Shelley Martel

Shelley Dawn Marie Martel (born April 8, 1963, in Sudbury, Ontario) is a Canadian politician. She was a member of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario, representing the riding of Sudbury East from 1987 to 1999, and Nickel Belt from 1999 until 2007, as a New Democrat.

She is married to Howard Hampton, the current leader of the Ontario New Democrats.

Early career

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.

Martel first 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. The riding had been represented by Martel's father, Elie Martel, from its creation in 1967 until his retirement in 1987. Martel's mother is the daughter of another area politician, Norman Fawcett, who served as mayor of Capreol, and as Nickel Belt's federal MP from 1965 to 1968.

Shelley Martel sought and won the New Democratic Party 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.

In cabinet

On October 1, 1990, Martel 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 time in office proved unexpectedly controversial, and was nearly ended by two separate controversies in 1991. The first occurred June of that year, when 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 offence was too minor to warrant punishment.

Dodds controversy

The second incident was more serious, at least in its ramifications. On December 5, 1991, following an official government function, Martel became involved in a heated discussion about Northern Ontario health care costs with Evelyn Dodds, a Thunder Bay municipal councillor and former Progressive Conservative candidate. Martel ended the conversation by claiming that her government was considering legal action against Sudbury doctor Jean-Pierre Donahue, on the grounds that his billing practices were excessive and illegal. In Dodds's account, 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 she had actually misled Dodds in their private conversation: her comments about Donahue were unfounded, and were invented on the spot in a moment of anger. She also denied having seen the confidential file. She nonetheless offered her resignation to Rae, who rejected it.

Martel later took a lie detector to prove that she had made up her accusation against Donahue, and did not have prior knowledge of a secret file. A parliamentary commission in early 1992 verified her version of the story.

The incident may have been minor, but the resulting controversy did considerable damage to both Martel's reputation and that of the provincial NDP. Many voters remembered nothing of the controversy except that Martel admitted to being caught in a lie, took a lie detector test to prove she lied, and was kept in cabinet regardless. Some have argued that public confidence in the Rae government was irreparably damaged by this controversy.

Martel's continued presence in cabinet after 1992 was an ongoing source of controversy for the government, and her influence was limited. She finally resigned from her portfolio on October 7, 1994, towards the end of Rae's mandate. (Martel's resignation occurred after the Ontario Privacy Commissioner found that she had passed on privileged and damaging information about Ottawa consultant Charles Ficner to Liberal MPP Frank Miclash. Some questioned the Privacy Commissioner's decision, noting that almost all of the information in question was already available in the public domain.)


1995 Election

These controversies did not dim Martel's 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 reduced margin. She was one of only seventeen NDP MPPs to be re-elected in this campaign.

Nickel Belt

When the riding of Sudbury East was eliminated for the 1999 election, she was re-elected again in the redistributed Nickel Belt constituency. Nickel Belt's previous MPP, Blain Morin, declined to challenge Martel for the nomination.

In the 2003 election, she defeated Liberal Alex McCauley by fewer than 3,000 votes to win her fifth and final term in the legislature.


On May 18, 2007, Martel announced that she would not seek re-election and would quit politics after the October 10, 2007 Ontario general election, to spend more time with her family and pursue other career opportunities.

During the election campaign, Progressive Conservative leader John Tory stated that if elected, he would name Martel to conduct a review of current government medical and social services for children with autism, an issue which Martel had frequently championed in the Legislature. In response to the statement, Hampton said "I wish Mr. Tory good luck, but my wife is rather fussy about who she hangs around with. Believe me, I know. It took me about six years."

Martel committed, however, to campaign extensively on behalf of France Gélinas, her successor as the New Democratic Party candidate in Nickel Belt. On election day, Gélinas successfully held the riding, defeating Liberal candidate Ron Dupuis.

Private life

Martel and Ontario NDP leader Howard Hampton were married in 1994, and have two children. Their older daughter Sarah was profiled in several media outlets in early 2007, when she was accepted to serve in the Legislative Assembly's page program. Martel herself had also participated in the page program when her father was serving in the Legislature.

In 2003, both Martel and Hampton supported Bill Blaikie's campaign to become leader of the federal New Democratic Party.


External links

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