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A very bitter defeat for Paul Martin

Paul Martin Jr. has worn many crowns: captain of industry, slayer of the deficit, heir to his father's Liberal party leadership aspirations. But the crown he most desperately wanted took two decades to attain, and just two years to lose. Martin's ascent to the Prime Minister's Office was slow, calculated and fraught with obstacles. The CBC Archives website looks back at the political career of the Right Honourable Paul Martin.

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The fight for the Liberal leadership has seldom been nastier. The leading candidates, Jean Chrétien and Paul Martin Jr., have grown increasingly hostile toward each other as the 1990 campaign wears on. It began with fundamental differences over the dying Meech Lake accord, and ended tonight with "an ugly, sour victory" for Chrétien. As we see in this clip, Martin is not entirely gracious in defeat. 
The Meech Lake Accord was an attempt under Conservative Prime Minister Brian Mulroney to address the exclusion of Quebec from the 1982 Constitution. The federal government negotiated with the provinces to come up with a set of constitutional amendments that would bring Quebec into the Canada Act. But the accord was scuppered by resistance from Newfoundland and Labrador as well as Manitoba, and died on June 22, 1990 - the day before the Liberal leadership was decided.

. Paul Martin and Jean Chrétien had very different opinions on what should be done with the accord. Chrétien felt it was too flawed to be accepted, while Martin thought an amended version would be acceptable. The deadline for the deal coincided with the end of the Liberal leadership convention. At the convention, some Quebec Liberals (and Martin supporters) called Chrétien a traitor for refusing to endorse the deal.

. Jean Chrétien won the leadership on the first ballot, taking 2,652 of the 4,668 votes cast. Martin finished second with 1,176 votes. Sheila Copps, Tom Wappel and John Nunziata also ran, but garnered less than 1,000 votes among them.

. Though the contest between Chrétien and Martin was bitter and personal, and Martin slammed Chrétien before and after the race, Martin's concession speech was gracious and eloquent. He referred to Chrétien as his "very close friend" and urged his party to heal its divides and reach out to Quebec.

. Liberal MP and Martin supporter Jean Lapierre wore a black armband to protest Chrétien's victory. He soon left the party and co-founded the Bloc Québécois with Lucien Bouchard. (Lapierre retired from politics temporarily in 1993, but later renounced separatism and rejoined the Liberals under Paul Martin. He became Martin's minister of transport in 2004, a controversial appointment that angered many Liberals.)

. Martin's defeat came on his father's 87th birthday.

. Despite their feud, Jean Chrétien gave Paul Martin Jr. the job of associate finance critic and critic for the environment in the Liberal's opposition. Martin also co-authored the Liberal platform "Red Book", called Creating Opportunity: The Liberal Plan for Canada.

. Beginning with Wilfred Laurier in 1896, every leader of the Liberal party has become prime minister of Canada.
. According to John Gray's 2003 book Paul Martin: The Power of Ambition, the 1990 Liberal leadership race was the most expensive in Canadian history. Chrétien's campaign cost $2.44 million, Martin's cost $2.37 million, and Sheila Copps spent a mere $800,000. The combined cost was more than the party spent on the previous federal election.
Medium: Television
Program: CBC Television News
Broadcast Date: June 23, 1990
Guest(s): Jean Chrétien, Paul Martin
Reporter: Jason Moscovitz
Duration: 1:53

Last updated: May 2, 2012

Page consulted on September 10, 2014

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