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The Paul Martin era begins

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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It took 15 years, but tonight Paul Martin Jr. has achieved something his father never could: he is named leader of the Liberal Party of Canada. The Liberal gathering at Toronto's Air Canada Centre is more of a coronation than a convention. Martin has rock stars singing his praises and, more importantly, the vote of almost every single delegate in the building. As we see in this clip from the festivities, the landslide victory means the Paul Martin era has finally begun. 
. Throughout 2002, Paul Martin toured Canada to shore up support in preparation for a January 2003 leadership review vote. That fall, with support from only half the Liberal caucus, Chrétien announced he would resign in the spring of 2004. Though he was finally stepping down, Chrétien's exit strategy would drag on for 18 months.

. There were several high profile Liberals interested in Chrétien's job, a position that would entail becoming prime minister and taking over the reins of a party with high public popularity heading into an election. Paul Martin was the unquestioned frontrunner, but Brian Tobin, Allan Rock, John Manley and Sheila Copps were also interested.

. Rock and Tobin soon changed their minds, and Manley later withdrew from the campaigning. Sheila Copps decided to leave her name on the ballot, stating that although it would be "an extreme uphill battle," she had an obligation to go to the convention and ensure her ideas were heard.
. The support for Martin was phenomenal - he captured 3,242 of the 3,455 votes on the first and only ballot (93.8 per cent, to just 6.1 per cent for Copps, with .1 per cent spoiled ballots).

. The inevitability of the Martin victory rankled political observers like Rex Murphy, who referred to the event as a "canonization". Murphy said that the Liberals were so entrenched in federal politics that whoever the anointed leader would be guaranteed an election victory. That left the citizen as a mere spectator or witness, not an actor or agent.

. Martin's victory was so certain that he took time out of his own campaigning to help the campaign of Prince Edward Island Liberal leader Robert Ghiz. (Ghiz won his seat, but the provincial Liberals lost to Progressive Conservative Pat Binns.)

. For many, the highlight of the 2003 leadership convention was not the future prime minister, but the appearance of Irish rock star and activist Bono (real name Paul David Hewson). The lead singer of U2 gave a meandering speech honouring Martin, Canadian idealism and the legacy of Liberal global consciousness as championed by Pearson, Trudeau and Chrétien.

. Bono made it clear that his support would be a double-edged sword, and promised to hold Martin's feet to the fire over commitments to foreign aid and providing cheaper drugs to Africa. True to his word, in 2005 the singer told reporters he was "crushed" that Canada had been so slow to increase foreign aid.

. At an April 2005 U2 concert in Vancouver, Bono flashed Martin's cellphone number on giant screens and urged the audience to call the prime minister about raising the foreign aid budget.

. Paul Martin Jr. officially became Canada's 21st prime minister on Dec. 12, 2003. At the swearing in ceremony at Rideau Hall, Martin held the Canadian flag that had been flown at half-mast over Parliament Hill the day his father died.
Medium: Television
Program: The National
Broadcast Date: Nov. 14, 2003
Guest(s): Bono, Sheila Copps, Paul Martin
Host: Peter Mansbridge
Reporter: Paul Hunter
Duration: 4:20

Last updated: May 2, 2012

Page consulted on September 10, 2014

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