Joseph Martin (Canadian politician)

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Joseph Martin
Joseph Martin.png
"Fighting" Joe Martin
13th Premier of British Columbia
In office
February 28, 1900 – June 14, 1900
Monarch Victoria
Lieutenant Governor Thomas Robert McInnes
Preceded by Charles Semlin
Succeeded by James Dunsmuir
Personal details
Born (1852-09-24)September 24, 1852
Milton, Ontario
Died March 2, 1923(1923-03-02) (aged 70)
Vancouver, British Columbia
Political party None

Joseph Martin (September 24, 1852 – March 2, 1923) was a lawyer and politician in Manitoba, British Columbia and the United Kingdom often referred to as "Fighting Joe".

Early life[edit]

Born in Milton, Ontario, the son of Edward Martin, a former Reeve, and Mary Ann Fleming, Martin was educated at the Milton public school, the Toronto Normal School and University of Toronto. He was a telegraph operator and afterwards obtained a First-class Teacher's certificate, and was appointed Principal of the public school in New Edinburgh, Ontario. He studied law in Ottawa and moved to Portage la Prairie, Manitoba in 1882. He was called to the Bar of Manitoba in 1882.[1]

Political career[edit]


He was first elected as the member of the Legislative Assembly of Manitoba for the Portage la Prairie riding in 1883 and served as Attorney-General in the government of Thomas Greenway. In 1890, he initiated legislation to end French language instruction and support for Catholic separate schools, prompting the Manitoba Schools Question crisis.


Martin ran unsuccessfully as a Liberal candidate in the 1891 election to become the Member of Parliament for Selkirk. When Sir Hugh Macdonald resigned his Winnipeg seat, Martin ran in the 1893 by-election and won by acclamation. He lost the seat to Macdonald when they both ran for re-election in Selkirk in the 1896 election. He later ran in the 1908 election as an Independent in the Vancouver City riding but was not elected.

British Columbia[edit]

After his defeat in Manitoba, Martin [2] left for British Columbia to settle in Vancouver. He arrived at a time of booming prosperity. He took up the practice of law and made a fortune developing the Hastings Manor subdivision in Vancouver.[3]

Martin was first elected to the British Columbia Legislative Assembly in 1898 election in the multi-member Vancouver City riding. The election did not yield a majority for any one party. With increased representation for mainland ridings and a shift in popular support from the Turner government, a government of special interests, railway industrialists, coal barons, lumber and fishing capitalists, Turner's support fell to 17 of 38 seats. Lieutenant-Governor Thomas R. McInnes dismissed Turner on August 8, 1898 without allowing him the constitutional right to meet the legislature. Instead he turned to former premier Robert Beaven, even though he had not been elected in his constituency, to form a government. He was unable to do so, and McInnes then turned to Charles Semlin to form a government. Semlin took office as premier and chose Martin as his Attorney-General.

During the two year Semlin government, Martin produced controversy by introducing measures such as an eight-hour work day (opposed by mine owners) and an Alien Exclusion Act to prevent Chinese from owning mining claims. The federal government, at the instance of American interests, took steps to disallow the legislation. During a controversial public meeting about the issue, Martin breached cabinet solidarity and criticized his own government resulting in a request from Premier Semlin for Martin's resignation. Semlin reconstituted his ministries and met the legislature facing strong opposition from Martin, often requiring the Speaker of the house to break ties by using his casting vote. On February 27, 1900 McInnes dismissed Semlin and, the following day, asked Martin to form a government. The result was a vote of non-confidence by the house which carried by a majority of 28 to 1. Nevertheless, Martin formed a cabinet and governed for three months before going to the polls in the 1900 election. Although hard fought, Martin had only 13 supporters elected. The Semlin faction had even fewer at 6 and Semlin was defeated personally. Following the election, Prime Minister Laurier dismissed McInnes and appointed Sir Henri-Gustave Joly de Lotbinière lieutenant-governor. The legislature was able to agree to support James Dunsmuir to lead a government. Martin served in the opposition until he was defeated in the 1903 election, the first in British Columbia organized on party lines.

In 1907, he founded the Vancouver Guardian newspaper. After his return from England, he ran in the 1920 election in Vancouver as an Independent under the banner of the Asiatic Exclusion League. He was defeated and lost his deposit.

Martin, who died of complications from diabetes in March 1923, was the first person in Vancouver to be treated with insulin.[4]

United Kingdom[edit]

He moved to the United Kingdom where he won a seat in the British House of Commons as a Liberal Member of Parliament for St Pancras East. He served from 1910 until 1918. Shortly before the 1918 election, he crossed the floor to join the Labour party. He did not defend his seat at the 1918 election.

In December 1911, Winston Churchill, then the First Lord of the Admiralty, had announced to the House of Commons that the British fleet was ready for war. Martin fiercely attacked the Admiralty over the grounding of the warship Niobe "only to be completely and unceremoniously silenced by a biting answer from the First Lord." [5]

He was also a candidate for mayor of Vancouver in 1914 and founded another newspaper there in 1916.



  1. ^ William Cochrane, ed. (1894). The Canadian album: men of Canada, Volume III (PDF). Brantford, Ontario: Bradley, Garretson & Co. p. 30. 
  2. ^ Ormsby, 320-325
  3. ^ Francis (ed), Daniel (2000) [1999]. Francis, Daniel, ed. Encyclopedia of British Columbia. Harbour Publishing. p. 450. ISBN 1-55017-200-X. 
  4. ^ Morton, 240
  5. ^ Morton, 220-222

External links[edit]

Parliament of Canada
Preceded by
Sir Hugh John Macdonald
Member of Parliament for Winnipeg
Succeeded by
Sir Hugh John Macdonald
Political offices
Preceded by
Multi Member Riding
Member of BC Legislature for Vancouver (City)
Succeeded by
Multi Member Riding
Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Hugh Cecil Lea
Member of Parliament for St Pancras East
Constituency abolished