CBC Digital Archives

2005: Paul Martin asks the nation to give his government a chance

Nationally broadcast addresses from Canadian prime ministers are a rare occurrence. They usually happen only during times of war, constitutional or political crisis. The CBC Digital Archives presents some of the most significant historic addresses by Canada's prime ministers from 1939 to 2008.

media clip
April 21, 2005: As the threat of an election hangs over his scandal-plagued government, Prime Minister Paul Martin appears before Canadians to apologize for his party's missteps and his own lack of vigilance. Martin's minority government hangs by a thread as it awaits the findings of an inquest on the sponsorship scandal. Opposition leaders threaten a vote of no-confidence and, for the first time, a Canadian prime minister makes a televised appeal to save his own political career. 
• The sponsorship scandal involved the misuse and misdirection of millions of federal dollars that were intended to go to promote federalism in Quebec after the 1995 referendum. Rumours surfaced that the money was being misused and then-prime minister Jean Chrétien asked Auditor General Sheila Fraser to investigate. Fraser found $100 million was paid to a variety of communications agencies in the form of fees and commissions, and said the program was basically designed to generate commissions for these companies rather than to produce any benefit for Canadians. • Paul Martin pleaded for more time in office, and his government fell in a no-confidence vote on Nov. 28, 2005, seven months after this speech.

• In the wake of the sponsorship scandal, the 2006 election was in many ways a referendum on the Liberal party itself, not the key issues of health care, daycare and tax cuts.

• The election campaign lasted 56 days, the longest on record. In the end, Martin's Liberals when down to defeat as the Conservatives, led by Stephen Harper, took office with another minority government.

• While the election resulted in a Conservative minority victory, the Liberals did not fare as poorly as many pollsters predicted. The Conservatives took 124 seats to 103 for the Liberals. The Bloc Québécois captured 51 seats, the NDP took 29 and there was one independent.

• On Feb. 1, 2006, nine days after the election, Paul Martin stepped down from the Liberal party leadership, asking Toronto MP Bill Graham to act as interim leader and leader of the Official Opposition. Liberal MP Stéphane Dion was the surprise winner of the Liberal leadership convention in December 2006. He announced his intention to step down after losing the 2008 federal contest in which Harper won a second minority.

Medium: Television
Program: CBC Television News Special
Broadcast Date: April 21, 2005
Guest(s): Paul Martin
Duration: 6:55

Last updated: April 18, 2012

Page consulted on September 10, 2014

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