Thursday, October 24, 2013

Paul Martin

Image from Northern Ontario Business

Paul Martin Jr. was the son of Paul Martin Sr., a Liberal politician whose political life began in the cabinet of Mackenzie King, where he helped to draft the legislation that would establish Canada's social safety net. He later worked with three other Liberal PMs.

His son did become Prime Minister, though on the advice of his father, he entered politics late. Getting established in business was his first priority, and before he was thirty, he was Vice-President of Power Corp and President of the lucrative Canada Steamship Lines, later consolidated with a partner into CSL.  

Martin was elected to the Liberal Opposition when Mulroney won a second term of office, but in 1990 he failed to win the party leadership against Jean Chretien. However, he was invited by his former rival to help draft the "Red Book" of Liberal campaign promises, and appointed Finance Minister when Chretien became Prime Minister.

During the first two Chretien mandates, Martin cut public service expenditures and jobs and managed to erase a huge deficit; by 1998, the budget was balanced. After that, the Liberals expanded services and reduced income taxes, which helped them to be elected again in 2000.

After a period of Liberal scandals and infighting, Martin fell out with the PM, who was about to retire from politics. But in 2003, Martin beat Sheila Copps to the leadership and became the next Prime Minister the same year. Though he remained in place after another election the following year, his time at the helm was marred by scandals inherited from Chretien's mandate.

Although the high-profile Gomery inquiry exonerated Martin, it did not save his reputation. In 2006 when the Conservatives under Harper won enough seats to form a minority government, Martin stepped down as leader.

It seemed that the timing was off for both father and son. Paul Martin Sr. failed to win the leadership because he was overshadowed by the popular and flamboyant Trudeau. Paul Martin Jr., already 63 when he became PM, waited too long to make his leadership bid. Evidently a better finance minister than a PM, he accomplished little during his time; in fact, he acquired the nickname of Mr. Dithers.

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