The man who wouldn't buckle: Cabot Martin, dead at 78

While getting his start in public life in the 1970s, Cabot Martin would remain active, commenting on policy and local industry for the rest of his life. (CBC - image credit)
While getting his start in public life in the 1970s, Cabot Martin would remain active, commenting on policy and local industry for the rest of his life. (CBC - image credit)

Cabot Martin, one of the architects of the Atlantic Accord, has died.

Martin served as a legal adviser to the provincial government in the 1970s, and as senior policy adviser to Premier Brian Peckford in the 1980s.

Many of Martin's legal arguments laid the groundwork for the modern offshore industry in the province, and Newfoundland and Labrador's joint management of the resource along with the federal government.

He remained active publicly in the province in recent years as a vocal opponent of the Muskrat Falls project.

Martin died on Friday. He was 78 years old.


Tom Rideout remembers Martin not only as one of the architects of the Atlantic Accord, but the driving force behind it.

"The screws were tightened on Newfoundland to walk away from our position of us being the owners," said Rideout.

The former premier said the Pierre Trudeau government of the 1970s and 80s did not want Newfoundland and Labrador to have control of offshore oil, and at the time it had a Supreme Court ruling to back its claim.

Ron Penney was a deputy minister at the time. He said Martin was unwavering in his assertion that the province owned the resource.

"They were very, very difficult. Negotiations. Cabot, he was a brilliant fellow with a background both in law and in geology. So he really brought a lot to the process."

Rideout said it was Cabot Martin who advised the provincial government, wrote the documents, and fought for control alongside premier Brian Peckford.

"That was our vision. And Cabot Martin was a driver of that. You know, perhaps lesser people would have buckled, but Cabot didn't. Then Peckford and the government, I think to their credit, took his advice and didn't buckle."


Martin continued his adamant streak in recent years as a strong opponent of the Muskrat Falls project, particularly in regards to the potential for landslide along the controversial North Spur, speaking out against the dangers of the project and authoring the book "Muskrat Madness."

He was also a regular contributor to the Uncle Gnarley blog, commenting on developments in local industry.

His most recent entry, examining plans for wind turbines and hydrogen production on Newfoundland's west coast, was published just four days before his death.

In it, he questions the environmental impacts of the proposed projects, and as he has always done, warns of the dangers of separating the resources of Newfoundland and Labrador from the people who live there:

"Environmental assessment is not just a set of regulations requiring the collection of information," said Martin, "but is fundamentally also a democratic process within which the public has a right to be informed and be involved – and to be taken seriously."

As for his legacy, Tom Rideout said Martin's work directly led to an improvement in the quality of life for people in the province.

"Those of us who know him know how hard he worked to make sure that we didn't stumble," said Rideout, "I mean, it's easy for politicians and people not of Cabot's grit to stumble."

"He spent a lot of time keeping all of us on the straight and narrow and made sure that we didn't lose focus or lose the vision."

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