Paul Martin

The Right Honourable Paul Martin, 21st Prime Minister of Canada.

In office:
December 12, 2003 to February 6, 2006

August 28, 1938 at Windsor, Ontario

Political party:

Montreal, Quebec

Alma mater:
St. Michael’s College, Toronto
University of Toronto Faculty of Law

Lawyer, Businessman

Roman Catholic

Language English, French

In November 1993, the newly re-elected Paul Martin was appointed to the cabinet and named Minister of Finance. In June 2002, Martin was dismissed from the cabinet as Minister of Finance and subsequently pursued a bid for leadership of the Liberal Party of Canada. On December 12, 2003, Martin became the Prime Minister of Canada.

In 1988, Martin was elected as the Member of Parliament for the Western Montreal riding of LaSalle-Émard. He was re-elected at every election since then without much difficulty, until 1990. He was a candidate at then, losing to Jean Chrétien in a bitter race that resulted in lasting animosity between the two men and their supporters.

After the leadership convention, Martin co-authored the election platform “Creating Opportunity,” colloquially known as the Red Book. The Liberal Party won a landslide majority government in the 1993 election.

After the Liberals formed the government, Martin was chosen as Minister of Finance by Prime Minister Chrétien, and appointed by Governor General Ray Hnatyshyn. At the time, Canada had one of the highest annual deficits of the G7 countries. Standard Poor’s had lowered its rating on Canada’s foreign-denominated government debt from AAA to AA-plus in 1992 and in 1994.

So, during his tenure as finance minister Martin was responsible for lowering Canada’s debt-to-GDP ratio. In December 2001, he was named as a member of the World Economic Forum’s “dream cabinet.” The global business and financial body listed Martin along with United States Secretary of State Colin Powell and United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan as top world leaders.

Also during his tenure as finance minister, Martin coordinated a series of meetings between the finance ministers of all provinces to discuss how to address the pending crisis in the Canada Pension Plan (CPP). Eventually, it led to a proposal for overhauling the CPP, which was presented to Parliament and was approved soon after, thereby averting a pension crisis if left unaddressed.

The conflicts between Martin and  Chrétien reached a peak in 2002. Martin left Cabinet, being replaced by John Manley as finance minister. There is some question on whether Martin resigned or Chrétien had him dismissed

On September 21, 2003, Martin easily defeated his sole remaining opponent, former Deputy Prime Minister Sheila Copps by securing ninety-three per cent of the party delegates from across the country. On November 14, 2003, he was declared the winner at the Liberal leadership convention, capturing 3,242 of 3,455 votes. He had won the leadership almost unopposed,

On December 12, 2003, Martin was appointed by then Governor General Adrienne Clarkson as the twenty-first Prime Minister of Canada.

The Liberals were facing a united Conservative Party led by Stephen Harper.  So he advised Governor General Adrienne Clarkson to call an election for June 28, 2004.  The Liberals were also hampered by their inability to raise campaign money competitively after Chrétien passed a bill in 2003 which banned corporate donations.

An unpopular provincial budget by Liberal Premier Dalton McGuinty, who broke a pledge not to raise taxes, hurt the federal party’s numbers in Ontario, as did a weak performance from Martin in the leaders’ debates. The Conservatives would soon take the lead, prompting some predictions of an imminent Harper government. The Liberals managed to narrow the gap and eventually regain momentum.  Martin was successful in winning a plurality of seats to continue as the government, though they were now in a minority situation, the first since Joe Clark’s tenure in 1979–80.

Same-sex marriage proved to be a defining issue of Martin’s mandate. Martin opposed same-sex marriage in a 1999 vote on the issue along with a majority of MPs, but changed his stance on the issue in 2004, citing recent court rulings and his personal belief that same sex marriage was primarily a human rights issue.  In the midst of various court rulings in 2003 and 2004 that allowed for the legalization of same-sex marriages in seven provinces and one territory, the government proposed a bill to legalize same-sex marriage across Canada. The House of Commons passed the Civil Marriage Act.  In a late night, last-minute vote before Parliament closed down, the Senate passed it in July 2005, and it received Royal Assent on July 20 of the same year. This made Canada the fourth country in the world to allow same-sex marriages.

