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No ordinary candidate

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.

Nobody is underestimating the significance of Paul Martin Jr.'s nomination to run for the Liberals in the Montreal-area riding of LaSalle-Émard. Not Quebec Liberals, who see him as the party's saviour in that province. Not party insiders, who see an imminent replacement for the faltering John Turner. Not even his father. The only one downplaying the event is Martin himself. As we see in this clip, the millionaire shipping magnate says he simply wants to represent the people of his riding.
• Like his father, Paul Martin Jr. attended law school at the University of Toronto, graduating in 1965. That same year he married Sheila Ann Cowan. The couple had three sons: Paul (1966), Jamie (1969) and David (1974).
• After graduating, Martin considered working in the Third World. But in deference to his growing family, he began working for Maurice Strong, the president of the holding company Power Corp., in Montreal.

• In 1981, he and partner Lawrence Pathy mortgaged everything to purchase Power Corp. subsidiary Canada Steamship Lines, for $180 million. It was a risky, leveraged buy-out (the largest of its kind in Canadian history). The partners expected the record high interest rates of the time would fall, and predicted they could adapt the company's fast-unloading Great Lakes freighter technology for use around the world.

• "Politics doesn't take guts," Martin said years later. "Staring bankruptcy in the face every morning takes guts." His gamble paid off: interest rates soon fell, and Martin became very wealthy. By the time he decided to run for a seat in Parliament in 1988, Martin owned 33 ships and dozens of buildings and companies around the world.

• Canada Steamship Lines has been criticized for registering ships under foreign flags in the 1990s to pay lower taxes and wages.
• To follow the conflict of interest rules, when he became prime minister Martin handed over Canada Steamship Lines to his sons.
• As early as 1979, Paul Martin Jr. told his father he wanted to be prime minister one day.

• By 1984, the Liberals were reeling under the resounding defeat of John Turner by Brian Mulroney.
• Left with just 40 seats, some Liberal insiders encouraged Martin to try to oust Turner. He declined, but began preparing himself for an eventual run at the leadership.

• In 1988, Paul Martin Jr. became a member of Parliament for the riding of LaSalle-Émard, a longtime Liberal stronghold. He has won the riding easily ever since.
Medium: Television
Program: Sunday Report
Broadcast Date: May 29, 1988
Guest(s): Paul Martin, Paul Martin Sr.
Host: Peter Mansbridge
Reporter: Paul Workman
Duration: 1:44

Last updated: September 19, 2013

Page consulted on December 6, 2013

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