The late novelist John Updike once wrote a novel called “Memories of the Ford Administration”, about a historian who – asked to write a paper on the former president – finds it hard to separate his memories of the brief period Ford spent in office from those of his own personal life during that time.
A Canadian version of the Updike novel might be called “Memories of the Martin Administration”. Paul Martin, of course, was Prime Minister for about the same amount of time as Gerald Ford was president.
So what do you remember about Dec. 2003 to Feb. 2006?
It may be hard to remember, but there was a time when it seemed almost inconceivable that Martin would not be in office for many more years than that. A book by political journalist Susan Delacourt on his rise to the highest seat in government was titled “Juggernaut”. Coming to power with a divided opposition and sky-high popularity, it wouldn’t have been unreasonable for Martin to think he would have all the time he needed to build a legacy.
Instead, for reasons ranging from the sponsorship scandal to a suddenly-not-so-divided opposition to what Martin himself now describes as an agenda that may have been “too large for the political circumstances in which I found myself”, Martin’s time in office was cut short. His political legacy lies less in his accomplishments as Prime Minister and more in the actions he took during his long tenure as the Minister of Finance in the government of his longtime rival, Jean Chrétien.
The 21st Prime Minister – and 34th Finance Minister – of Canada has a new autobiography out, titled “Hell or High Water: My Life In and Out of Politics”. I recently produced an interview with him about his life, his areer and his current projects. You can view it here.