Jean Chrétien

Jean Chrétien
The Right Honourable
Jean Chrétien
20th Prime Minister of Canada
In office
November 4, 1993 – December 12, 2003
Monarch Elizabeth II
Deputy Sheila Copps (1993-1996, 1996-1997)
Herb Gray (1997-2002)
John Manley (2002-2003)
Preceded by Kim Campbell
Succeeded by Paul Martin
Leader of the Opposition
In office
December 21, 1990 – November 4, 1993
Prime Minister Brian Mulroney
Kim Campbell
Preceded by Herb Gray (acting)
Succeeded by Lucien Bouchard
2nd Deputy Prime Minister of Canada
18th Secretary for External Affairs
In office
June 30, 1984 – September 17, 1984
Prime Minister John Turner
Preceded by Allan MacEachen
Succeeded by Erik Nielsen (Deputy PM)
Joe Clark (External Affairs)
7th Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources
In office
September 10, 1982 – June 30, 1984
Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau
Preceded by Marc Lalonde
Succeeded by Gerald Regan
36th Minister of Justice
In office
March 3, 1980 – September 9, 1982
Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau
Preceded by Jacques Flynn
Succeeded by Mark MacGuigan
27th Minister of Finance
In office
September 16, 1977 – June 4, 1979
Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau
Preceded by Donald Stovel Macdonald
Succeeded by John Crosbie
4th Minister of Industry, Trade and Commerce
In office
September 14, 1976 – September 15, 1977
Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau
Preceded by Don Jamieson
Succeeded by Jack Horner
3rd President of the Treasury Board
In office
August 8, 1974 – September 13, 1976
Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau
Preceded by Charles Drury
Succeeded by Bob Andras
2nd Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development
In office
July 5, 1968 – August 7, 1974
Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau
Preceded by Arthur Laing
Succeeded by Judd Buchanan
13th Minister of National Revenue
In office
January 18, 1968 – July 5, 1968
Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson
Pierre Trudeau
Preceded by Edgar Benson
Succeeded by Jean-Pierre Côté
Minister without portfolio
In office
Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson
Member of Parliament
for Saint-Maurice
In office
1993 – December 12, 2003
Preceded by Denis Pronovost
Succeeded by Marcel Gagnon
Member of Parliament
for Beauséjour
In office
December 10, 1990 – 1993
Preceded by Fernand Robichaud
Succeeded by Fernand Robichaud
Member of Parliament for
Saint-Maurice—Laflèche (1963-1968)
Saint-Maurice (1968-1986)
In office
1963 – February 27, 1986
Preceded by Gérard Lamy
Succeeded by Gilles Grondin
Personal details
Born January 11, 1934 (1934-01-11) (age 77)
Shawinigan, Quebec
Political party Liberal
Spouse(s) Aline Chrétien
Relations Michel Chrétien (brother)
Children Hubert Chrétien, Michel Chrétien, and France Chrétien Desmarais
Residence Shawinigan, Quebec
Alma mater Université Laval
Occupation Lawyer
Religion Roman Catholic

Joseph Jacques Jean Chrétien PC OM CC QC (born January 11, 1934), known commonly as Jean Chrétien (French pronunciation: [ʒɑ̃ kʁetjɛ̃]) is a former Canadian politician who was the 20th Prime Minister of Canada. He served in the position for over ten years, from November 4, 1993 to December 12, 2003.

Born and raised in Shawinigan, Quebec, Chrétien is a law graduate from Université Laval. He was first elected to the Canadian House of Commons in 1963. He served in various cabinet posts under prime minister Pierre Trudeau, most prominently as Minister of Justice, Minister of Finance, and Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development. He also served as deputy prime minister in John Turner's short-lived government. He became leader of the Liberal Party of Canada in 1990, and led the party to a majority government in the 1993 federal election. He was re-elected with further majorities in 1997 and 2000.

Chrétien was strongly opposed to the Quebec sovereignty movement and supported official bilingualism and multiculturalism. He won a narrow victory as leader of the federalist camp in the 1995 Quebec Referendum, and then pioneered the Clarity Act to avoid ambiguity in future referendum questions. He also advanced the Youth Criminal Justice Act in Parliament. Although his popularity and that of the Liberal Party were seemingly unchallenged for three consecutive federal elections, he became subject to various political controversies in the later years of his premiership. He was accused of inappropriate behaviour in the Sponsorship Scandal, although he has consistently denied any wrongdoing. He also became embroiled in a protracted inner-party struggle against long-time political rival Paul Martin. He resigned as prime minister in December 2003, and left public life.


