Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Fighting Joe

Joseph Martin was only one of the participants in the controversial school issue but, as usual, he played a provocative role. During a public meeting at Portage La Prairie on August 5, 1889, Martin followed Ontario MP D'Alton McCarthy's attack on Quebec and French language rights. Fighting Joe announced the Greenway government would reform the dual public school system and end government printing in French.

Martin apparently admitted, somewhat contritely, to Premier Greenway that he may have been carried away by the situation and by the knowledge that the Liberal caucus had already decided to act on the school matter. Now Greenway could have disavowed Martin's statements but he chose to proceed instead.

Early in 1890, Martin introduced the new legislation and caused a political upheaval that lasted over a decade. He may have initially benefited from the popularity of the measures but he was also under attack from the Manitoba Free Press for conspiring to rig land sales in Portage La Prairie. He chose, perhaps wisely, to leave that charge unanswered.
In December, the new school legislation faced a legal challenge from ratepayer, John Kelly Barrett, who refused to pay his school taxes. Martin was successful in representing the province in the court case.

But Martin's influence in Manitoba was on the wane. Add to that his constant quarrels with local notables and he was becoming a political liability. In February of 1891, he resigned his provincial seat to contest Selkirk unsuccessfully in the federal general election in March. Fortunately, he was able to regain his provincial seat in the by-election, which was held later that month. In mid-April, he resigned as attorney general and went back to his law practice in Portage La Prairie. He represented the province of Manitoba in the Barrett case on appeal before the Supreme Court of Canada and in London before the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, where the provincial legislation was upheld in a decision rendered on July 30, 1892.

In November of 1893, Martin ran in the federal by-election and, surprisingly, he won the traditionally Conservative riding of Winnipeg. However, he did not mesh with the Liberal caucus. His French Canadian colleagues resented the role he had played in the school scandal and his free trade sentiments rubbed against the party's increasingly flexible position on the tariff. Wilfrid Laurier, the Liberal leader, managed to control Martin's slashing style. Martin took part in the filibuster in 1896, which finally forced Conservative party leader Sir Charles Tupper to withdraw the government's remedial school legislation and called a general election for June. Martin lost his seat and hoped that Laurier, now Prime Minister, would appoint him minister of the interior anyway. But Clifford Sifton, the new Liberal master of the west, was chosen. Joseph Martin, right or wrong, felt betrayed.

Friday, I will tell you about how Joseph Martin came to British Columbia. Thanks to the Dictionary of Canadian Biography website.

I hope you find the beauty around you.

, , , , , , ,

No comments:

Post a Comment