Academic journal article British Journal of Canadian Studies

Grit: The Life and Politics of Paul Martin Sr

Academic journal article British Journal of Canadian Studies

Grit: The Life and Politics of Paul Martin Sr

Article excerpt

Greg Donaghy, Grit: The Life and Politics of Paul Martin Sr (Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 2015), 496pp. Cased. $39.95. ISBN 978-0-7748-2911-3.

Paul Martin (1903-92) was a devout French-speaking Roman Catholic who rose from humble rural origins to become a national politician and an international statesman. Educated at the Universities of Toronto, Harvard, and Cambridge, he regarded politics as the second highest calling (after preaching the word of God). During his many years' service as a Liberal MP and Senator (1935-74), he sat in the cabinets of four prime ministers, as Secretary of State of Canada (1945-6), Minister of National Health and Welfare (1946-57), Secretary of State for External Affairs (1963-8), and Minister without Portfolio and Government Leader in the Senate (1968-74). However, he failed in all three of his attempts (1948, 1958, and 1968) to become party leader - and hence Prime Minister (a distinction later achieved by his son). After leaving Parliament he was a distinguished High Commissioner in London (1974-9).

Despite his busy ministerial career, Martin always paid close attention to the needs and wishes of his constituents in Windsor, Ontario. Indeed, he was renowned for always seeking them out. Even on a lonely hill in Cyprus he found two Windsor peacekeepers. As this indicates, Martin was a politician down to his fingertips. He was also hugely and brashly ambitious, which sometimes soured his relations with the media, political rivals, and civil servants. 'But there was nothing cruel or dishonourable about Martin's politics' (p. …

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