Paul Martin jr

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Paul Martin jr.

1938-

 

Martin was Canada’s twenty-first prime minister, serving between 2003 and 2006. As Minister of Finance in the 1990s, he erased Canada’s deficit which at the time was the worst among G7 countries.

 

Paul Martin lived in Sandy Hill twice. From 1945 to 1957, he lived as a child first in an upper-floor duplex at 22 Goulburn Ave., later in a rented house at 448 Daly Ave. (now demolished), while his father was in the federal cabinet. He attended École Garneau, a Catholic school, then at 613 Cumberland St., close to Osgoode St. (this intersection no longer exists and the site is now part of the University of Ottawa campus). Martin remembers his challenge as a francophone in making his way unscathed past the English Osgoode Public School (now École Francojeunesse) and St Joseph’s (an Irish Catholic school). Although he got good marks in school, Martin recalls he was much more interested in sports than his studies. Politics was not a priority and he remembers only a few political anecdotes from this period in his life, such as drinking a coke with Louis St Laurent at 24 Sussex Dr. … and once throwing stones at the Soviet embassy, an incident that earned him a severe scolding from the police and his father.

 

In his memoirs, Martin recounts his mother’s first meeting with Mackenzie King who had invited the Martins for lunch at Laurier House. After having been introduced, Mrs. Martin said, “My husband believes you are a great man.” King asked her what she thought. She answered “I’m going to take some convincing.” King did not hold this frankness against her and the next day dropped by their apartment to invite her to accompany him on his afternoon walk.

 

For ten years between 1994 and 2003, Martin and his wife Sheila lived at 274 Daly Ave., the same house that Tupper had occupied 125 years earlier. Martin was the Minister of Finance in Jean Chrétien’s new government and was determined to slay Canada’s perennial deficit. In January 1995, the Wall Street Journal published an editorial claiming that Canada’s debt level made it an “honorary member of the Third World”. A few months later, Martin tabled one of the most radical budgets in Canadian history, designed to bring Canada’s finances into order “come hell or high water.” This budget involved deep cuts in departmental spending and financial transfers to the provinces. Martin was the budget’s chief architect and had to lobby his skeptical colleagues vigorously to win their support. Although Prime Minister Chrétien ended up endorsing most of the budget’s proposals, Martin claims that his single-minded determination to reduce the deficit, regardless of political consequences (Quebec would soon be holding its second independence referendum), strained his relations with Chrétien. Martin would eventually resign from cabinet after having presided over a series of budgetary surpluses.