Paul Martin was Canada’s 21st prime minister. He was in power between December of 2003 and February of 2006. He originally rose to political prominence as Liberal finance minister under former prime minister Jean Chrétien during the 1990s. He was infamously relieved of his cabinet post in 2002 after campaigning for the top job zealously – despite warnings from Chrétien (to all MPs) to not organize leadership campaigns while he was still in office.
Martin became prime minister after Chrétien’s retirement but also received his own mandate from Canadian voters in the 2004 Canadian federal election. His popularity remains higher than that of other party leaders, though both his and the party’s credibility has been damaged following revelations involving the sponsorship scandal in early 2004.
Paul Edgar Phillippe Martin was born on August 28, 1938, in Windsor, Ontario
. His parents were of French- and Scottish-Canadian heritage and though his family’s setup was quite nuclear in nature (his parents were married until their deaths and Martin has one sister), his father was frequently traveling between Windsor
and the family’s home in Ottawa
, as he was a politician (more on that later). He has indicated in interviews that his childhood was happy and problem-free, though he found his father’s frequent traveling from Ottawa to his constituency in Windsor to be hard on him. It was his father’s profession that sparked his eventual interest in politics. Though Ottawa (and to a lesser extent, Windsor) has a reputation for being a bilingual
city, Martin’s upbringing was generally in English until his parents had him schooled in French for most of his adolescence. He finished high school in Ottawa and went on to study philosophy and history at the University of Toronto
Martin went on to study law at the University of Toronto’s law school and graduated in 1965. He married Sheila Ann Cowan in 1965 (they have three sons) and was called to the bar in 1966. He worked as a lawyer in the late 1960s before becoming interested in business. He served as a member of management for various in the early 1970s and was appointed president of Canada Steamship Lines in 1974. After learning that the Power Corporation planned to sell CSL, Martin and a business partner purchased it in 1981. He served as its CEO from this point until he entered politics in 1988. He also sold the company to his sons after entering politics, but alleged continued involvement have been controversial for him.
Paul Martin’s interest in politics stems back to his childhood and his father’s political career. Paul Martin Sr. had been a Liberal backbencher
and had served as an MP with four different Liberal prime ministers. Though he ran for the Liberal leadership in 1968 (following the impending retirement of Lester B. Pearson
), he lost to Pierre Elliott Trudeau
. It has been suggested that Martin the Younger never really got over this and held a grudge against Trudeau for years after the fact. Martin the Elder never got to be prime minister, leader of the opposition or even the leader of the party in the House of Commons
, though Trudeau appointed him leader of the government in the Senate
shortly after his election as party leader. Some biographers have made the connection between the father’s lack of electoral success within his party and the son’s seemingly endless drive for political success. A few have gone so far as to say that Martin’s political career is at least partially an attempt to “avenge
” his father’s losses.
Martin successfully ran for parliament in the 1988 Canadian federal election and sat as a Liberal for the Québec riding of Lasalle-Emard. He became a well-known critic of the financial goings-on of the Progressive Conservative government of the day and ran for the Liberal leadership in 1990 after John Turner resigned. He lost, coming in second to former Trudeau cabinet minister Jean Chrétien. This is also widely believed to have sparked a feud of sorts between Chrétien and Martin, as well as their respective supporters. It would set the tone for the next 13 years.
After the Liberal Party was elected in the 1993 Canadian federal election, Chrétien appointed Martin as the government’s finance minister. He would hold the post for nine years and would become known for being somewhat more fiscally conservative than other members of the party. Martin announced early on that he would attempt to tame the hefty deficit left by the Tories while also being reasonable when it came to taxes. He had helped to write the Red Book, the Liberal Party’s tome for that particular election campaign. Chrétien had promised to scrap the Goods and Services Tax during the election campaign but this never came to be. Various social programs, including health care, also suffered cuts during Martin’s tenure as finance minister yet the deficit was paid off by the 1997-1998 fiscal year. Canada has generated a surplus ever since, though the miscalculation thereof has recently caused controversy.
Martin made no secret of the fact that he wanted to become prime minister. He was infamous within the Liberal Party and Canadian politics for campaigning years before Chrétien even retired, and this eventually cost him his job as finance minister. Chrétien had taken several steps to discourage several MPs from campaigning and fundraising but Martin showed few signs of stopping. The prime minister said they made a mutual decision to replace him with Deputy Prime Minister John Manley, but Martin insisted that the decision was made without his input and he heard it on the news before hearing it from Chrétien. He continued to serve as an MP until Chrétien announced his retirement in 2003. As expected, Martin ran for the party leadership and beat out his only competitor, longtime Liberal MP Sheila Copps, with over 90% of the popular vote on the first ballot.