The federal budget was presented in the House of Commons on February 23, 2005. The budget included an array of new spending for the Armed Forces, the environment and for a national child care program.

On August 4, 2005, the government announced that Martin had advised Queen Elizabeth II to appoint Michaëlle Jean as governor general. The reception to the appointment was mixed: some, including Harper, applauded the move, while accusations that her husband had both dined with former members of the terrorist organization, FLQ, and had been supportive of Quebec separatism in the past surprised others.  Subsequent to her appointment, she reaffirmed her commitment to federalism and the issue died down.

The Conservatives, supported by the other two opposition parties (the NDP and Bloc Québécois), introduced a motion of non confidence against the Martin government. The motion passed on November 28 by a count of 171–133, defeating the government, after which the Governor General issued a vote to be held on January 23, 2006.

Martin did not put in a strong performance during the televised campaign debates. While appearing passionate in his message, he stuttered in making statements and appeared somewhat flustered.   During one debate, Martin made a surprise pledge that he would eliminate the notwithstanding clause, while the Conservatives pointed out that this was not one of the announced Liberal campaign promises.

In the end, the Conservatives won a plurality of support and seats, finishing 31 seats short of a majority. The Liberals held their base of support in Ontario, with 54 seats of the 103 in the province. The Liberals lost a number of seats in Quebec: winning only 13 of the 75 seats in the province, down from 21 in 2004, while the Conservatives won 10 seats there. The Liberals did not improve their standings in the Western provinces, winning only 14 of the 92 seats, the same number as in 2004.

On January 24, 2006, the following day, Martin officially informed Governor General Michaëlle Jean of his intention to resign as prime minister.  Jean asked Harper to form a government later that day. Martin remained as prime minister until the Harper minority government was sworn in February 6, 2006.

At the Liberal convention in Montreal, Martin was officially neutral in the contest. The party’s tribute to Martin was hosted by former Olympian Mark Tewksbury.  In his farewell speech, Martin paid homage to Chrétien, though the latter was not present for the event, and urged the Liberals to emerge united from the convention. Stéphane Dion was elected Liberal leader from a field of eight candidates.

For his last years of public office after resigning as Prime Minister, Martin was a backbencher, devoting his time to projects related to improving educational opportunities for Aboriginals (The Martin Aboriginal Education Initiative) and protecting the Congo Basin rain forest.

Martin published his memoirs, entitled Hell or High Water: My Life in and out of Politics (ISBN 0771056923), in late 2008. The book, published by McClelland & Stewart, draws heavily upon interviews conducted by Sean Conway, a former Ontario Liberal provincial cabinet minister, which were carried out for the Library and Archives Canada.

Martin is chair of the Congo Basin Forest Fund, addressing poverty issues in a ten-nation region in Africa. Since his retirement from politics, he has been an adviser to the International Monetary Fund, and to the Coalition for Dialogue on Africa. He also works with the Martin Aboriginal Educational Initiative, which assists First Nations youth.

On a personal note:
Martin was born in Windsor, Ontario. His father, Paul Joseph James Martin, a Franco-Ontarian of Irish and French descent, served thirty-three years as a member of the Canadian House of Commons, and was a Cabinet minister in the Liberal governments of Prime Ministers W.L. Mackenzie King, Louis St. Laurent, Lester B. Pearson, and Pierre E. Trudeau. His mother, Eleanor “Nelly” Alice (née Adams), was of Scottish, Irish, and Métis descent. He has one sister, Mary Anne.

Martin contracted polio in 1946 at the age of eight (like his father who had contracted the disease in 1907).

He then attended the University of Toronto Faculty of Law, where he received a LL.B. in 1964. He was called to the Ontario bar in 1966.

In 1965, Martin married Sheila Ann Cowan, with whom he has three sons: Paul, Jamie and David.

Spouse: Sheila Cowan; they have 3 sons (Paul, Jamie and David).


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