Ontario NDP MPP Shelley Martel
Shelley Martel (born April 8, 1963 in Sudbury, Ontario) is a politician in Ontario, Canada. She is currently a member of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario, representing the riding of Nickel Belt for the Ontario New Democratic Party.
She previously represented the riding of Sudbury East, which was eliminated when the Mike Harris government redrew the boundaries of the provincial ridings in 1996 to match the federal boundaries. Sudbury East had been represented by Martel's father, Elie Martel, from its creation in 1967 until his retirement in 1987. (Shelley Martel's mother is the daughter of another area politician, Norman Fawcett, who served as mayor of Capreol, Ontario and as Nickel Belt's federal MP from 1965 to 1968.)
Before entering political life, Martel studied International Politics at the University of Toronto and French at the Sorbonne. She then worked as a claims adjudicator with the Ontario Workers' Compensation Board in Sudbury and Toronto.
Shelley Martel sought and won the NDP nomination vacated by her father, and easily won the seat in the 1987 provincial election. She was re-elected in the 1990 provincial election, in which the NDP won an unexpected majority government.
On October 1, 1990, she was named Minister of Northern Development and Government House Leader in the cabinet of Bob Rae. On July 31, 1991, her title was changed to Minister of Northern Development and Mines.
Like her father, Martel represented the left-wing of the NDP and often had a fractious relationship with Rae. During her first year in office, she oversaw a government bailout plan for industry in the northern community of Kapuskasing; Rae rejected the plan, but incorporated its basic framework into a later deal which he negotiated himself. Like Howard Hampton and Peter Kormos, Martel also opposed Rae's decision to retreat from an election pledge to introduce public automobile insurance in the province.
Martel's tenure in office proved unexpectedly controversial, and was nearly derailed by two separate controversies in 1991. The first involved an incident in June of that year, in which Martel wrote a letter to a quasi-judicial body concerning the billing practices of a doctor in northern Ontario. This was regarded by some as undue political influence, and Rae considered dismissing Martel before being advised by Liberal leader Robert Nixon that the offense was too minor.
The second incident was more serious, at least in terms of its political ramifications. On December 5, 1991, Martel became involved in an argument with Evelyn Dodds (a Thunder Bay municipal councillor and former Progressive Conservative candidate) following an official government function. Martel ended the argument by claiming that her government was considering legal action against Jean-Pierre Donahue, a doctor working in Sudbury, on the grounds that his billing practices were excessive and illegal. According to Dodds, Martel also claimed to have seen a confidential government file on Donahue.
Dodds took her story to the media the next day, accusing Martel of slandering a medical professional and having illegal access to privileged information. Martel, in response, claimed that she had in fact misled Dodds during the course of their private conversation -- her comments concerning Donahue were unfounded, and had been invented on the spot in a moment of anger. She also denied having seen the confidential file in question. Martel nonetheless offered her resignation to Rae, which he rejected.
Martel later took a lie detector to prove that she had made up her accusations about Donahue while talking to Dodds, and did not have prior knowledge of a secret government file. A parliamentary commission in early 1992 verified her version of the story.
The actual incident may not have been significant, but the resulting controversy did considerable damage to both Martel's reputation and that of the provincial NDP. Many voters remembered nothing of the situation except Martel admitting to being caught in a lie, taking a lie detector test to prove she had lied, and being kept in cabinet regardless. Some have argued that public confidence in the Rae government was irreparably damaged by this controversy.
(It may be added that Evelyn Dodds ran again for the Progressive Conservatives in the 1995 provincial election, and that the Progressive Conservatives had always opposed the NDP's efforts to reform the billing practices of Ontario doctors.)
Martel's continued presence in cabinet was a constant source of controversy for the government. She finally resigned from her portfolio on October 7, 1994, towards the end of Rae's mandate. Ironically, her resignation occurred after the Ontario Privacy Commissioner found that she had passed on privileged and damaging information about Ottawa consultant Charles Ficner in a letter to Liberal MPP Frank Miclash. (This decision was questioned by some, in that almost all of the disputed information was already available in the public domain.)
Martel's influence in the government after 1992 was limited. However, the controversies did not dim her personal electoral prospects, as the voters in Sudbury East returned her to Queen's Park in the 1995 provincial election, electing her over Liberal Paul Menard by a narrow margin.
When the riding of Sudbury East was eliminated for the 1999 election, she easily beat Blain Morin for the nomination in the amalgamated Nickel Belt riding, and was re-elected again. In the 2003 election, she defeated Liberal Alex McCauley by fewer than 3000 votes.
Martel and Ontario NDP leader Howard Hampton were married in 1994, and have two children. In 2003, she supported Bill Blaikie's campaign to become leader of the federal New Democratic Party.