Hell or High Water

Hell or High Water

My Life in and Out of Politics

Book - 2008
Average Rating:
Rate this:
National bestseller Paul Martin was the Prime Minister we never really knew -- in this memoir he emerges as a fascinating flesh and blood man, still working hard to make a better world. "The next thing you know, I was in a jail cell." (Chapter 2) "From the moment I flipped his truck on the road home to Morinville…" (Chapter 3) "When I came back into Aquin's headquarters I had a broken nose." (Chapter 4) These are not lines that you expect in a prime ministerial memoir. But Paul Martin -- who led the country from 2003 to 2006 -- is full of surprises, and his book will reveal a very different man from the prime minister who had such a rough ride in the wake of the sponsorship scandal. Although he grew up in Windsor and Ottawa as the son of the legendary Cabinet Minister Paul Martin, politics was not in his blood. As a kid he loved sports, and had summer jobs as a deckhand or a roustabout. As a young man he plunged into family life, and into the business world. After his years as a "corporate firefighter" for Power Corporation came the excitement of acquiring Canada Steamship Lines in Canada's largest ever leveraged buy-out, "the most audacious gamble of my life." In 1988, however, he became a Liberal M.P., ran for the leadership in 1990 and in 1993 became Jean Chrétien's minister of finance, with the country in a deep hole. The story of his years as perhaps our best finance minister ever leads to his account of the revolt against Chrétien, and his time in office. Great events and world figures stud this book, which is firm but polite as it sets the record straight, and is full of wry humour and self-deprecating stories. Far from ending with his defeat in 2006, the book deals with his continuing passions, such as Canada's aboriginals and the problems of Africa. This is an idealistic, interesting book that reveals the Paul Martin we never knew. It's a pleasure to meet him. From the Hardcover edition.
Publisher: Toronto : McClelland & Stewart, 2008.
ISBN: 9780771056925
Characteristics: 494 p., [24] p. of plates :,ill., ports. ;,24 cm.


From the critics

Community Activity


Add a Comment
Jun 18, 2017

Paul Martin was one of Canada’s greatest Ministers of Finance, and it is for his achievements in this role that history will chiefly remember him. However this book covers his entire life to the point of writing, from early childhood to his activities after losing the 2006 federal election and leaving politics.
The use of private sector economic forecasts as projections for nominal GDP, the broadest measure of the tax base, and other economic variables crucial to the budget estimates started under Martin, providing a credibility to the budget estimates because the forecasts came from outside the Department of Finance. The contingency reserve of one to several billion dollars against emergencies that is a standard part of our federal budgets also started with Martin. Oddly, these very useful innovations, retained under the succeeding Conservative government, have only really come under assault under the new Liberal government of Justin Trudeau.
Martin inherited the inflation targeting regime at the Bank of Canada from the preceding Progressive Conservative government, and negotiated the first renewal of an inflation-control agreement in December 1993. His own account of these negotiations differs dramatically from the account given by the Governor of the Bank of Canada at that time, John Crow, in his own memoirs as is described in detail in my paper: “Why the Bank of Canada’s Target Rate of Inflation Should Be Lowered Rather Than Raised”:
While he claims that Crow was adamant for a reduction in the target range to 1%, Crow had earlier maintained that he was willing to compromise on a 1.5% target rate. Since Crow was unwilling to agree to a continuation of 2% as the target rate he was replaced as governor by Gordon Thiessen, with the change announced at the same time as the renewal agreement. It is Martin, more than anyone else, who can take the credit, if that is the right word, for central banks around the world making 2% inflation their target; for Crow 2% was just one more intermediate target on the path to price stability.
People who have seen Martin’s stiff, earnest interviews on television will be pleasantly surprised by the warmth and humour in his memoirs. On the other hand, the bare-knuckle political partisanship of the book is hard to take. To give just one example, Martin knows very well that “virtually all economists” did not agree with him that Harper’s promised reductions in the GST in the 2015 election campaign were poor public policy. And we now know that they led to the switch to HST regimes by British Columbia, Ontario and Prince Edward Island, and the much greater integration of Quebec’s QST regime with the GST. Under the preceding Liberal government only New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador had switched to an HST regime, all when Martin was Finance Minister.

Dec 29, 2015

Born into political royalty, Paul Martin Jr seemed to have it all. As a businessperson, he pulled off one of the most successful leveraged buyouts in Canadian history - and along the way, met a young labour lawyer named Brian Mulroney. As finance minister - well, he was the most successful and powerful ever, pulling off six surpluses in a row. And once he got his dream job - well, let's just say, Prime Minister, Interrupted. This book is a candid account of his slow rise to the top, and how it all fell apart when he got there in just two short years.

Age Suitability

Add Age Suitability

There are no age suitabilities for this title yet.


Add a Summary

There are no summaries for this title yet.


Add Notices

There are no notices for this title yet.


Add a Quote

There are no quotes for this title yet.

Explore Further

Browse by Call Number


Subject Headings


Find it at Library

To Top