CBC In Depth
Paul Martin
Paul Martin
CBC News Online | March 17, 2006

On Jan. 23, 2006, Paul Martin was unseated as Canada's prime minister when the Conservative party under Stephen Harper beat Martin's Liberals in a general election. The defeat ended 12 straight years of Liberal rule in Canada.

In his concession speech in Montreal, Martin told supporters, "We acted on the belief that Canada is strongest as a nation when we endeavour to ensure that no Canadian is ever left behind."

Martin said he would not lead the Liberals into another election, but would complete his term in Parliament as the member for LaSalle-�mard.

Finance minister, prime minister

As one of Canada's most successful finance ministers, Martin was a key developer of the modern Liberal party platform and boosted a sagging economy. During his time in the finance chair, Canada recorded five consecutive balanced budgets and erased the annual deficit.

Paul Martin
Born: Aug. 28, 1938
Birthplace: Windsor, Ont.
Education: Law, philosophy
Favourite sport to watch: Football
Favourite sport to play: Golf

Martin swept into leadership of the Liberal party in November 2003, taking over from Jean Chrétien. At the Liberal leadership convention, he won more than 93 per cent of the vote. He pledged to have a more focused and energetic government than Chrétien's.

Months later, the Liberals headed into another election campaign – the first with Martin as leader. On June 28, 2004, Canadians handed Martin a minority government. The Liberals had elected 135 members to Parliament, 42 fewer than in the 2000 election. Dogged by the sponsorship scandal of the Chrétien government, Martin slogged through a tough campaign.

Accepting his party's loss of seats, Martin said: "Canadians expected and expect more from us and as a party and as a government we must do better, and we will."

At a Montreal victory rally, Martin said he underestimated the anger of Canadian voters and felt he would need to listen to and respond to what the provinces expect from their federal colleagues.

Personality and style

Martin is an enigma, according to John Gray, who wrote Paul Martin: The Politics of Ambition. Gray says Martin was terrible at speeches when he first arrived on Parliament Hill and his handlers were horrified at his clumsy ways during media scrums. When he became finance minister, an aide notes, Martin didn't understand how RRSPs worked.

That didn't matter, says Gray, because Martin was able to dominate the department through his fiery temper. He was known to have lashed out at aides. At a get-together at his home, Martin lit into one of his assistant deputy ministers, Don Drummond, during a debate over the GST. When the screaming match ended, Martin announced he needed help with his barbecue and nominated Drummond as his chef. Minutes later, Martin and Drummond were seen laughing together.

Growing up

Martin is circumspect when speaking about his early years growing up in Ottawa while his father Paul Sr. sat as Liberal backbencher. The family had just moved from Windsor, where they always spoke English. Martin Sr. saw fit to send the eight-year-old Paul to French school. Martin recalls a lot of school fights. "It's a perfectly natural thing," Martin said in a Globe and Mail interview.

He remembers the strains of having a busy father who was either always going to Windsor, his constituency, or other places on Liberal business. It was his mother, Nell, who held the family together. Martin's sister Mary Anne says it was a happy childhood otherwise and that as children, they never wanted for anything.

Martin's earliest introduction to politics came while travelling around the riding on weekends with his father. Paul Sr., served under four prime ministers, argued in favour of social programs such as medicare and reform of old-age security. Paul Sr., in his memoirs, calls his son "high spirited" and talks about being at a loss as to how to harness his son's energies.

Man on campus

By the time Martin enrolled at the University of Toronto in 1957, he was a popular, sports-loving young man. While Paul got marks in the top third of his class, it was not due to hard work. Mary Anne says her brother was a "big party guy."

One year later, 1958, that would all change. Martin witnessed his father's loss to Lester Pearson for the leadership of the Liberal party. It was by a huge margin. Paul Sr.'s memoirs indicate his son and daughter were affected the most by his loss. His final attempt at leadership was in 1968 against a very popular Pierre Trudeau. Martin Sr. would become a government House Leader in the Senate and Canada's high commissioner in London.

In his father's image

Martin had always said he wanted to stay true to his father's values, especially in the realm of social policy and health care. He often referred to Tommy Douglas, the premier of Saskatchewan first elected in 1944. Douglas headed the first socialist government in North America. The Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF) became the NDP in 1961.

"My father was out of the … same generation and was of the same tendency as Tommy Douglas," Martin told John Gray. "I could easily describe myself as being out of the Tommy Douglas school."

Martin viewed the role of government as providing "public goods." But he will likely be best remembered as the finance minister who balanced the books by deeply cutting federal government services and transfer payments to the provinces.

Martin couldn't shake the nickname – Mr. Dithers 7#8211 that the newsmagazine The Economist gave him early in his term as prime minister. His government was seen as lacking direction, vision and a reason to stay in power. The sponsorship scandal of the Chrétien era dogged Martin in his first campaign as leader. It helped defeat him in his second campaign.


PHOTO GALLERY: A prime minister's career
RELATED: CBC Archives: Paul Martin's career Canadian government Municipalities 38th parliament

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