Early life

Chrétien was born on January 11, 1934, in Shawinigan, Quebec, as the 18th of 19 children (10 of whom did not survive infancy)[1] to Wellie Chrétien and Marie (née Boisvert). As a young boy his father made him read the dictionary. Chrétien attended Séminaire Saint-Joseph de Trois-Rivières and studied law at Université Laval. He later made light of his humble origins, calling himself "le petit gars de Shawinigan",[2] or the "little guy from Shawinigan". In his youth, he suffered an attack of Bell's palsy, permanently leaving the left side of his face partially paralyzed.[3] Chrétien used this in his first Liberal leadership campaign, saying that he was "One politician who didn't talk out of both sides of his mouth." On September 10, 1957, he married Aline Chainé. They have two sons (Hubert Chrétien and Michel) and one daughter (France).

Early political career

Chrétien practised law at the Shawinigan firm of Alexandre Gélinas and Joe Lafond[4] until he was first elected to the Canadian House of Commons as a Liberal from the riding of Saint-Maurice–Laflèche in the 1963 election. He represented this Shawinigan-based riding, renamed Saint-Maurice in 1968, for all but eight of the next 41 years.

After re-election in the 1965 election, he served as parliamentary secretary (junior minister) to Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson (1965) and then to Minister of Finance, Mitchell Sharp (1966). He was selected for appointment as Minister of National Revenue in 1968 by Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau.

Chretien, second from right as minister in Pearson's Cabinet. From left to right, Pierre Trudeau, John Turner, Chrétien, and Lester B. Pearson.

After the June 1968 election, he was appointed Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development. His most notable achievement in this role was the 1969 White Paper, a proposal to abolish the Indian Act. The paper was widely opposed by First Nations groups, and later abandoned.

During the October Crisis, Chrétien told Trudeau to "act now, explain later", when Trudeau was hesitant to invoke the War Measures Act. 85% of Canadians agreed with the move. In 1974, he was appointed President of the Treasury Board; and beginning in 1976, he served as Minister of Industry, Trade and Commerce. In 1977, following the resignation of Finance Minister John Turner, Chrétien succeeded him. He was the first francophone Minister of Finance, and remains one of only three francophones to hold that post.

Early in his career, Chrétien was described by Dalton Camp as looking like the driver of the getaway car, a condescending assessment which stuck with him, and which was often cited by journalists and others throughout his career, and usually considering his eventual success.

Minister of Justice

Chrétien in 1980

The Liberals lost the federal election, of May, 1979 to a minority Conservative government led by Joe Clark. When they regained power in February, 1980, Chrétien was appointed Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada. In this role, he was a major force in the 1980 Quebec referendum, being one of the main federal representatives "on the ground" during the campaign. His fiery and emotional speeches would enthrall federalist crowds with his blunt warnings of the consequences of separation. He also served as Minister of State for Social Development and Minister Responsible for Constitutional Negotiations, playing a significant role in the patriation of the Constitution of Canada in 1982. He was the chief negotiator of what would be called the "Kitchen Accord", an agreement which led to the agreement of nine provinces to patriation. His role in the dealings, however, would forever follow him in his native Quebec, who did not ratify the Constitution (although the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that Quebec was bound by it). In 1982, Chrétien was appointed Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources.

Deputy Prime Minister

After Trudeau announced his retirement in early 1984 as Liberal Party leader and Prime Minister, Chrétien sought the leadership of the Liberal Party of Canada. The experience was a hard one for Chrétien, as many of his longtime Cabinet allies supported the bid of John Turner. He was thought to be a dark horse until the end, but lost on the second ballot to Turner at the leadership convention that June. Iona Campagnolo would ominously introduce Chrétien as, "Second on the ballot, but first in our hearts." Turner personally appointed him Deputy Prime Minister, and selected him for appointment by the Governor General as Secretary of State for External Affairs (foreign minister). Relations between the two were strained, especially after the Liberals were severely defeated in the 1984 election. He was one of only 17 Liberal MPs elected from Quebec (the party had won 74 out of 75 seats in 1980). He was also one of only four MPs from the province elected from a riding outside Montreal.

