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Paul Martin, Canada Steamship Lines

Jolly Roger better flag for Canada Steamship Lines

by Judi McLeod,

January 5, 2005

On land, Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin has proven himself to be an artful dodger whenever the $100 million in government kickbacks to Liberal-friendly communication agencies is on the discussion table.

at sea, Martin, through the company he founded, has been something of a latter day pirate.

Canada Steamship Lines may have been turned over to Martin's sons last year, but it's always been a private, family-owned company. Having a company run by your sons when you become prime minister hardly makes it arm's length.

Lugging, grain, coal and wheat through the waterways of the world is capital `L' lucrative business--some $30 million where Paul Martin is concerned.

In his younger days, The Man Who Would be Prime Minister, worked as a deckhand on a Lake Erie fishing boat, before heading out to the ocean as a seaman on ocean-going vessels. Indeed, Martin may be more at home at sea than he ever is on land.

Those who make their living from the sea top the dangerous job list. as any Newfoundland fisherman can tell you, it's a high-risk, lonely and sometimes thankless job.

The widow's walks built atop weather-beaten houses all along the eastern coast tell the sad tales of sailors who never made it back home.

Long before he found fame as a Canadian politician, Paul Martin went out and borrowed tens of millions of dollars to buy a company called Canada Steamship Lines (CSL). This was circa 1981, and there is no doubt that he already knew the influential Maurice Strong, of United Nations fame. It was Strong who hired Martin to be his personal assistant at Montreal's Power Corporation–even before he had left university and it was Strong, who later helped Martin get his stake in CSL.

as the public record shows, Martin is still getting boosts for CSL from the scandal-ridden Canadian government.

"In 2003, the federal government insisted it had done only $137,000 in business with Martin's CSL in the last 10 years," wrote Lorne Gunter of the Edmonton Journal. "at the end of January 2004, it was revealed that $137,000 had actually been $161 million–including $46 million during Martin's tenure as finance minister."

Gunter also noted that CSL had received loans of more than half a billion dollars from foreign banks with Canadian subsidiaries that Martin was responsible for regulating while finance minister.

CSL footwork for turning handsome profits through a combination of foreign flag arrangements, legal loopholes and the hiring of non-union crews would do Blackbeard proud.

The cold waters of Collingwood Ontario was the scene of the launching of Martin's first ship of state, that came complete with state of the art unloading technology. The customary bottle of champagne crashed against the bow of the Rt. Hon. Paul J. Martin, named for his father, also a former Liberal cabinet minister.

It may have been a romantic start for Canada Steamship Lines, but it was one that was destined to leave many broken hearts behind in its wake.

Sad stories of the forcefully landed have become legendary. Entire crews have been fired by CSL brass--mid-voyage.

Flared tempers have a way of cooling when you're two days from shore.

Greg Glasner of Halifax, N.S. sailed on the Rt. Hon. Paul J. Martin from Halifax to Tampa, Florida, carrying gypsum and returning with salt from the Bahamas. His rate of pay was $3,000 a month.

Long-time sailor Mary Fortune headed out to sea on CSL's atlantic Superior.

The ocean adventures of this pair were short-lived when it turned out Bossman Paul Martin had replaced them.

With the other Canadians aboard, Mary Fortune was ordered off the atlantic Superior 19 days into her voyage. They were simply told that another crew would be taking over their jobs when they reached Norfolk, Virginia.

Parts of the atlantic Ocean may be a long way from land, but ships can always be reached by fax from head office, and that's how Greg Glasner got word that his sailing days with CSL were over.

Canadians may be proud of their flag. It goes beyond patriotic pride for Paul Martin, the businessman. By refusing to fly the Canadian flag on his ships, he avoids having to practice Canadian labour standards.

and that's just for openers.

Loopholes, like the one registering CSL in Barbados, means the company doesn't have to pay Canadian taxes. For CSL, finding loopholes to avoid paying taxes is as easy as purchasing convenience flags through the mail.

CSL now owns in whole or in part some 18 foreign flagged ships, sailing around the world from Montreal to Melbourne, australia.

as Canadian Prime Minister, Paul Martin has an affinity for speeches about the nobility of helping struggling third world countries. Yet Filipinos and Portuguese on his ships are paid as much as four times less than Canadians are.

Shamefully, some CSL employees make as little as $2.20 an hour.

Increasingly Canadian Steamship Line ships sail under a bevy of the convenience flags, which enable them to hire cheap labour.

Most recently, CSL has come after fire after the Bloc Quebecois revealed that it had replaced Canadians with a 22-member crew of Ukrainian sailors. The Ukrainians will each earn about US $1,000 a month to work on the Birchglen, significantly less than the US$5,000 a month the Canadians earned.

Perhaps CSL should hoist the Jolly Roger.

Canada Free Press founding editor Most recent by Judi McLeod is an award-winning journalist with 30 years experience in the print media. Her work has appeared on, Drudge Report,, Glenn Beck. Judi can be reached at: [email protected]

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