Obituary: Paul Martin

Paul Joseph James Martin, politician and diplomat, born Ottawa 23 June 1903, Minister of National Health and Welfare 1946-57, Secretary of State for External Affairs 1963-68, Canadian High Commissioner in United Kingdom 1974-80, married 1937 Eleanor Adams (one son, one daughter), died Windsor Ontario 14 September 1992.

PAUL MARTIN was virtually the last survivor of a distinguished line of politicians - men like Mackenzie King and Lester Pearson - who, over a period of four decades, guided Canada to a measure of thriving stability severely tested in the past 25 years.

Martin's political hero was the late prime minister Louis St Laurent, known in his Fifties heyday as 'Uncle Louis'. There was much of the avuncular about Martin too, with his grandiloquent style (possibly reflecting his French-Irish descent) and his air of magisterial competence. Like many of the line, he was deeply attached to Britain, part of his university period having been spent in Cambridge. Though his ambition to be prime minister went unfulfilled, he derived immense pleasure from his last appointment - that of Canadian High Commissioner in London from 1974 to 1980. He brought a flair to that job which, along with the glamour of Pierre Trudeau, served to brighten, at least temporarily, Canada's lacklustre image in Britain.

Martin's prime ministerial aspirations were finally dashed by the wave of pop-like enthusiasm that swept Trudeau to power in 1968. Ordinarily he would have had much to recommend him that year as a veteran of both domestic and international politics, however old-fashioned he seemed at the age of 65 to the protagonists of 'Trudeau- mania'.

As a rising lawyer in the car-making city of Windsor, Ontario, Martin was first elected a Liberal MP in 1935 and soon was helping to represent Canada at the League of Nations. But his reputation grew mainly by reason of his domestic political skills. He fashioned one of the most efficient constituency organisations in the country before graduating to the key job of Health and Welfare minister in 1946.

In Windsor, he was dubbed 'the Honourable Paul'. As one commentator remarked, 'no hand stayed unshaken, no distant name forgotten, no baby unkissed' by this tireless vote-getter. Long after his retirement, a taxi driver, asked to take a visitor to Martin's home, insisted that he didn't need the address of the man he called 'the Duke of Windsor'; everyone knew it. There the Maple Leaf flag of Canada fluttered high over the spacious grounds while the elegant house was crowded with photos of Martin and his sprightly wife Nell in the company of members of the British royal family and other celebrities. The shiny curved staircase was dominated by an oil portrait of Nell Martin painted by Wyndham Lewis during that British artist's stormy exile in Canada during the Forties.

As Health Minister for 11 years under King and St Laurent, Martin emulated the welfare reforms then being instituted in Britain and was lionised in some needier parts of Canada as 'Mr Baby-Bonus' for his family allowance programme. But all along he kept one foot in diplomacy as a dynamic chairman of Canadian delegations to the UN and in 1963 he began a five-year tenure as External Affairs Minister in the cabinet of Lester Pearson. In that capacity, he worked to set up the UN peacekeeping force in Cyprus, with Canada a major contributor of troops, advocated China's entry into the United Nations and carried on the conspicuous Canadian role in world affairs pioneered by Pearson, a Nobel Peace laureate.

However, after his eclipse by Trudeau at the 1968 leadership convention, Martin had to content himself with being government leader in that knacker's yard of Canadian politicians, the Senate. Yet even there his was an energising presence and it was no less so on the London diplomatic scene after he became Canada's High Commissioner. His London Diaries, published in 1988, showed the active role he played in the manoeuvrings towards an independent Zimbabwe. The book also contained cutting references to Princess Margaret and to David Owen as Foreign Secretary, revealing also a kidnap threat to Martin himself by opponents of Canada's seal fishery.

Martin was not a man to understate his own achievements. But it may well be his businessman son Paul, recently regarded as a potential saviour of the opposition Liberals, who will achieve the top post Paul Sr sought in vain. 'He has the bug, I am afraid,' his father once said of young Paul. The elder Martin certainly had 'the bug', to Canada's advantage, all his long life.

(Photograph omitted)

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

HR Assistant / Human Resources Assistant

£Neg + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: An HR Assistant / Human Resources Ass...

Talent Community Coordinator

£Neg + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: A Talent Community Coordinator is nee...

Business Support - Banking - Halifax - £250 pd

£150 - £250 per day: Orgtel: HR Analyst - Banking - HR - Halifax - £150 - £250...

Geography Teacher

£24000 - £33600 per annum + pre 12 week AWR : Randstad Education Manchester Se...

Day In a Page

Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform