Spaceman lands safely in Westmount

People often ask Marc Garneau whether it’s harder to run an election campaign or to prepare for space flight. The former astronaut, who was on his second attempt to be elected an MP, scored an easy win in Westmount-Ville Marie last Tuesday evening, outdistancing his nearest rival, the NDP’s Anne Lagacé Dowson, although she still managed to raise her party’s standing more than seven per cent

In an electoral race that some pundits were predicting would be a closer contest between the NDP and the Liberals, Garneau ended up with virtually the same number of votes as his Liberal predecessor Lucienne Robillard — about 46 per cent.

But while the NDP has consistently finished third and fourth locally over the past decade, Lagacé Dowson beat Conservative Guy Dufort by more than 2,500 votes, with overall support of nearly 23 per cent.

Despite rising public concern for the environment, support for the Greens, which was represented by that party’s deputy leader, Claude William Genest, dropped by more than one per cent. Support for four fringe candidates, who were running for the Marxist-Leninist, Communist and Neorhino parties, as well as one independent, totaled less than one per cent.

Garneau, who addressed supporters at his Greene Avenue campaign headquarters shortly after being declared the winner around 10:40 p.m., compared the rigors of electioneering to the stresses he experienced as an astronaut in space. “People often ask me whether it’s harder to prepare for space flight or to run a campaign and this has been a very hard-fought campaign,” he said. “This has been a grueling campaign. This has been a very, very hard campaign and I’m not ashamed to say this.” This was not the first time Garneau ran for federal office.

In the 2006 election, Garneau came in second while running for the Liberals in the riding of Vaudreuil-Soulanges just west of Montreal. He referred briefly to that experience and said it gave him a taste “for working for my country.

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