Monday, August 5, 2013

A Short and not so Sweet Term

On Friday, I told you that Joseph Martin had resigned his position in the provincial government after he had embarrassed the administration of Charles Semlin. Instead of retiring gracefully, Martin patched things up with former political foe, James Dunsmuir, and when the assembly came back for another session, the Manitoban was seated on the opposing side.

Martin attacked Semlin's government on numerous issues and in late February 1900, despite an earlier promise to support a government sponsored redistribution bill, Martin sided with the opposition to defeat the legislation and Semlin's administration.

A few days later, Lieutenant Governor Thomas Robert McInnes asked Joseph Martin to form a government. A position that he accepted and took office on March 1, 1900. To show you how disliked this man was, members of the legislature disregarded usual grievances towards each other and voted almost unanimously no confidence in Martin. That didn't stop the brash Jospeh Martin as he prepared his election platform.
 Among his election platform points, Martin advocated government ownership of railways and began to arrange the construction of the Coast-Kootenay railway. He accepted the principle of the eight-hour work day - he recognized the labour problems in the Kootenay mines. He also said he would re-enact a statute concerning Asian labour, which the federal government had disallowed. The executive of the Vancouver Liberal Association was quick to endorse his policies but the provincial association was unanimously opposed to his premiership and the introduction of party lines.

Martin initially attempted to appoint only Liberals when forming his cabinet. Smith Curtis, his friend and former legal partner from Portage La Prairie, became minister of mines while James Stuart Yates of Victoria became commissioner of both lands and public works. Neither men had a seat in the assembly.

As weeks went by, Martin hadn't filled his cabinet and even his friends began to complain. When Martin appointed a Fraser Valley farmer with no previous legislative experience, George Washington Beebe, as provincial secretary, it didn't evoke a strong response. However, the appointment of a small shopkeeper - Cory Spencer Ryder - as minister of finance and agriculture, Liberals called the selection "an insult to the intelligence of the people". (I wonder if Martin was trying to pack the cabinet with men he knew wouldn't disagree with him and would run the province the way he wanted.)

Criticism of Ryder's appointment kept rising so Martin replaced him with the more credible John Cunningham Brown, a postmaster from New Westminster. Martin then called for an election on June 9. Martin and his forces were soundly defeated even though they campaigned vigorously. Martin did win in Vancouver but not in Victoria where he also ran and only five of his followers were elected. B.C.'s thirteenth premier had a very short term - less than four months - and McInnes called on Dunsmuir to form the administration.
Since today is B.C. Day, I should show the provincial flag!

Martin became the de facto leader of the opposition but, as the press noted, he was still friends with Dunsmuir. Joseph spoke in favour of the government's railway legislation but dismissed as "poppycock" suggestions that he was the "guiding spirit of the administration". 

His position in the Liberal party continued to be contested yet in February of 1902, at a provincial Liberal convention, the party lines Joseph Martin favoured were adopted and he was voted unanimously as leader. As such, he claimed to be the leader of the opposition. Conservative Richard McBride also claimed that title and the two men were battling over the possession of the opposition leader's chair in chamber. I mean, literally battling over the chair - the two politicians had a shoving match. 

Martin continued to support Dunsmuir's administration for he feared that if Dunsmuir were defeated, a strictly Conservative government would be formed. His fears were realized when, in November of that year, Dunsmuir resigned and was replaced by well known Conservative, Edward Gawler Prior.

What a fellow Joseph Martin was! I still have more to tell you about this fiery individual and his career. That will have to wait until Wednesday.

I hope you find the beauty around you.

And, once again, thanks goes to the Dictionary of Canadian Biography website for the above information.

, , , , , , ,

No comments:

Post a Comment