A heavy hitter in Canadian political circles visited Belleville on Friday evening.
Former liberal Finance Minister and Prime Minister, Paul Martin, was the guest of the Bay of Quinte Federal Liberal
Association at Capers downtown.
In an interview, the former PM said he enthusiastically supported Prime Minister Trudeau’s proposals to commit to increasing investment
in infrastructure, education, and the military.
Mr. Martin said a stronger military would ensure Canada has a strong voice in foreign affairs, and would be able to assist in trouble spots
where freedom and democracy were under threat.
He said boosting spending on infrastructure of various kinds, including education, was crucial if young Canadians were to have a chance at
a bright future in a fast changing and troubled world.
When asked about the Trudeau government’s spending increasing the federal deficit every year, Mr. Martin wasn’t concerned. He said
the debt ratio was the key calculation and it was going in the right direction.
As Finance Minister in the Jean Chretien government, decisions taken by Martin were instrumental in bringing deficits down to zero,
and he engineered several balanced budgets.
Paul Martin was Prime Minister from 2003 to 2006.
Mr. Martin spoke at length about his almost lifelong passion for improving the plight of Aboriginal Canadians.
He first became aware of their disadvantaged life as an 18 year old working a summer job as a deckhand on barges on the
Mackenzie River in the Northwest Territories. Most of the other crew members were young Metis, Indian, or Inuit men.
His conversations on board ship with those less fortunate than himself spurred him to try and do whatever he could to improve
That desire is still with him, and he is the creator of the “Martin Family Initiative”, a non-profit organization that has authored
and distributed special courses for First Nations primary and secondary students across the country.
The “Initiative” is providing business and literacy courses, and courses for teachers at Aboriginal schools. The organization is
working hand in hand with government educational authorities to fill in some important gaps.
Most of the funding to provide the courses comes from the Martin family itself.
The former Prime Minister says Aboriginal young people are the fastest growing segment of Canadian society and improving
their education is very important, not only to the well-being of their communities, but to everyone, and the national economy.
He believes setting things right between First Nations and the rest of Canada is the “most important moral issue” of our time.
On another topic, Paul Martin is straightforward in his assessment of U.S. President Donald Trump.
He understands that many people, not only in the U.S. but elsewhere, are frustrated with the way things are, and believe
they are being left behind economically. He understands why some voted for someone who was bashing the current elites.
However, Mr. Martin says bullying NATO members, snubbing German Chancellor Angela Merkel, targeting immigrants,
and pursuing an “America First” trade policy will only bring trouble. He can’t imagine a more “counter-productive” approach
To him, cooperation and reaching out are the only ways to thrive, or hold your own, in this fast changing global economy.
By clicking below, you can hear John Spitters’ interview with Paul Martin.