Go to the Globe and Mail homepage

Jump to main navigationJump to main content


Entry archive:

Keith Martin speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons on Oct. 12, 2004. (TOM HANSON/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Keith Martin speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons on Oct. 12, 2004. (TOM HANSON/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Keith Martin knows he can accomplish more off the Hill Add to ...

Keith Martin is done.

The 50-year-old Liberal MP from Victoria can't take the poisonous environment on Parliament Hill anymore, an atmosphere he says is tainted by "rabid partisanship."

Committee work has grounded to a halt. There is a paralysis of innovation. And the Liberal MP from Victoria believes - no, he knows - he can do more off Parliament Hill than on.

On Tuesday, he told his leader, Michael Ignatieff, he would not seek re-election. He wanted to make his intentions known to allow for a smooth transition for whoever his successor will be.

"The morale has sunk to new lows," he said in an interview Wednesday. "If you want to drive innovation forward Parliament is not the place to do that any more."

The former physician, who until several years ago practiced emergency room medicine during House of Commons breaks, made up his mind this week. He says it had nothing to do with the fact he only won the election in 2008 by 68 votes, joking the razor-thin margin was a "landslide." He denies, too, that his decision to support the gun registry - which is not popular in his riding - had any influence on his decision.

Rather, he says he left the House in June "quite saddened" but thought a cooling-off period over the summer might improve the atmosphere. After his return in September, however, he realized it wasn't going to change.

"I got into this as a physician, basically to carry a larger stethoscope," he said. "I was treating individual patients and I thought 'I've got solutions that will help a lot more people.' And I got into Parliament to implement those solutions ... and unfortunately those innovations will not be able to be advanced under the current political climate."

First elected in 1993 to the Reform Party - he was attracted to the populism of Preston Manning and his new party - Mr. Martin switched to the Liberals in the 2004 election under Paul Martin. He didn't like the one-man show of Stephen Harper.

But after 17 years - years in which he was able to work in a bipartisan fashion to get things done, such as the land-mine treaty, making inroads on private member's bills and securing funding to send much-needed drugs to African countries - he feels he will be more useful outside of politics.

"Given the networks I have built up over a long time, both nationally and internationally and in the private sector and in universities, I can do a lot more to address national and international challenges," he said.

Mr. Martin believes that major changes can no longer be made by Parliament. Rather, the changes will come from outside. "Governments are going to fall behind that. They are not going to lead, they are going to be followers," he said.

For him the change came in 2006 with the election of the minority Conservative government. Before then a healthy atmosphere of bipartisanship prevailed alongside the day-to-day cut and thrust.

"There is obviously a place for partisan fighting in Parliament but there was also a place in those days where you could engage in bipartisan initiatives. ... But that place, that environment doesn't exist [any more]"

Although, he doesn't know yet exactly what he will do post-politics, he knows it will be more satisfying than what he is engaged in now.

Report Typo/Error

Follow on Twitter: @janetaber1

Next story




Most popular videos »

More from The Globe and Mail

Most popular