Former Canadian Prime Minister, Paul Martin, in his recently published book entitled, "Hell or High Water Water" pays tribute to Maurice Strong's service to Canada and the world and someone, who is one of "the greatest influences" in his life.
Paul Martin entered politics after a successful business career as Chairman and CEO of Canada Steamship Lines, but he had been exposed to politics and the Liberal Party from an early age. His father, Paul Martin Sr., was a Liberal cabinet minister under four different prime ministers. Paul Martin made his mark in the Canadian government as finance minister, erasing a multi-billion dollar deficit, paying down debt and bringing in five budget surpluses in a row. He was Canada's Prime Minister from 2003 to 2006.
"He (Maurice Strong) completed only grade ten before quitting school but managed to make his way in the world with a combination of ambition, drive, and intelligence, becoming by turn a businessman, social activist, environmentalist, and diplomat of international standing and impact."
"By the time Maurice came into my life, he had already had a business career that took him from the Arctic to Africa and back to Canada. In the 1950s, he had been hired by the Winnipeg-based Richardson family to become an oil and gas analyst, one of the first ever 10 Canada. Later on, he managed to get control of a firm called Ajax Petroleum, which eventually became Canadian Industrial Gas and Oil. A friend of his named Bill Richardson (no relation to the Winnipeg Richardsons) had an idea based on his knowledge of mining history."
"The ancient Romans had been great miners, and the locations of many of their mines were well known. Most of them had been abandoned once they had been rnined out. But Richardson's notion was that with modern technology they could be brought back into production. In particular, the friends fixed their sights on a mine in Anglesey in North Wales. At the time, as I have already mentioned, my father had lost his ministerial job in the Diefenbaker victory and was supplementing his modest MP's salary by practising law part-time. Maurice approached him to manage the purchase of the Anglesey mine, While nothing ever came of it, Maurice and my father became good friends, and I met someone who would eventually become one of the greatest influences on my life."
"Maurice Strong was president of a company called Canadian Industrial Gas and Oil when I was in university. He gave me a job near Morinville, in the oil patch just north of Edmonton. My assignment was to drive around to the wellheads checking gauges. Being a clever young fellow with lots of initiative, over the course of a few weeks I noticed two things: the gauges never changed and the Calgary Stampede was going on just 190 miles south. It seemed to me that it would be an important part of my education to see the Calgary Stampede. Naturally, I took the company pickup as my means of transport, though I neglected to tell anyone. After a merry day taking in calf-roping and the like, I headed back to Morinville. It started to rain hard while I was negotiating the back roads. The roads were clay - gumbo really - a substance that was new to this Eastern city-boy. I hit a slippery patch and flipped the truck into the ditch many miles away from any place I could reasonably have been if I had actually been doing my job. Maurice has always insisted that he did not fire me, and I don't recall that we had a face-to-face confrontation. I am nonetheless pretty sure my employment was terminated, whatever he says, because I soon found myself hitch-hiking north to Hay River on the south shore of Great Slave Lake in the Northwest Territories."
"I had finished law school, and my dreams for the future had begun to gel around the idea of an international career, I had managed to get a stint in the legal branch of the European Coal and Steel Community in Luxembourg, and was thinking that I might want to work as a field officer with the World Bank or a United Nations agency. It was more of an impulse than a plan."
"Like many young people of my generation, I wanted to make the world a better place and was searching for a way to do it. Maurice had by that time already established a fine reputation with his unusual combination of business and development work; so naturally I turned to him for advice. He pointed out that the developing world was not really crying out for fledgling lawyers like me, He suggested that I should go into business, acquire some experience that would be helpful in the Third World, build up a bit of wealth for myself and my family, and then launch into my more far-flung ambitions. I didn't know the first thing about business Of have an interest in it for that matter, and I said so. But Maurice wasn't troubled by that and invited me to join him as his executive assistant at Montreal-based Power Corporation, where he was chief executive. Here, instead of a pipe-dream, was a plan, and an offer of a job at a salary of $9,000 a year. Could life get any better?"
"Maurice not only gave me a summer Job but he launched my business career, and continuously led by example, organizing the historic United Nations Rio Summit on the environment in I992 (to pick one of his many accomplishments), which I attended as the opposition environment critic. In early years, he was more of a friend of my father's than of mine, and more of a mentor to me. But his significance in my life went beyond our direct contact. His career would be remarkable anywhere but especially here in Canada."
"For some reason that I have never been able to fathom, Canadian business people, unlike their counterparts in the United States and the United Kingdom, are suspicious of any mixture of business and public service. A business person who decides to enter public life is seen as having lost his or her bearings or perhaps suffering from a strange psychological disability. As for public servants having risen through long years of hard work and commitment to the public good, how could they have anything to contribute to the hard edge, stand-on-your-own-two-feet world of business? These wrong-headed attitudes not only deprive Canadian companies of a wealth of useful experience, but they also have a pernicious effect on the public service."
"Maurice Strong cut a different path: a career that travelled through both business and public service. He was an early developer of the Canadian oil patch and also an early exponent of global environmentalism, He was a titan of industry and one of the builders of what has become the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA). He has served Canada and the world, primarily through the United Nations. He has sometimes been criticized for his restless movement from job to job. But that flows naturally from his visionary nature. For me, what he offered was a pathway that honoured both business and public service for their unique contributions. He also gave me an insight into the challenges of the environment and of development in the Third World, which has stayed with me all my life."
"I realize how lucky I was to have mentors such as Maurice Strong, Paul Desmarais, and Bill Turner as well as friends such as Ladi Parhy, who later became my business partner."
Paul Martin: Come Hell or High Water: My Life In And Out Of Politics: Published by Mccleland & Stewart
To buy the book, go to: http://www.mcclelland.com/catalog/display.pperl?isbn=9780771056925