The following piece is one of several that appears in the special summer edition of our INSIGHT Magazine celebrating Cambridge’s 50th anniversary as we recognize just a few of the people, businesses and institutions that have made our community great.
The term ‘self-made’ fit Max Saltsman like a glove.
The long-time Cambridge federal politician, who gained national attention in the early 1970s by trying to introduce a private member’s bill to annex the Turks and Caicos Islands in effort to keep Canadian tourists’ dollars in Canada, achieved success both in business and politics through hard work, determination, and education.
Born Samuel Mayer ‘Max’ Saltsman in Toronto in 1921, he left high school after one year at the age of 14 but served in the Royal Canadian Air Force as a mechanic during the Second World War. While overseas, Max (legally changing his name to ‘Max’ in 1962) completed correspondence courses via the Royal Canadian Legion and later took university extension courses to upgrade his education.
He opened S. M. Saltsman & Co., Tailors and Dry Cleaners in Galt in 1947 and quickly gained an interest in local politics, serving on the former Galt Public School Board from 1958 to 1961 before joining Galt city council from 1962 to 1964.
Saltsman’s interest in federal politics sparked his run in 1963 as the New Democratic Party candidate to represent the former ridings of Waterloo South, Waterloo-Cambridge, and Waterloo as MP but he lost to Progressive Conservative Party candidate Gordon Chaplin. However, Chaplin’s death in 1964 resulted in a byelection which Saltsman won setting the stage for his re-election as MP for three more occasions, until he retired in 1979.
During his tenure on Parliament Hill Saltsman took a tough stand when it came to the Liberal government’s imposition of the War Measures Act in 1970 and was a big supporter of wage and price controls.
He was NDP critic for Finance and National Revenue in the late 1970s and always won the respect of his caucus colleagues for his ‘off beat’ ideas such as his call to annex the Turks and Caicos Islands. His private member’s bill in 1974 never reached the floor of the House of Commons but garnered much attention as did his ‘Pink Max’ awards which he instituted as a tongue-in-cheek way of pointing out waste in the private sector.
Saltsman created the award in response to the ‘Blue Max’ award, named for former Auditor-General Max Henderson who offered up samples of wasteful federal government spending.
A staunch supporter of higher education, the University of Waterloo appointed him a special lecturer in management science, and he often focused on the relationships between business and government.
Saltsman helped found the Saltsman-Kerr Lecture Series in Canadians Studies at the U of W and regularly lectured about political science at Wilfrid Laurier University, often joking he was one of the few people without a degree or even a high school diploma, asked to lecture at a university.
In the earlier 1980s, former Ontario premier William G. Davis appointed Saltsman to serve on the Inflation Restraint Board, in part due to his advocacy while in office against what he identified as government inactivity on price gouging.
He served on the board until 1985 and was making plans to run for a councillor-at-large seat on Cambridge city council when he withdrew his name after being diagnosed with liver cancer. He died in a Toronto hospital in November of 1985.
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