Justin Trudeau says it's too soon to declare victory in the federal Liberal leadership race despite being perceived as the front-runner.

Trudeau was at the party's special general council on Saturday in Sorel, Que. It was the first meeting since the Liberals' five-month leadership race officially kicked off on Wednesday.

The Montreal MP and leadership candidate said Canadians don't just want flash, they want substance. He said he intends to travel the country building up support over the next few months.

"Over the coming months, there are going to be a lot of people challenging each other, challenging each of us as candidates to demonstrate that we have the strength and the conviction to be able to earn the trust of Canadians," he told reporters Saturday.

Three others planning a leadership run spoke at the meeting: René Roy, a farmer from Quebec's Beauce region; George Takach, a Toronto lawyer; and retired military officer Karen McCrimmon.

Montreal MP Marc Garneau, who is expected to join the race shortly, was not at the meeting.

Another high-profile candidate, former MP Martha Hall Findlay, was also absent.

As of Saturday, Trudeau was the only person listed as a candidate on the Liberal Party's website.

The leadership vote will be held next April.

With files from The Canadian Press