Initial retirement from politics

In 1986, Chrétien resigned his seat and left public life for a time. Now working in the private sector again, Chrétien sat on the boards of several corporations, including the Power Corporation of Canada subsidiary Consolidated Bathurst, the Toronto-Dominion Bank, and the Brick Warehouse Corporation.

Chrétien was a major focal point of dissatisfaction with Turner, with many polls showing his popularity. His 1985 book, Straight from the Heart, recounted his early life in Shawinigan, his years spent in the Canadian House of Commons as both a Member of Parliament and Cabinet Minister, and his failed 1984 leadership bid. It was an instant best-seller.

Leader of the Official Opposition

After Turner's resignation as leader in 1990, Chrétien announced he would run for the party leadership at the June 1990 Liberal leadership convention in Calgary, Alberta.

Chrétien's principal opponent, Paul Martin, was generally seen as the ideological heir to John Turner, while Chrétien was the ideological heir to Trudeau. A key moment in that race took place at an all-candidates debate in Montreal, where the discussion quickly turned to the Meech Lake Accord. Martin attempted to force Chrétien to abandon his nuanced position on the deal and declare for or against it. When Chrétien refused to endorse the deal, young Liberal delegates crowding the hall began to chant "vendu" ("sellout" in French) and "Judas" at Chrétien. Martin continues to state he had nothing to do with the response from the floor, or a similar outburst by his supporters at the convention, in which Chrétien defeated Martin on the first and only ballot. However, his reputation in his home province never recovered.

Despite his victory at the convention, Chrétien was criticized in the Quebec media for his opposition to Meech Lake. His leadership was also shaken by the defection from the caucus of francophone MPs (and Paul Martin loyalists) Jean Lapierre and Gilles Rocheleau. Chrétien seemed indecisive in the Oka standoff. The federal Liberals were disorganized and dropped in the polls from 50 to 32 per cent. In order to reinvigorate his leadership and reorganize his office which was in chaos, he hired an old friend and classmate, Jean Pelletier, as his chief of staff.[5]

In December 1990, Chrétien returned to the House of Commons after winning a by-election in the safe Liberal riding of Beauséjour, New Brunswick. The incumbent, Fernand Robichaud, stood down in Chrétien's favour, which is traditional practice when a newly elected party leader doesn't have a seat in Parliament.

Chrétien later revealed himself to be as staunchly federalist as Trudeau. However, he supported the Charlottetown Accord while his mentor Trudeau opposed it. At the urging of Pelletier, Chrétien met secretly with Trudeau at the Royal York Hotel in Toronto where the two men argued about the meaning of “distinct society” for more than two hours. While the two did not resolve their differences, Trudeau promised to refrain from undermining Chrétien's authority in public. Trudeau denounced the Accord at the Maison Egg Roll in Montreal.[5]

When Progressive Conservative Prime Minister Brian Mulroney began to lose ground in the polls, Chrétien was the major beneficiary. In particular, Chrétien reaped a major windfall after Mulroney introduced an unpopular Goods and Services Tax (GST).

Prime minister

The 1993 election

Mulroney's approval ratings declined and by 1993 opinion polls showed that his Progressive Conservative Party would almost certainly be defeated by the Liberals under Chrétien in the election due that year. Mulroney announced his retirement in February, and was succeeded by Minister of National Defence Kim Campbell in June. Campbell managed to pull the PCs to within a few percentage points of the Liberals by the time the writs were dropped in September.

Campbell, however, had little luck overcoming the tremendous antipathy toward Mulroney, despite a substantial bounce from the leadership convention. Chrétien saw an opportunity, and on September 19, he dropped a bombshell by releasing the entire Liberal platform. The 112-page document, Creating Opportunity, quickly became known as the Red Book because of its bright red cover. It was a very specific and detailed statement of exactly what a Chrétien government would do in office.

The Liberals did not promise to remove the GST altogether as a revenue producing agent. Instead, the Red Book pledged to replace the GST "with a system that generates equivalent revenues, is fairer to consumers and to small business, minimizes disruption to small business, and promotes federal-provincial fiscal cooperation and harmonization."

Chrétien promised to renegotiate of the North American Free Trade Agreement, and reform to the unemployment insurance system. Above all, he promised to return Canada to fiscal solvency. As proof, the Red Book gave costs for each of the Liberals' policy goals – the first time a Canadian party had gone to such lengths to prove that its proposals were fiscally responsible. In their first mandate in the 1993 election, they attempted to merge the GST with provincial retail sales taxes, but most provinces refused to accept this change after the election. The Progressive Conservatives put forward the idea that Chrétien had actually promised to "scrap the GST" leading to wide public misperception.