Paul Martin was sworn in as Canada’s 21st prime minister on December 12, 2003. When reporters asked him if he’d thought of his father, who had died in 1992, while being sworn in, he became emotional and revealed that he had the Canadian flag that flew at half-mast on the Peace Tower after his death with him.
Martin’s first few months as prime minister passed without incident, though he was frequently criticized for being one of those mandateless prime ministers (in that the Canadian public had not expressly voted for a party headed by him). His government faced some serious trouble after Auditor-General Sheila Fraser
released a report condemning the Liberals for allegedly mismanaging and misspending of public funds after the 1995 Québec Sovereignty referendum
. Martin insisted that he knew nothing of the scandal (despite having been finance minister) and vowed to hold those responsible accountable. He called an election
for June of 2004 and, though poll results indicated that the Conservative Party of Canada
might win a minority government
, won a minority mandate for himself.
Martin called a formal inquiry into the sponsorship scandal and testified before it himself. He insisted that he was not involved in the alleged misuse of public funds. Other testimony indicated that the government might lose the confidence of the House of Commons and might therefore be forced to call an election. Martin took to the airwaves to address the nation, arguing that while he wasn’t at fault, he was willing to take some responsibility for dropping the proverbial ball. Opposition leader Stephen Harper and Bloc Québécois leader Gilles Duceppe insisted that Martin no longer had the moral authority to govern and vowed to bring the government down. New Democratic Party leader Jack Layton offered to work out an alliance deal with Martin if he removed corporate tax cuts from the 2005-2006 budget. When such a deal was made, Harper announced that the Conservative Party of Canada would do everything within its power to bring the government down at the earliest possible opportunity. That hasn’t happened yet, but it apparently might happen as soon as a few hours from now. (Updates will come).
Martin is generally socially progressive
and somewhat fiscally conservative
. His election as party leader prompted New Democratic Party leader Jack Layton to insist that the gap between the Conservative Party and the Liberal Party was shrinking. Martin has also devoted himself to repairing Canada-U.S. relations
, which were damaged when Chrétien refused to send Canadian troops to Iraq
. He is also in favour of free trade
, the decriminalization of small amounts of marijuana
, and same-sex marriage
(while maintaining that he is a devout Roman Catholic
Martin has been dubbed “Mr. Dithers
” by the Economist because of his alleged inability to make a decision and stick with it. This was the joke of the month during Question Period; deputy opposition leader Peter MacKay
dubbed one of Martin’s cabinet ministers “Dithers Junior.” His public image has also suffered due to the fact that he is not the best public speaker unless he’s rehearsed something multiple times. His speeches, for instance, present few problems whereas unrehearsed encounters such as scrum
s or Question Period
reveal that he stutters quite a bit. He also has a tendency to say “very
” a lot.
If this sponsorship scandal ever dies down, he will most likely be forever remembered for the badly timed (for him, anyway) photo of him with U.S. president George W. Bush as they prepared for a group shot at a world leaders summit. It quickly became fodder for caption contests across the country.
Because Martin has been prime minister for over a year, he will likely not have to suffer through Joe Clark references for the rest of his life – even if his government does fall on the budget or something similar. Whether or not his tenure as prime minister will be seen as a success remains to be seen.
The government of Martin's first mandate did not fall during its first session, even on the controversial "NDP budget" (Martin adjusted the initial budget according to the NDP's demands in exchange for their support in propping up the government during confidence votes. Martin also helped to successfully push through Bill C-38, which amends the marriage law to change the definition of marriage to include "two persons," rather than "one man and one woman." His own faith was brought into the debate many times, as he is a professed Roman Catholic, but he insisted that it would be unethical to "cherrypick" which rights to defend.
He was prime minister until Stephen Harper's Conservatives won the 2006 Canadian federal election, at which point he stepped down as party leader.
CBC News InDepth: Paul Martin (http://www.cbc.ca/news/background/martin_paul/timeline.html) 10 May 2005
Paul Martin – Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_Martin) 10 May 2005
Liberal Party of Canada (http://www.liberal.ca/primeminister_e.aspx) 10 May 2005
And, once again, my freakish obsession with Canadian politics.