Federal Liberal leadership candidate Marc Garneau is the MP for Westmount Ville-Marie, the critic for natural resources, a former navy officer – and the first Canadian to go to space: He went into orbit three times and became head of the Canadian Space Agency.
This weekend, he’s at a Nova Scotia high school with students talking by radio with Chris Hadfield, the Canadian now aboard the International Space Station.
But first Mr. Garneau kindly agreed to answer some questions that I considered pressing, via e-mail.
Tabatha Southey: Canadians pay some of the highest rates for wireless service in the developed world. I’ve shopped around, bundled, unbundled, then knitted tiny bonnets and practically swaddled my services, and yet I still pay almost as much for wireless and phone for my family of three as to heat my reasonably sized home.
You say you’d like to see more competition in the telecommunications sector. How would your plan affect the average Canadian family – in space?
Marc Garneau: Well, for starters, I’d eliminate roaming charges for all space travellers. Let’s face it, space families deserve a break. Truth is, all Canadians are paying too much. These things are not luxuries for texting teens, but an increasingly vital part of operating businesses of every size – part of being competitiv
Southey: Canadian Chris Hadfield is living on the International Space Station. I see he’s on Twitter. My question is, Can he only get Canadian Netflix?
Garneau: It’s getting better.
Southey: Canada has a high rate of youth unemployment. Should Canada address this problem by sending more of our young, unskilled people into space?
Garneau: We all know a few young people we’d like to send into space. Young people know young people they’d like to send to space. But what we really need is to focus on getting them Earth jobs. If we want a competitive work force in the future, one way to get young people into the job market is to provide incentives to employers who hire them.
We also need to tap into that other strength in our work force, newly arrived immigrants who bring skills to Canada but have trouble getting accredited to Canadian standards.
We can extend the Canada Student Loan program to them and assist them with internships so that they’ll gain a foothold in the job market.
Southey: Recently, astronomers discovered what some are calling a new “super-Earth” in the zone of a nearby star that has the right conditions to support life. If it turns out to have life, should Canada have its own embassy there, or share one with the U.K.?
Garneau: Sharing our embassy? Only a space cadet would come up with that.
Southey: Can you streamline our tax system to the point where it is actually weightless?
Garneau: That’s a tall order. Right now the Income Tax Act weighs a ton. Putting it on a diet is certainly an option.
Southey: When I take the train to Montreal, it’s really slow. Do you see any solution to this?
Garneau: Faster trains?
Southey: So, no transporter?
Southey : Should we diversify our energy exports, away from the U.S. and toward space?
Garneau: Please, could we talk about something other than space?
Southey: Okay. What is the main challenge for sonar-wave propagation in shallow water?
Garneau: Well, at-sea experimental data and simulation results show that acoustic, normal-mode coupling induced by internal solitons could be an important loss mechanism for shallow-water sound propagation.
Southey: Damn. I knew you’d get that one.
Garneau: You pick a few things up in the Navy.
Southey: How does it feel to be in the Hockey Hall of Fame?
Garneau: I think you’d have to ask Ken Dryden.
Southey: Right. Growing up at 24 Sussex, did you ever imagine that one day you would be seeking to be prime minister yourself?
Garneau : That’s Justin Trudeau.
Southey: Who has never been to space?
Garneau: Not even once.