The Red Book gave the Liberals the reputation as the party with ideas, since none of the other parties had anything comparable. The Liberals quickly surged to a double-digit lead in most opinion polls. By October, it was obvious that the Liberals would win at least a minority government. Even at this stage, however, Chrétien's personal approval ratings were far behind those of Campbell. Realizing this, the Tory campaign team released a series of ads attacking Chrétien. The ads were viewed as a last-ditch effort to keep the Liberals from winning a majority. The second ad, released on October 14, appeared to mock Chrétien's facial paralysis, and generated a severe backlash from all sides. Even some Tory candidates called for the ad to be yanked. Campbell was not directly responsible for the ad, and ordered it off the air over her staff's objections. However, she didn't apologize and lost a chance to contain the fallout from the ad.

Chrétien, taking advantage of the furor, likened the Tories to the children who teased him when he was a boy in Shawinigan. "When I was a kid people were laughing at me," he said at an appearance in Nova Scotia. "But I accepted that because God gave me other qualities and I'm grateful." The speech, which one Tory described as one Chrétien had waited his whole life to deliver, moved many in the audience to tears. Chrétien's approval ratings shot up, nullifying the only advantage the Tories still had over him.

On October 25, the Liberals were elected to a strong majority government, winning 177 seats – the third-best performance in the Liberals' history, and their most impressive win since their record of 190 seats in 1949. The Tories were nearly wiped out, winning only two seats in the worst defeat ever suffered by a governing party at the federal level. Chrétien himself yielded Beauséjour back to Robichaud in order to run in his old riding, Saint-Maurice. However, he was unable to lead the Liberals back to their traditional dominance in Quebec. He was one of only four Liberal MPs elected from that province outside the Montreal area. With few exceptions, most of the support that had switched from the Liberals to the Tories nine years earlier flowed to the Bloc.

First parliament as prime minister

On November 4, 1993, Chrétien was appointed by Governor General Ray Hnatyshyn as prime minister. While Trudeau, Joe Clark and Mulroney had been relative political outsiders prior to becoming prime minister, Chrétien had served in every Liberal cabinet since 1965. This experience gave him knowledge of the Canadian parliamentary system, and allowed Chrétien to establish a very centralized government that, although highly efficient, was also lambasted by critics and the media as being a "friendly dictatorship" and intolerant of internal dissent.

Chrétien turned most of his attention to reducing the large national debt he had inherited from the Trudeau and Mulroney eras. He was assisted by Martin. The government began a program of deep cuts to provincial transfers and other areas of government finance. During his tenure as prime minister a $42 billion deficit was eliminated, five consecutive budget surpluses were recorded (thanks in part to favorable economic times), $36 billion in debt was paid down, and taxes were cut by $100 billion (cumulatively) over five years.[6][7] There were, however, undeniable costs associated with this endeavour. The cuts resulted in fewer government services, most noticeably in the health care sector, as major reductions in federal funding to the provinces meant significant cuts in service delivery. Moreover, the across-the-board cuts affected the operations and achievement of the mandate of most federal departments. Many of the cuts were restored in later years of Chrétien's period in office.[citation needed]

One of Chrétien's main focuses in office was preventing the separation of the province of Quebec, which was ruled by the sovereigntist Parti Québécois for nearly the Prime Minister's entire term. After the 1995 referendum very narrowly defeated a proposal on Quebec sovereignty, the government passed what became known as the Clarity Act, which said that no Canadian Government would acknowledge any province's declaration of independence unless a "clear majority" supported a "clear question" about sovereignty in a referendum, as defined by the Parliament of Canada, and a constitutional amendment was passed. The size of a "clear majority" was left unspecified.

On November 5, 1995, Chrétien and his wife escaped injury when André Dallaire, armed with a knife, broke in the Prime Minister's official residence at 24 Sussex Drive. Aline Chrétien shut and locked the bedroom door until security came. It is said Jean was ready to defend himself with a sharp-edged Inuit carving.

