|Best known for:
- although he was P.M., I think he was actually much more influential in his role as the Finance Minister under Jean Chrétien from 1993 to 2002, during which time he
- erased a $42 billion deficit
- had 5 consecutive budget surpluses
- paid off $36 billion of national debt
- decreased the debt-to-GDP ratio from 70% to 50%
- overhauled the Canadian Pension Plan
the flip side of this, however, was that he made big cuts to transfer payments to the provinces, which meant cuts in a number of social services, especially health care.
- he was surrounded by controversy over his leadership role in Canadian Steamship Lines, which was given gobs of money from the government (in contracts, grants & loan) while he has Finance Minister, and which “reflagged” a number of its ships – ships that had been registered in Canada were registered in other countries that had more lenient (i.e., “business friendly”) safety & labour laws. He sold his interests in this company to his sons when he ran for the Liberal Party leadership because, you know, he’d have no vested interest in what happens to a company owned by his sons.
- he lost the Liberal Party leadership to Chrétien in 1990 and apparently the two really didn’t like each other
- Martin really wanted Chrétien’s job and campaigned hard to have him overthrown on a leadership review vote; seeing the writing on the wall1, Chrétien announced he would step down in spring 2004; Martin won the leadership in Nov 14, 2003, trouncing his only opponent, Sheila Copps, in the vote. Other contenders Brian Tobin & Allan Rock didn’t even run, and John Manley stepped out of the race.
- hurt by the Sponsorship Scandal and facing a newly re-united right (with the Canadian Alliance having taken over the Conservative Party), Martin’s Liberals squeaked out a minority government in the 2004 (at the start of that election, the polls were calling for a Conservative majority, so it was impressive that they came back from that)
- despite having opposed same sex marriages in a vote in 1999, Martin changed his tune, agreeing that same sex marriage was a human rights issue (8 provincial & territorial courts had already ruled as much) and same sex marriages were legalized in 2005, making Canada the 5th country in the world to do so
- he narrowly avoided a vote of non-confidence in May 2005 when Belinda Stronach crossed the floor from the Conservative Party (and was given the role of Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development), along with support from independent MP Chuck Cadman, plus the tie-breaking vote from the Speaker of the House.
- he appointed3 Michaëlle Jean as Governor General in August 2005
- the Conservatives put forth a motion of non confidence in Nov 2005 and thus the Liberals, who had lost support of the NDP by refusing to agree with conditions for the NDP’s support (including a ban on private health care), were brought down. Notably, this was the first time Canadian government had been brought down by a non-confidence vote that wasn’t associated with a piece of legislation.
- after losing the 2006 election, Martin stepped down as leader of the Liberal Party
- he was often dubbed “Mr. Dithers”
- his father, Paul Joseph James Martin, was a career politician, who served for 33 years in Parliament, and as a Cabinet Minister in 4 Liberal governments; he also ran for Liberal Party leadership but, unlike his son, he never won2.