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Liberal Member of Parliament Marc Garneau gestures as he announces his run for the leadership of the Liberal party on November 28, 2012.

CHRISTINNE MUSCHI/Reuters

Fears that Justin Trudeau would be acclaimed as Liberal leader, rather than having earned it, have ended with the entry of some serious candidates. Suddenly Liberals have a leadership race on their hands. It is a development that even Mr. Trudeau and his supporters should welcome.

Among those who have announced, Vancouver MP Joyce Murray, a former B.C. cabinet minister and successful businesswoman, could stimulate interest in a party that is largely moribund in Western Canada. She has already proposed some interesting, if far-fetched, ideas around co-operation between the Liberals with the Green party, and even the NDP, to avoid vote-splitting.

Martha Hall Findlay is another valuable addition to the leadership campaign. A former MP and member of the shadow cabinet, she is far more policy-oriented than Mr. Trudeau, and has already issued substantial policy positions in issues like supply management.

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Marc Garneau has the highest profile of those to challenge Mr. Trudeau. His résumé is exceptional, he attained a senior rank in the Royal Canadian Navy, earned a PhD from Imperial College, London, was the first Canadian in space and flew three shuttle missions, then went on to become president of the Canadian Space Agency, which is at the cutting edge of technological innovation. How many active federal politicians are companions of the Order of Canada and have a school named for them?

Whether he, or any of the other challengers, has the stuff of political leadership remains to be seen, although Mr. Garneau made some very astute comments about the rise of the West in announcing his ambitions.

Justin Trudeau himself should welcome the competition – and he probably does. Too easy a victory in the Liberal Party's leadership election on April 15 would not be a good preparation for any leader of a major party in the House of Commons – and then a contender for the prime ministership in a general election.

With this list of candidates, and others also in the race, the Liberal Party has taken a substantial step toward renewal.

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