Paul Martin, Canada's 21st Prime Minister, may have been the most successful Finance Minister - Prime Minister combination in the history of Canada. Although he was Prime Minister for just over two years it was his economic accomplishments during his and the Chretien era that have cemented his place in the development of Canada.
Paul Martin was born, in Windsor Ontario, into a political home on August 28th, 1938 with a father, Paul Martin Sr, who was a Liberal member of the House of Commons for over 33 years, served in 4 Liberals governments as a Cabinet Minister and ran for the leadership of the Liberal Party in 1967. Paul martin went to school at Ecole Garneau, a French immersion school in Ottawa and then attended the University of Ottawa, the University of Toronto where he graduated with a B.A. in philosophy. He then entered the faculty of Law at U of T and graduated in 1965. Martin went to work for Power Corp and CSL and managed to reverse and rebuild the companies. By July of 1981, Martin and his partner were able to purchase CSL outright from Power Corp.
Martin had been disappointed with the Canadian Government attitude towards business and in the way the public finances were handled. By the mid 1980's he had made his initial moves towards a political career and in the 1988 Federal election he threw his hat into the ring and was elected Liberal MP for the riding of LaSalle—Émard, which he would represent until 2008. Martin's ambition was to succeed John Turner as Liberal leaser and when Turner stepped down, he was ready to run and toured the country with the other Liberal candidates, campaigning hard. The real decision came down to Chretien, who many believed was the next in line and should have been chosen instead of Turner in the previous leadership convention, and Martin, the young newcomer, with the business community behind him. Chretien won the leadership race and although Martin was named Minister of Finance when the Liberals won the 1993 election, there remained a bitter animosity between two. As Finance Minister, Martin quickly went to work and made the tough decisions that previous Liberal and Conservative Governments had failed to make. He cut back on transfer payments to the provinces, reduced spending on many social programs, froze increases on most others and reformed the CCP in order to increase pension amounts and increase revenues, and increased some taxes. The results were financially spectacular. A yearly $42 Billion deficit was eliminated by the fourth year with ever increasing budget surpluses after that.
He then began to pay down the national debt which reduced Canada's debt to GDP ration each year and eventually led to the best ratio of all G7 countries with a reduction from about 70% to around 50% by the late 1990's. By the beginning of Jean Chretien's third term, Martin and his supports were becoming impatient with waiting for their turn to govern and in 2002 Martin resigned or was fired as Finance Minister which freed him up to work towards unseating Chretien and taking the leadership. In order to head off a leadership vote which he would like lose, Chretien announce that he would retire in the Spring of 2003 and after a relatively easy leadership campaign. won and in December of 2003 became the 21st Prime Minister. Martin called an election for June 2004 and as the election drew close, a fractured Liberal party, what became known as the sponsorship scandal, which accused Liberals of diverting money to themselves and supporters, a newly united Conservative opposition and constant attacks in Quebec form the Bloc, began to erode Liberal support. Martin was able to reverse the slide and by election day manage to hold on to power with a minority government.
The minority status made governing much more difficult but he quickly negotiated new revenue sharing agreements with the provinces, passed a same sex marriage bill, negotiated the Kelowna agreement which addresses aboriginal issues and instituted a $41 billion dollar program to improve health care across the country. Martin struggled with several Conservative attempts to force a non-confidence vote and only by using the Parliamentary rules, recruiting Belinda Stronach and gaining the support of an alienated Conservative MP Chuck Cadman, was he able to hold onto power. With the release of the Gomery report which cleared Martin of any wrongdoing or knowledge of wrongdoing, his poll number should have gone up but the continuing impression of Liberal corruption hurt them and on November 28th, 2005 a vote of non-confidence brought the Liberals down. An election was called for January 26th, 2006.
The 2005/06 campaign was badly run by the Liberals and with constant reminders of the sponsorship scandal and then the announcement by the RCMP of new probes the Liberals went from a lead in the polls, to a free fall in opinion and b the time election day arrived, Stephen Harper managed to win a minority government for the Conservatives.
Martin announced his retirement from the leadership of the Liberal party on election night and quickly moved out of the political spotlight. His failures as a minority Prime Minister were more then offset by his financial management of the countries affairs from 1994 to 2006 and in retirement he has kept busy with various projects and still has considerable influence over Liberal party economic policy.
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