students asked Martin to show their doll what's involved in
By JANE TABER
Wednesday, December 10, 2003 - Page A3
OTTAWA -- Flat Mark is
a construction-paper doll about 14 inches tall, sporting
Beatle bangs and a brown shirt and turquoise pants with an
orange belt and buckle inscribed with his name.
And since mid-November this rather bizarre little
character has had the kind of access to Paul Martin that
reporters and lobbyists can only dream of.
Flat Mark has attended top-level transition meetings, met
with Mr. Martin's chief of staff Tim Murphy and principal
secretary Francis Fox, toured Rideau Hall and even sat in on
last week's tête-à-tête between Mr. Martin and
Governor-General Adrienne Clarkson. Not bad for a Grade 4
On Friday, Flat Mark will be at Rideau Hall again, this
time to watch his new buddy sworn in as the 21st prime
minister. That's where Flat Mark's brush with political power ends.After that he will be stuck in a manila envelope and
mailed back to his home -- Room 205 at Fenside Public School
Included in the envelope, however, will be a very
detailed account -- with pictures -- of Flat Mark's
political adventures over the past month. It was put
together by Mr. Martin's executive assistant, Jim Pimblett,
who has grown close to the special doll.
Flat Mark is a civics and literacy project -- the
creation of Karlo Cabrera's Grade 4 pupils at Fenside. The nine-year-old pupils cut out, pasted and coloured the
doll, and named him Flat Mark.Then they wrote to Mr. Martin, asking him to allow Flat
Mark to visit, and to show him what is involved in being
prime minister.We are
sending Flat Mark to the next prime minister of Canada,"
some of Mr. Cabrera's students wrote in their letter to Mr.
Martin. "He will visit you and see the different things you
They told him that in addition to the 27 pupils in their
classroom, there is "one fish and one really big snake
puppet that we call Sammy the Snake."In their letter they advised Mr. Martin to put a bandage
on Flat Mark if he falls or gets ripped -- "because he is a
piece of paper.""If Flat Mark gets hungry, there is a sandwich with him
along with a can of soda. Maybe, when it's time to go to
sleep, you may want to make him comfortable by putting him
on a bad [sic]. Please take care of him and please send him
back in the envelope."
The project captured the imagination of Mr. Martin and
his staff, who have taken Flat Mark through the transition
process.Flat Mark even went to the Liberal fundraising dinner in
Toronto last night.
For Mr. Cabrera, 26, who is a political junkie and had
followed the Liberal leadership, this is a dream come true
-- so much more than he expected when he embarked on the
project to teach his students about letter writing and about
"That is fabulous," said Mr. Cabrera, when he heard the
Martin team had adopted Flat Mark. "This is neat!"
He had hoped that Mr. Martin would pose with Flat Mark,
and perhaps write a note to the pupils.He wanted this to lead to a discussion about the duties
of the prime minister and who he is.And for Mr. Martin and his staff, the Flat Mark project
has provided some levity amid the gruelling pace of the
transition."For Flat Mark this isn't just a civics lesson," said
Martin spokesman Scott Reid. "He has become very good
friends with all the people around the incoming prime
"He's become an intern. . . . He's up early and he's
working late and he actually is more talented than a lot of
the three-dimensional people that we work with."
Flat Mark was inspired by Flat Stanley, the protagonist
of the children's book of the same name by U.S. author Jeff
Flat Stanley is a plucky boy who was flattened when a
bulletin board fell on him while he was sleeping.
As a flat boy he can do things that other boys cannot,
such as slide under doors or fly like a kite. To save on the
expense of travel, Flat Stanley was put in an envelope and
mailed to California.
But the Flat Stanley story became much more as teachers
and school children mimicked the story by sending Flat
Stanleys around the world as part of teaching exercises.U.S. President George W. Bush has posed with a Flat
Stanley, who had spent a day at the White House after
receiving security clearance.
Secretary of State Colin Powell has been photographed
with one; Flat Stanley has even been on an episode of the
West Wing.And on Friday, Mr. Cabrera's Grade 4 class will be
watching on television as the new prime minister is sworn in
at Rideau Hall, perhaps even catching a glimpse of Flat