Second parliament as prime minister

Chrétien called an early election in the spring of 1997, hoping to take advantage of his position in the public opinion polls and the continued division of the conservative vote between the PC Party and the upstart Reform Party of Canada. However, the election call came during a major flooding emergency in Manitoba, which led to charges of insensitivity. The Progressive Conservatives had a popular new leader in Jean Charest and the New Democrats' Alexa McDonough led her party to a breakthrough in Atlantic Canada, where the Liberals had won all but one seat in 1993. In 1997, the Liberals lost all but a handful of seats in Atlantic Canada and Western Canada, but managed to retain a bare majority government due to their continued dominance of Ontario.

In 1999, Chrétien supported Canada's involvement in NATO's bombing campaign of Yugoslavia over the issue of Kosovo. The 1999 NATO bombing of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia was NATO's and Canada's first deliberate non-defensive aggression against another sovereign state.

The government under Chrétien's prime ministership also introduced a new and far-reaching Youth Criminal Justice Act, which replaced the old Young Offenders Act, and changed the way youths were prosecuted for crimes in Canada.

Chrétien was known to be friendly in foreign policy towards the People's Republic of China. He led four "Team Canada" trade missions to China, and sharply increased the amount of trade between the two countries during his tenure as Prime Minister. Under his leadership, China and Canada signed several bilateral relations agreements.

Third parliament as prime minister

Chrétien called another early election in the fall of 2000, again hoping to take advantage of the split in the Canadian right and catch the newly-formed Canadian Alliance and its neophyte leader Stockwell Day off guard. Finance Minister Paul Martin released a 'mini-budget' just before the election call that included significant tax cuts, a move aimed at undermining the Alliance position going into the campaign. Day turned in a generally weak performance during the campaign that did little to allay media concerns about his socially-conservative views. The New Democrats and Bloc Québécois also ran lacklustre campaigns, while the Progressive Conservatives, led by former Prime Minister Joe Clark, struggled to retain official party status. The Liberals secured a strong majority mandate, winning nearly as many seats as they had in 1993, largely thanks to significant gains in Quebec.

Following the September 11 attacks, Canadian forces joined with multinational forces that invaded Afghanistan to pursue al-Qaeda forces. He had also commended how Canada responded to the crisis. Among them included Operation Yellow Ribbon and the memorial service on Parliament Hill three days after 9/11.

President George W. Bush and Jean Chrétien address the media before a 2002 bilateral meeting.

Chrétien's government did not support the US-led 2003 invasion of Iraq. His reasoning was that the war lacked UN Security Council sanction; while not a member of the Security Council, Canada nevertheless attempted to build a consensus for a resolution authorizing the use of force after a short (two to three month) extension to UN weapon inspections in Iraq. (Critics also noted that, while in opposition, he had also opposed the first US-led Gulf War.) Although criticism from right-wing opposition was vocal, the move proved popular with the Canadian public in general.[citation needed] In December 2003, it emerged that the government had prepared plans for Canada to send as many as 800 Canadian troops to Iraq if the UN Security Council had authorized it; however, a UN request for an increased deployment of Canadian soldiers to Afghanistan removed this option from the table. This led some of Chrétien's anti-war critics on the left to accuse the Prime Minister of never really being fully opposed to the war. Nonetheless, Canada was the first non-member of the US-led coalition to provide significant financial aid to the post-war reconstruction effort, relative to Canada's size. This move allowed Canadian companies to bid on reconstruction contracts.

Appointments to the Senate

Chrétien advised 75 appointments to the Senate.[8]

[table not yet complete]

