Discover the people who shaped Montréal's history
Médéric Martin was born on January 22, 1869, in Montréal. This industrialist was mayor of Montréal from 1914 to 1924, then from 1926 to 1928. He died on June 12, 1946 in Pont-Viau, Laval.
Martin came from a modest family. He studied initially in Montréal, then at the Collège de Saint-Eustache. Later, he became owner of a cigar manufacturing company and amassed a substantial fortune.
He represented Papineau ward as an alderman from 1906 to 1910, and from 1912 to 1914. He became mayor of Montréal in 1914. His 12 years as mayor constituted a record. At the same time, he was also elected in 1906 as Liberal MP for the district of Sainte-Marie. He was re-elected in 1908 and 1911. He ended his career as MP in 1919, when he was appointed member of the legislative council of the province of Québec for the division of Alma.
In 1914, Martin, a populist, won against George Washington Stephens, despite the fact that the investigation of Lawrence Cannon in 1909 revealed that he had embezzled funds. In 1914, by winning the election for mayor, he put an end to the tradition of alternation of French and English mayors.
Martin immediately called for the abolition of the board of commissioners, but public opinion and the media were against it. He nevertheless tried to block their reports and requested investigations into everything. He spoke against the draft in 1916 and argued that the city could not compensate the families of volunteers due to the lack of funds.
In 1918, the financial problems of Montréal were such that the municipality was put under trusteeship. In 1916 and 1917, the city had run up deficits of $2 and $1.7 million. Lomer Gouin, prime minister of Québec, thus forced Montréal to annex Maisonneuve, which then had a debt of $19 million, and imposed an administrative commission. The number of aldermen was reduced and the mayor’s authority became honorary. Water and property taxes were increased, a sales tax was created, municipal departments were reorganized, a municipal reform was undertaken, and the administration was reduced. There was also a wage freeze for municipal employees. Unfortunately, this wage freeze coincided with an inflation period and involved in the fall of 1918 a series of employee strikes. Police officers, firemen and waterworks mechanics followed suit. The conflict ended in arbitration. The matter of trusteeship was finally raised by Prime Minister Alexandre Taschereau, successor to Gouin in 1921. Henceforth, councillors were directly involved in municipal decisions.
The fire at city hall during the night of March 4, 1922 was devastating. The entire building burned down; only the stone walls remained. The mayor evaluated the damage at 10 million dollars. The city had to borrow to be able to rebuild.
The Martin administration was shaken many times by favouritism and corruption scandals. In 1924, Martin was defeated by Charles Duquette. Later, however, Duquette was discredited following the Coderre investigation, and Martin was re-elected in 1926. Finally, in 1928, Martin was defeated by Camillien Houde, one of the great figures among Montréal's mayors.