Inside Politics

Exit Interview: NDP Tony Martin

Twenty years in politics came to an end for Tony Martin on May 2 when he was defeated in the northern Ontario riding of Sault Ste. Marie.

He had been an MP for the NDP since 2004 and before that was a member of the provincial government, serving under Bob Rae when he was NDP premier in Ontario.

Martin is passionate about poverty -- eradicating it, that is -- and it's been a focus of his time in public office. In Ottawa, he dedicated a lot of his time to that work on committees and on a private member's bill that would create a national strategy to eliminate poverty and an Office of the Poverty Elimination Commissioner.

In an exit interview with CBC News on Friday, Martin said he'll continue his work on ridding Canada of poverty now that his time in Ottawa is done. He doesn't rule out coming back, but for now, he says he's moving on to another stage of life.

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Q: What accomplishment in Parliament are you most proud of?

A: The all-party report on poverty last June and the work on my private member's bill, C-545, a bill to eradicate poverty. It's been my mission in public life ever since I got out of university to reduce and eradicate poverty in this country. I firmly believe we can if we have the political will in this country.

Q: What was the low-point during your time in Parliament?

A: I thought we had a real chance at a progressive government in the fall and winter of 2008-2009 - the coalition. For me, the lowlight was not being able to achieve that. I thought we had a chance to achieve a progressive government that would have allowed us to do a whole bunch of things, including working on the reduction of poverty. The government we have has no interest in doing anything about poverty. The lowlight was we didn't achieve it and that the Liberals walked away from an opportunity to throw Harper out.

Q: What is your advice for incoming MPs?

A: To be thoughtful, to take their time, find some balance in terms of their own personal life, and the huge demands on them to give everything to the cause ... To build alliances both within their own caucus and across party lines. What you find very quickly is that you can't do anything on your own, you need the support of others. If you can do it across parties, even better.

Q: As you leave, how do you feel about Parliament?

A: It was a phenomenal opportunity for me. It was a real privilege to be able to serve my constituents throughout that role. There are two sides to being a parliamentarian -- doing the work in the House of Commons, passing laws, changing laws ... but there's also the other side which is making sure your constituency can access assistance they need, and  the entitlements they have as Canadian citizens ... I feel very good about having participated in that.
I had a good 20 years, all told, seven in Ottawa, and that's not the norm either. Most get a session or two. It was extraordinary. I feel privileged to have had that chance, and I have nothing but good memories - all the good people I met and the work that we did, I feel very proud of that.

Q: What's next for you?

A: There is a possibility of going back to school and getting my master's and from there, continuing to work to eradicate poverty in this country.We never say never (about returning to politics) but I'm at a point now where I've done 20 years and I'm 62, and maybe it's time to do something else.

Another in our series of interviews with outgoing MPs. Click here for the full list so far.

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