Born in Ottawa, Ontario, Paul Joseph James Martin (Paul Martin, Sr.) (1903–1992) was a distinguished federal politician and statesman. He received a B.A. and an M.A. from the University of Toronto, and his LL.M. from Harvard in 1929. After further studies at Trinity College, Cambridge and Geneva’s Graduate Institute of International Studies, he lectured at Assumption College, University of Windsor until 1935, when he was elected to Parliament. He joined the Cabinet in 1945 as Secretary of State and then served as Minister of National Health and Welfare from 1946 to 1957.
In 1948, Martin succeeded in introducing a federal system of health grants to support general public health services, tuberculosis and venereal disease control, mental health care, cancer control, prevention and control of “crippling conditions” in children, professional training, public health research and hospital construction. Described by William Lyon Mackenzie King in the House of Commons in May 1948 as “the first stages in the development of a comprehensive health insurance plan for all Canada,” the grants helped provinces to improve health services for their residents, as well as to explore the creation of provincial health insurance plans. Martin also contributed to the passing of the 1957 Hospital Insurance and Diagnostic Services Act, which offered federal funding to provinces that met the act’s criteria for standards of hospital care and provincially administered hospital insurance. Although Martin and the Liberals lost the 957 election before the act was fully implemented, the act represented a historic milestone in federal–provincial cooperation on the road to medicare.