Not To Be Trusted With Knives

{August 10, 2008}   P.M.#21 – P.M. P.M.
Name Paul Edgar Philippe Martin
Born: August 28, 1938 in Windsor, Ontario
Died: not
Party: Liberal
Held Office: December 12, 2003 – February 6, 2006
Best known for:
  • although he was P.M., I think he was actually much more influential in his role as the Finance Minister under Jean Chrétien from 1993 to 2002, during which time he
    • erased a $42 billion deficit
    • had 5 consecutive budget surpluses
    • paid off $36 billion of national debt
    • decreased the debt-to-GDP ratio from 70% to 50%
    • overhauled the Canadian Pension Plan

    the flip side of this, however, was that he made big cuts to transfer payments to the provinces, which meant cuts in a number of social services, especially health care.

  • he was surrounded by controversy over his leadership role in Canadian Steamship Lines, which was given gobs of money from the government (in contracts, grants & loan) while he has Finance Minister, and which “reflagged” a number of its ships – ships that had been registered in Canada were registered in other countries that had more lenient (i.e., “business friendly”) safety & labour laws. He sold his interests in this company to his sons when he ran for the Liberal Party leadership because, you know, he’d have no vested interest in what happens to a company owned by his sons.
  • he lost the Liberal Party leadership to Chrétien in 1990 and apparently the two really didn’t like each other
  • Martin really wanted Chrétien’s job and campaigned hard to have him overthrown on a leadership review vote; seeing the writing on the wall1, Chrétien announced he would step down in spring 2004; Martin won the leadership in Nov 14, 2003, trouncing his only opponent, Sheila Copps, in the vote.  Other contenders Brian Tobin & Allan Rock didn’t even run, and John Manley stepped out of the race.
  • hurt by the Sponsorship Scandal and facing a newly re-united right (with the Canadian Alliance having taken over the Conservative Party), Martin’s Liberals squeaked out a minority government in the 2004 (at the start of that election, the polls were calling for a Conservative majority, so it was impressive that they came back from that)
  • despite having opposed same sex marriages in a vote in 1999, Martin changed his tune, agreeing that same sex marriage was a human rights issue (8 provincial & territorial courts had already ruled as much) and same sex marriages were legalized in 2005, making Canada the 5th country in the world to do so
  • he narrowly avoided a vote of non-confidence in May 2005 when Belinda Stronach crossed the floor from the Conservative Party (and was given the role of Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development), along with support from independent MP Chuck Cadman, plus the tie-breaking vote from the Speaker of the House.
  • he appointed3 Michaëlle Jean as Governor General in August 2005
  • the Conservatives put forth a motion of non confidence in Nov 2005 and thus the Liberals, who had lost support of the NDP by refusing to agree with conditions for the NDP’s support (including a ban on private health care), were brought down.  Notably, this was the first time Canadian government had been brought down by a non-confidence vote that wasn’t associated with a piece of legislation.
  • after losing the 2006 election, Martin stepped down as leader of the Liberal Party
  • he was often dubbed “Mr. Dithers”
  • his father, Paul Joseph James Martin, was a career politician, who served for 33 years in Parliament, and as a Cabinet Minister in 4 Liberal governments; he also ran for Liberal Party leadership but, unlike his son, he never won2.
Some Things I Didn’t Know About This P.M.
  • he’s the member of Parliament for LaSalle-Émard (my mom grew up in LaSalle)
  • he co-authored “The Red Book” – the extensive Liberal Party platform published for the 1993 election
  • when he left (or was kicked out of?) Cabinet in 2002, he no longer had to disclose his donors, which “was likely a boost to his campaign” (source: Wikpedia) to take over the leadership of the Liberal Party
Five former P.M.s: Right Hon. Pierre Elliott Trudeau,
Right Honourable John N. Turner, Right Honourable
Kim Campbell, Right Honourable Jean Chrétien, and
Right Honourable Joe Clark.
If you are just dying to read more about P.M. P.M., check these out:

Image credits:

1Or lack of writing, as it were: Chrétien couldn’t get more than have the caucus to sign a document saying they supported him.
2Not that it mattered all that much, given that Martin was something of a lackluster P.M.
3Well, technically he “recommended” to the Queen that she appoint Jean, but as if the Queen is going oppose stuff our government recommends.

et cetera
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