Speaker Profiles

The Right Hon. Paul Martin

The Right Hon. Paul Martin

Former Prime Minister of Canada

Founder of the Martin Family Initiative

The Right Honourable Paul Martin was the twenty-first Prime Minister of Canada from 2003 to 2006, Minister of Finance from 1993 to 2002 and he served as the Member of Parliament for LaSalle-Émard in Montréal, Québec from 1988 to 2008.

During his tenure as Minister of Finance, he erased Canada’s deficit which was the worst of the G7, subsequently recording five consecutive budget surpluses while paying down the national debt and setting Canada’s debt-to-GDP ratio on a steady downward track. He also introduced the largest tax cuts in Canadian history and the largest increases in the federal government’s support for education, and research and development. In conjunction with his provincial counterparts, he restored the Canada Pension Plan, securing it for future generations. He also strengthened the regulations governing Canada’s financial institutions, with the result that Canada is now viewed as an international model for sound financial regulation. In September 1999, Mr. Martin was named the inaugural chair of the Finance Ministers’ G-20, an international group of finance ministers and central bank governors. As Prime Minister he pushed strongly for its elevation to the Leaders’ level which subsequently occurred in 2008. In the G7 and as a governor of the World Bank and the IMF he led the battle to forgive the onerous debt of African countries.

During his tenure as Prime Minister, Mr. Martin set in place a ten year, forty-one billion dollar plan to improve health care and reduce wait times; signed agreements with the provinces and territories to establish the first national early learning and child care program and created a new financial deal for Canada’s municipalities. Under Mr. Martin’s leadership in November 2005, the Canadian Government reached an historic consensus with Canada's provinces, territories, First Nations, Métis Nation and Inuit leaders that would eliminate the gaps between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Canadians in the areas of health, education, housing and economic opportunity. This agreement became known as the Kelowna Accord. Further, he introduced the Civil Marriage Act which redefined the traditional definition of marriage to include same-sex couples. He reached out to a number of world leaders in an effort for them to accept the Canadian-initiated Responsibility to Protect.

Since leaving office, Mr. Martin and the former President of Mozambique, Joaquim Chissano, co-chaired a high level panel responsible for submitting a report on a new strategic vision for the African Development Bank, following upon an earlier United Nations panel report on private sector investment in the Third World of which he co-chaired with former Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo.

Currently, Mr. Martin works closely with the Advisory Council of the Coalition for Dialogue on Africa, an initiative that examines the critical issues facing the continent. It is sponsored by the African Union, the UN Economic Commission for Africa and the African Development Bank. Mr. Martin chairs the two hundred million dollar British-Norwegian-Canadian poverty alleviation and sustainable development fund for the ten-nation Congo Basin Rainforest.

He is also a commissioner for the Global Ocean Commission, whose mandate is to formulate politically and technically feasible short-, medium- and long-term recommendations to address four key issues facing the high seas: overfishing, large-scale loss of habitat and biodiversity, the lack of effective management and enforcement, and deficiencies in high seas governance.

Domestically, Mr. Martin and his family founded the Martin Aboriginal Initiative, established to identify issues impacting Aboriginal Canadians. To date, its two divisions target the education opportunities for Aboriginal students through the Martin Aboriginal Education Initiative (MAEI) and developing business expertise and mentoring for Aboriginal business through the Capital for Aboriginal Prosperity and Entrepreneurship (CAPE) Fund.

Prior to entering politics, he had a distinguished career in the private sector as a business executive at Power Corporation of Canada in Montreal and as the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of The CSL Group Inc., which operates the world’s largest fleet of self-unloading vessels and offshore transshippers. Its acquisition by Mr. Martin in 1981 represented the most important leveraged buyout in Canada at that time.

Mr. Martin graduated in honours philosophy and history from St. Michael's College at the University of Toronto and is a graduate of the University of Toronto Faculty of Law. He was called to the Ontario Bar in 1966.

In December 2011, he was appointed as a Companion to the Order of Canada.

He married Sheila Ann Cowan in 1965. They have three sons: Paul, Jamie and David, and five grandchildren Ethan, Liam, Finn, Sienna and Lara.

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