Marc Garneau launches Liberal leadership bid, wants to get ‘rid of Stephen Harper’

It's official: Canada's first man in space and current member of parliament Marc Garneau has joined the federal Liberal leadership race.

After weeks of speculation, the 62 year old Montreal native made it official at a news conference on Wednesday morning at a Montreal hotel.

In an interview with Yahoo! Canada News shortly after the announcement, Garneau said the primary reason he's running is to "get rid of Stephen Harper."

"I don't like the Canada he's turning this country into. It's a meaner government, it's a less tolerant government, it's not the Canada I grew up in," he said.

Marc Garneau launches bid for Liberal leadershipFormer astronaut Marc Garneau has officially thrown his hat into the federal Liberal leadership race. In his speech to supporters Wednesday morning, the Montreal MP went after the Harper government.

"I think the valid question on the 14th of April is who is the best person, the best leader to beat Stephen Harper. Ultimately Liberal voters will make that decision but when they look at what I've accomplished in my life and what I'm putting forward I think that they'll decide to vote for me."

Garneau says his number one priority and the issue he intends to trumpet most during the campaign will be the economy.

[ Related: MP Joyce Murray joins the Liberal leadership race as the 'cooperation candidate' ]

"At the moment, we've got a prime minister who really is a one trick-pony. He's focusing on our natural resources. That's a good thing...we're blessed with natural resources and they bring great wealth to the country," he said.

"But what he's not paying any attention to is....a diversified economy and to be competitive. We're slipping with respect to our competitiveness. We're low in rankings on innovation, we get hammered in terms of our record on productivity. [The prime minister] is not focusing on those things and those are important."

Garneau's candidacy makes the Liberal leadership battle a little more interesting.

He becomes the third Liberal caucus member in the race (with Justin Trudeau and B.C. MP Joyce Murray) and automatically becomes one of the front runners.

Liberal insider and Sun News political analyst Warren Kinsella believes Garneau is an important addition.

"He is such an impressive person," Kinsella said in an email exchange.

"Best CV in the House. And, whoever wins, Justin and Marc complement each other in a perfect way. The two of them are the best leadership ticket since Obama and Biden!"

In a recent article, PostMedia News' Michael Den Tandt called him the "Anti-Justin."

"Whereas Trudeau is effortlessly magnetic to cameras and microphones," wrote Den Tandt, "Garneau often comes across as self-effacing, even dull."

[ Related: Trudeau-mania absent during yesterday's federal byelections ]

While Garneau may be dull, there is no doubt that journalists and headline writers will enjoy his campaign.  Many of the Marc Garneau articles from today are filled with puns with reference to space — most include the words 'launch' and 'lift-off.'

Last Spring, while Garneau was mulling his his chances to take over the party as interim leader, he challenged his Twitter followers to come up with their best space jokes.

According to CBC News, Tweeters took up the challenge with some contributing slogans mocking Conservative attack adds against former Liberal leaders Michael Ignatieff and Stephane Dion.

One person tweeted: "Marc Garneau - He was the first Canadian in Space, that's how badly he wanted out of Canada."

Another Tweeted: "Marc Garneau, he violated the law of gravity, what do you think he'll do to your family values?"

We now — officially — have lift-off.