Friday, August 2, 2013

More Martin

I go for a run every morning around 7 am. A few days ago, I was passing someone's house and noticed what I first thought was a dog in the yard but on closer inspection, I realized it was this cutie. As soon as he noticed that I had stopped and was trying to take photos of him, the raccoon came closer and started playing in the grass. These are the only two photos that turned out.

So now, Joseph Martin is out of the federal government and his provincial government career in Manitoba seemed to be over. In a surprising move, the CPR offered Martin a position (they probably wanted to neutralize their sometime opponent). Even more surprising was that Martin took the position and became the company's solicitor in British Columbia.

The British Columbia press, though, didn't exactly throw out the welcome mat. I guess his reputation had preceded him! John Houston, an editor, urged Manitobans to" keep Martin and send on your blizzard". Only Hewitt Bostock of Victoria's Province seemed to look favourably on Martin's arrival, which occurred in Vancouver on March 5, 1897.

Soon his law practice was under way but, typical of Martin, it wasn't without controversy. In 1899, for an example, the benchers suspended Martin for a week. He was prosecuting in a civil suit with the understanding that if he won he would share in the proceeds. This process is called champerty and, although Martin had legalized it in Manitoba, it was still against the rules of the Law society of British Columbia. Martin pushed for its legislation and in 1901, the assembly passed the necessary amendments to the Legal Professions Act.
The allure of politics beckoned to Martin and he didn't waste any time getting back into the political arena. At this time, although British Columbians supported Liberal or Conservative parties federally, provincial politics were much more loosely defined. A person either supported the administration in power or opposed it. In 1898, Joseph Martin ran successfully for a provincial seat representing Vancouver. He criticized the present government of John Herbert Turner and its links with railway and mining magnates Daniel Chase Corbin, Frederick Agustus Heinze and James Dunsmuir. New premier, Charles Agustus Semlin, offered Martin the position of attorney general, which Martin initially turned down (as I have previously stated, it is possible that Martin felt he was going to win the leadership of the party) but later changed his mind and accepted the position.

He was attorney general and minister of education starting August 15, 1898. Martin introduced reforms while in office, one of the most important being the Torrens system of land registration. (I had to research this one. This system was invented by Robert Torrens in which the government keeps a master record of all land and their owners.) But, as we have seen in his past behaviour, Martin had a problem being a team player and it was difficult predicting his actions because he had a propensity to change his mind.

Joseph Martin also blurred the line between his public and private responsibilities. This brought him into conflict with his legal clients and cabinet colleagues, especially the minister of finance, Francs Lovett Carter-Cotton.   

As I mentioned when I wrote on Charles Semlin, our twelfth premier lost faith in Joseph Martin. On July 1, 1899, Semlin asked Martin to resign reportedly because he had neglected departmental business to work on his own legal practice, had revealed confidential cabinet business and the whole Rossland affair. (I wrote about the episode in an entry on Charles Semlin.) Martin resigned as attorney general and vowed vengeance on those who had been responsible for his overthrow, namely Carter-Cotton.
This was not the end of Joseph Martin's B.C. political career, far from it. From what we've learned about that man, he was not a man to take slights - real or imagined - lightly. Monday I will tell you more.

Would you be surprised if I told you that I got this information from the Dictionary of Canadian Biography website? I thank them.

I hope you find the beauty around you and have a great weekend.

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