They were full of praise for Paul Martin Jr. tonight, those Liberals gathering in Montreal to pick his successor were. Eleven months of staying out of sight following his government's defeat to the Conservatives Paul Martin reappeared to say good-bye. With grace and eloquence he thanked Liberals, and paid tribute to his still bitter predecessor Jean Chretien, who was undoubtedly deliberately avoiding the love-in. What a grouch. It only proves that Paul Martin is a far better man.
It's a bittersweet end to a political career that held so much promise for so many years. Martin cultivated respect and a powerful political machine as he turned the nation's treasury from a spiralling $38 billion deficit situation in 1993, to surplus in the early days of the new millenium. Years of his rather conservative fiscal measures could very well have empowered the Chretien government and its back to back majorities by appealing to those who thought the Mulroney government had effectively controlled spending and deficits. Boy, were we ever fooled.
When he finally got to become Prime Minister he proved to be a man of good intentions, prepared to reward Canadians for a decade of fiscal prudence. There were accords signed with natives, a national child care policy in place, and admirable efforts underway to help lift the poorest of the poor out of poverty. Unfortunately for Martin, the stink left over from Chretien and the sponsorship scandal fogged everything up, leaving Martin to preside over a governing party which had lost the trust of the electorate.
Paul Martin was fun to caricature and I've got a big gallery of editorial cartoons which chronicles his time in politics to show for it. I know he admires satire directed at himself, having sold several originals to him over the years. I never met him, but I got pretty close to him during the election. Once, while I was in Ottawa I paid a visit to his House of Commons office while he was Finance Minister to drop off an original. He wasn't there but his assistant allowed me and my wife to hang out in his office. So long Paul.