COLUMNS

Paul Martin's world

Allan Fotheringham June 11 2001
COLUMNS

Paul Martin's world

Allan Fotheringham June 11 2001

Paul Martin's world

COLUMNS

Allan Fotheringham

One day, when the P.Trudeau era was winding down, your humble agent received an anonymous phone call— as all devious, secretive columnists do. The mysterious voice said:

“Watch out, Paul Martin Jr. is going to run for the leadership.” And then hung up.

At that time, I was not even sure I knew there was somebody called Paul Martin Jr. I checked him out, his very substantial connections with Power Corp. of Montreal, and ran a blind item, whimsically suggesting he wanted to head the Liberal party his father had twice been denied.

Some time later, late in the evening emerging from the Ritz-

Carlton on Sherbrooke, I was approached by a well-dressed couple. “You’re Fotheringham?” said the well-dressed man. I allowed that might be so. “Mulroney has warned me about you,” he said. “Fie says you invent politicians, puff them up into a big balloon, and then stick a pin in them.” “Of course,” I replied, “that’s how I make a living.” He dropped off his wife, took me to his office, opened a bottle of scotch and we became friends.

And so, we are in his lush office, 515 South, above the House of Commoners, and I remind him of that evening when he confessed he couldn’t decide whether to go to Africa and dedicate his life to the Third World—or go into politics. How old were you when you went into politics?

“I was 48.1 went into business with the idea of going into the Third World. And when the time came, in 1988,1 said, ‘OK, it’s fish or cut bait.’ Go off to the World Bank, or the IMF. I basically decided I could do a heck of a lot better with the economy.” How old were you when you went out working on an oil rig in Alberta? “I was 20.” How old were you when you became a millionaire? “Around 30.”

How much does it bother you, Frank magazine and all that, that you hide all your Canada Steamship ownerships offshore, Bermuda and elsewhere? “The only thing that bothers me is it’s not true. The fact is Canada Steamship Lines is a Canadian-incorporated company, the head office is in Montreal. It pays taxes in Canada. The majority of its fleet is on the Canadian side. The majority of its ships were built in Canada. But OK, it’s doing exacdy what I would like every Canadian

company to do. From a Canadian base, it’s expanding around the world. It’s operating in Australia, under the Australian flag. The people who argue that say, ‘We don’t think General Motors should build a plant in Canada.’ Well hell no, they create a lot of jobs in Canada. And Canadian companies that invest abroad create a lot of jobs in Canada. I think you should get as many Canadian multinationals as you can possibly get. And I’m really proud that the company has expanded around the world.”

How long, sir, this is a stupid question as you know, if things don’t work out as you want them to, can you see yourself staying in politics? “As long as—as long as— two things. As long as it’s an area where I can make the biggest contribution and as long as its an area I’m interested in, I would just go back.”

Do you have any advice for Stockwell Day? “They’re all over the place. They have no consistent voice. Their questions are whatever is debated at the moment. If I was him, I’d basically go back to the drawing board and say, ‘What do I believe in, what do we think we are for?’ and push those things. I see it every day. Within the same Question Period, there will be massive demands for spending, then massive demands for tax cuts, massive demands for debt reduction, and they’ll often criticize spending in areas that three days earlier they recommended doing.”

Do you feel sorry for him? “Oh, I think so. I think you feel for someone who’s going through what he’s going through.” You’ve got kids? “Yeah, three boys.” What are they up to? “The oldest one is in the shipping business in Singapore. The second one is in Toronto writing a screenplay. The third one just got his MBA from Cambridge.”

What do you do to relax? “Used to play tennis, not too much now. Play golf.” What’s your handicap? “Nineteen.” Who, across the floor, has impressed you? “Monte Solberg, unquestionably. I think Jason Kenney has been good.” How much is an MP worth? “Oh, I think they’re worth certainly what the recommendations are. I tell you, MPs work very hard. Any night, the MPs live in hotels, motels around town, you call them at 11 p.m., they’re here at their offices.”

Will Quebec ever separate? “Never.”