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Paul Martin: In the Balance    by John Gray order for
Paul Martin
by John Gray
Order:  USA  Can
Key Porter, 2004 (2003)
Hardcover, Softcover
* * *   Reviewed by Theresa Ichino

John Gray's impressive list of credentials - he has written for several reputable newspapers (including the Toronto Globe and Mail), both as a national and international correspondent - gives his biography of Paul Martin credibility. Equally important, his relaxed, conversational style engages the reader and makes this book interesting and accessible.

Gray places Paul Martin in historical and political context. I was surprised and fascinated to learn of his family background. Contrary to what I suspect is popular belief, Martin comes from a poor background. His father, the much-respected Paul Martin Senior, never forgot his roots and seems to have instilled in his son a respect for work and effort. The book describes the energetic son's many interests and ventures. Despite an early expressed desire to enter political life, young Paul was discouraged by his father. Martin senior urged him instead to build a solid basis of accomplishments before pursuing politics.

Paul Martin is a fascinating mixture of contradictions, which makes Gray's title apt. By his own efforts he is a wealthy man; yet he has consistently espoused the importance of cooperation, of acceptance of diversity, of the rich helping the poor. As Jean Chrétien's Finance Minister, he pursued a draconian policy of cutbacks and reduced Canada's national debt, reestablishing this country's financial reputation; yet he seems to sincerely deplore the spending cuts that have weakened social policies intended to help those most in need.

I wish I had read this book before the last national election. Gray's excellent biography does more than put a human face on Paul Martin and other political figures; he explains the drama behind the scenes. As for the infamous sponsorship scandal, the situation that existed between Chrétien and Martin makes plausible Martin's denial of knowledge. It was a blow that severely hampered what Martin's government might have been able to accomplish. I finished the book with a new appreciation for a dynamic and well-intentioned leader.

Paul Martin: In the Balance is a fascinating and worthwhile read. At the end, as Martin's minority government takes power, the future is uncertain. One can only hope that he and his government can overcome the many obstacles in their path.

(P.S. Before reading this book, I was not a Paul Martin fan. I am now.)

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