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Paul Martin on courting Layton, dreading Gomery

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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Much to his dismay, Paul Martin's career appears to be in the hands of two outsiders. New Democratic Party leader Jack Layton has the numbers to prop up Martin's minority government, but the two men have thus far been unable to work out a deal. Justice John Gomery is several months away from issuing his report on the sponsorship scandal that has devastated the Liberals. In this CBC Radio interview, Paul Martin discusses his uncomfortable dependence on these two men.
. Jack Layton's New Democrats won 19 seats in the 2004 election. Martin was hopeful that if the NDP could be convinced to vote with the Liberals, their combined numbers would pass any bill and keep the government from falling to a no-confidence decision.
. Martin's government barely got past its Oct. 5 speech from the throne. The Conservatives wanted an amendment to the speech, and they were supported by the Bloc Québécois and the NDP. Martin eventually agreed to a version of the amendment.

. The Conservatives then sought to use their "opposition days" to introduce a vote of no confidence. Martin retaliated by removing all opposition days, and appeared on television to ask Canadians to wait until the Gomery report was released before calling an election.
. The next challenge came in the form of a parliamentary motion asking a government committee to express a lack of confidence in the government. The Conservatives and Bloc considered this to be a vote of no confidence, but the Liberals dismissed it as a procedural matter.

. The next major hurdle was the federal budget. Jack Layton offered his party's support in exchange for changes including new spending and the elimination of corporate tax cuts. The Liberals agreed.

. On May 17, Conservative MP Belinda Stronach crossed the floor to join the Liberals in a cabinet position. Her vote, and that of independent MP Chuck Cadman, ill with cancer, forced a tie on the May 19 budget vote. That allowed the Speaker of the House, Liberal Peter Milliken, to cast a tiebreaking vote supporting the government. It was the first time in Canadian history the speaker had done so on a confidence motion.

. Justice John Gomery issued his first report on the sponsorship scandal on Nov. 1, 2005. The report, designed to make clear who knew what and when, confirmed that an "elaborate kickback scheme" had funnelled money back to Liberal party headquarters in Quebec. He was unable to confirm how much money was involved. Gomery singled out several key Liberals for their misdeeds, and blamed former prime minister Jean Chrétien for the "culture of entitlement" that created the situation.

. Even though he was finance minister at the time of the sponsorship program, Paul Martin was cleared of any wrongdoing. Nonetheless, his government carried the taint of scandal into the next election.
. Gomery's second and final report was issued on Feb. 1, 2006. The second report looked at the lessons learned from the sponsorship scandal and recommended changes to ensure such a debacle could not happen again.
Medium: Radio
Program: As It Happens
Broadcast Date: April 25, 2005
Guest(s): Paul Martin
Host: Barbara Budd, Gillian Findlay
Duration: 11:06

Last updated: May 2, 2012

Page consulted on September 10, 2014

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