in opposition to Quebecers. I’m a francophone and I’ve all the time been so pleased with Quebec. And I’ve all the time felt very strongly within the safety of French because the official language of Quebec. However on the similar time, I felt that we couldn’t step on the basic rights of the anglo minority, in the identical method that I’ll struggle for the franco minorities in the remainder of the nation.

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“Initially, I had no downside with Invoice 96 being fought out within the courts, however when it was inserted right into a federal invoice, that was my tipping level.”

Even out of workplace, Garneau pledges to proceed lending his voice in opposing C-13.

This received’t come as any shock to anybody who has ever recognized Garneau. He was as principled a politician — evidently not all the time an oxymoron — as they arrive.

Marc Garneau was Canada’s first astronaut in space.
Marc Garneau was Canada’s first astronaut in house. Photograph by NASA

Though Garneau has logged over 700 hours hovering by way of the cosmos, having taken half in three NASA shuttle missions, those that anticipated that he would return to this planet marvelling a couple of new-found mysticism that got here to him would have been dissatisfied. That’s not Garneau. He additionally seems as grounded and all the way down to Earth as they arrive.

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Garneau, along with endeavor educating and volunteer work, will now be spending a lot of his time writing his memoirs.

“I’ve had the pleasure of getting three careers, within the navy, house and politics. I used to be initially motivated by scripting this for my youngsters, so earlier than they forgot they’d have some thought of who I used to be,” says Garneau in reference to his sons Adrien and George from his 31-year marriage to Pamela Soame and his twins Simone and Yves from his first marriage.

Can readers additionally count on to get the within phrase on all the things from house journey to spaced-out politicians?

“Inside the confines of cupboard confidentiality, I hope to cowl my political profession with a sure candour. However that’s just one a part of it. The half I’m actually having fun with writing probably the most are the primary years earlier than my public life. I feel I had many, many teachable moments in my rising up which can be of curiosity to some.”

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Born in Quebec Metropolis and raised in a navy household, Garneau spent his youthful years in Germany, England and all through Quebec and the remainder of Canada. And evidently appearances — even within the case of Garneau — will be deceiving, as he will likely be recounting in print his apparently wayward youthful years.

“I made some silly errors rising up, and I’m amazed that I made it to maturity,” he reveals. “Individuals have all the time thought I’m such a managed man, however that’s as a result of I made all these earlier errors in my youth. I wish to supply younger folks hope that typically you are able to do actually foolish issues however can nonetheless transfer on.”

bbrownstein@postmedia.com

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