|Term of Office:||November 3, 1993 - present|
|Date of Birth:||January 11, 1934|
|Place of Birth:||Shawinigan, Quebec|
In general, Chrétien supports Pierre Elliott Trudeau's ideals of bilingualism, multiculturalism and the welfare state, although in recent years his government has cut transfer payments to the provinces for health care, education, and social programs and given massive tax cuts to the higher tax brackets and corporations. In the late 90s he and then-Finance Minister Paul Martin Jr balanced the Canadian budget for the first time in decades. Chrétien has been attacked in the media for failing to live up to certain election promises, such as eliminating the Goods and Services Tax (GST) and scaling back Canada's participation in NAFTA. He has also come under fire for delaying on a military helicopter purchase. In 2002, Chrétien promoted a plan to help Africa financially. Some point to the "No" result of the 1995 separation vote in Quebec as a political victory for Chrétien, while others interpret the extremely slim margin as a near-disaster for which Chrétien, as de facto leader of the "No" campaign, is responsible. It is not completely clear for what he will be most remembered.
One of the most pressing issues that face Chrétien as he prepares to leave office (in February 2004) is Canada's relationship with the United States. Decisions on health care, same-sex marriage, municipal issues, and drug laws will also be important to his successor.
Born in Shawinigan, Quebec, Jean Chrétien studied law at Laval University. When he was 12, Jean Chrétien had a severe case of frostbite after walking to church for his sister's wedding in extremely cold weather. The frostbite damaged nerves, causing permanent paralysis in the left side of his face. This condition is known as Bell's palsy. His opponents sometimes use the condition as an indication of his overall political persona, describing him as literally and figuratively "talking out of the side of his mouth." Kim Campbell referred to him in this way during the 1993 election.
He was first elected to the Canadian House of Commons in 1963 and, after re-election in 1965, served as parliamentary secretary - first to Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson (1965) and then to Minister of Finance Mitchell Sharp (1966). Pearson later appointed him junior finance minister. He was appointed Minister of National Revenue in 1968 and after the election in June of that year was sworn in as Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development. In 1974, he was appointed President of the Treasury Board; beginning in 1976, he served as Minister of Industry, Trade and Commerce. In 1977, he was named Minister of Finance; in 1980, he was appointed Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada and also served as Minister of State for Social Development and Minister Responsible for constitutional negotiations, playing a significant role in the repatriation of the Canadian constitution. In 1982, Chrétien was appointed Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources.
After Trudeau announced his retirement in early 1984, Chrétien sought the leadership of the Liberal Party of Canada, losing on the second ballot to John Turner at the leadership convention that June. Turner appointed him Deputy Prime Minister and Secretary of State for External Affairs. Relations between the two were reportedly strained, and in 1986 Chrétien resigned his seat and left public life—temporarily, as it turned out. After Turner's resignation as leader in 1989, Chrétien returned: he was elected Liberal Party leader at the June 1990 leadership convention in Calgary, defeating Paul Martin on the first ballot. A by-election in the New Brunswick constituency of Beauséjour in December 1990 returned him to the House of Commons.
In the 1993 federal election in October of that year, Jean Chrétien became Prime Minister of Canada by leading his party to a majority victory. He was reelected in 1997 and 2000. During Chrétien's term as Prime Minister, no party has emerged as a viable challenger to the supremacy of his Liberal party.
In August 2002, to quell internecine strife in the party primarily between his supporters and those of ex-Finance Minister Paul Martin, Prime Minister Chrétien announced that he would not run for an additional term and would resign in February 2004. The Liberal Party announced its intention to hold a leadership convention to choose Chrétien's successor in November 2003.
Chretien's final session in the House of Commons took place November 6, 2003, with many tributes, standing ovations, and even some hearty laughs at humourous stories told by the Prime Minister. One session of the House is set to take place on the seventh of the month, and Chretien is expected not to attend.
|Prime Minister of Canada|