While federal Liberal frontrunner Justin Trudeau positions himself as the face of a new generation ready to lead his party back to power, one of his main rivals, Marc Garneau, is brushing off concerns that he’s too old for the job.

Interviewed on CTV’s Question Period just days after announcing his leadership bid, Garneau downplayed a suggestion that he could be a septuagenarian by the time the Liberals claim an election victory. The 63-year-old former astronaut characterized the suggestion that he is out of step with generational change as a "sham issue."

The Westmount-Ville Marie MP pointed out he has children from different generations, with two teens at home and twins in their late 30s.

"I'm very connected to Canadians, no matter what generation they're from," Garneau said. "A lot of people on my team, a lot of people on my campaign team, are very young people. So it's not an issue."

But Trudeau, who remains the most high-profile hopeful since before he even announced his candidacy in October, says it is time for generational change in party leaders, indicating he intends to capitalize on his youthful image as the campaign ramps up.

"That's why I'm running," the 40-year-old said in a separate interview broadcast on Question Period Sunday. "We’re going to have to draw in a new, young generation of people who’ve been disconnected from politics too long."

  • Watch the complete interviews on CTV Sunday, when Question Period airs at 11 a.m. in Ontario, Quebec and Manitoba; 2 p.m. in British Columbia and 3 p.m. in Alberta and Saskatchewan. QP can be seen in Atlantic Canada on CTV News Channel at 6 p.m. AT, 30 minutes later in N.L.

Nexen deal

The candidates, both MPs representing Montreal ridings, also weighed in on policy issues, including China’s takeover bid of Canadian oil and gas company, Nexen.

A review of the $15.1-billion bid by state-owned China National Offshore Oil Co. for Nexen was recently extended by the Harper government to Dec. 10. The Nexen deal has raised concerns over national security and Canada-China relations.

Trudeau spoke strongly in favour of the takeover, while Garneau was more cautious.

"We're too small a country to be able to go at it alone without international trade, without foreign investment to help us generate the capital we need to properly exploit our megaprojects and our resources," said Trudeau, who represents the riding of Papineau.

Garneau offered more cautious support, but said it is a good opportunity for Canada to ensure it is on a level playing field.

"For example, a Canadian company can't buy a Chinese company by itself," he said. "The issue of reciprocity -- perhaps that’s not something that will happen, but Canada should negotiate something in return for allowing Chinese companies to invest in Canada."

Garneau and Trudeau are among a crowded field of leadership hopefuls who will square off at an April leadership convention in Ottawa.

Want to know what the candidates have to say about other issues including climate change and the prospect of vote-splitting? Tune into CTV's Question Period Sunday to find out.