Senator Region Date appointed
Doris Margaret Anderson (Prince Edward Island) 1995-09-21
George Baker (Newfoundland and Labrador) 2002-03-26
Tommy Banks (Alberta) 2000-04-07
Michel Biron (Quebec) 2001-10-04
James Bernard (Bernie) Boudreau (Nova Scotia) 1999-10-04
John G. Bryden (New Brunswick) 1994-11-23
Catherine S. Callbeck (Prince Edward Island) 1997-09-22
Sharon Carstairs (Manitoba) 1994-09-15
Maria Chaput (Manitoba) 2002-12-12
Jane Cordy (Nova Scotia) 2000-06-09
Joseph A. Day (Saint John-Kennebecasis) 2001-10-04
Percy Downe (Charlottetown, PEI) 2003-06-26
Joan Fraser (De Lorimier - Québec) 1998-09-17
George Furey (Newfoundland and Labrador) 1999-08-11
Mac Harb (Ontario) 2003-09-09
Céline Hervieux-Payette Québec (Bedford) 1995-03-21
Elizabeth Hubley (Prince Edward Island) 2001-03-08
Mobina S. B. Jaffer (British Columbia) 2001-06-13
Serge Joyal (Kennebec, Québec) 1997-11-26
Raymond Lavigne (Montarville, Québec) 2002-03-26
Rose-Marie Losier-Cool (Tracadie, N.B.) 1995-03-21
Frank W. Mahovlich (Toronto, Ontario) 1998-06-11
Paul J. Massicotte (De Lanaudière - Québec) 2003-06-26
Terry M. Mercer (Northend Halifax, Nova Scotia) 2003-11-07
Pana Merchant (Saskatchewan) 2002-12-12
Wilfred P. Moore (Stanhope St. / South Shore, Nova Scotia) 1996-09-26
Jim Munson (Ottawa / Rideau Canal, Ontario) 2003-12-10
Lucie Pépin (Shawinegan, Québec) 1997-04-08
Marie-P. Poulin (Charette) (Northern Ontario) 1995-09-21
Vivienne Poy (Toronto, Ontario) 1998-09-17
Pierrette Ringuette (New Brunswick) 2002-12-12
Fernand Robichaud (New Brunswick) 1997-09-22
Bill Rompkey (Newfoundland and Labrador) 1995-09-21
Nick G. Sibbeston (Northwest Territories) 1999-09-02
David P. Smith (Cobourg, Ontario) 2002-06-25


From first holding political office in 1963 to becoming Prime Minister in 1993, Chrétien had never been under scrutiny or suspicion of wrongdoing. Chrétien's ten-year term as Prime Minister was marked by several major scandals.

Sea King helicopters

During the 1993 election campaign, Chrétien criticized the Conservative government for planning to spend $5.8 billion to replace the Canadian Forces' aging fleet of Labrador and Sea King helicopters. The aircraft were used for maritime surveillance, search and rescue and anti-submarine warfare operations. The helicopters were 20 to 30 years old, typically required 30 hours of maintenance for every hour in the air, were frequently grounded for repairs and required many expensive custom-made parts for their obsolete machinery. The government's announced choice of the EH-101 was derided by Chrétien as an overly-expensive "Cadillac" aircraft. Immediately upon taking office, he cancelled the contract and paid a $500 million termination fee to AgustaWestland. In 1998 however, his government announced that the CH-113s would be replaced by a scaled down search-and-rescue variant of the EH101, carrying the designation CH-149 Cormorant. Unlike the Petrel/Chimo contract, these 15 aircraft were to be built entirely in Europe with no Canadian participation or industrial incentives. The first two aircraft arrived in Canada in September 2001 and entered service the following year. His Maritime Helicopter Project was supposed to find a low-cost replacement aircraft. The candidates were the Sikorsky S-92, the NHIndustries NH90 and the EH-101, although critics accused the government of designing the Project so as to prevent AgustaWestland from winning the contract. A winner, the Sikorsky CH-148 Cyclone, would not be announced until after Chrétien retired.[9][10][11][12]

Grand-Mère Inn

In 2000, after initial denials, he acknowledged having lobbied the Business Development Bank of Canada, owned by the Government of Canada, to grant a $2 million loan to Yvon Duhaime. Duhaime was a friend and constituent to whom the Prime Minister stated that he had sold his interest in the Grand-Mère Inn, a local Shawinigan-area hotel and golf resort, eventually providing evidence of the sale - a contract written on a cocktail napkin. The Business Development Bank had turned down the initial loan application, but later approved a $615,000 loan following further lobbying by Chrétien. It was revealed that Chrétien had never been paid for his share in the sale of the adjoining golf course, and criminal charges were laid against Duhaime. The Prime Minister's ethics counselor, who was appointed by and reported to the Prime Minister,[13] determined that Prime Minister Chrétien had not violated any conflict-of-interest rules, noting that there were no clear rules. There was no comment on ethics by the ethics counsellor.

Sponsorship Scandal

The other major controversy of the Chrétien years was the Sponsorship Scandal, which involved more than $100 million distributed from the Prime Minister's Office to Quebec's federalist and Liberal Party interests without much accountability.[14] The lingering repercussions of the scandal reduced the Liberal Party to a minority in the 2004 federal election, and may have strengthened the separatist case, and contributed to the government's defeat in the 2006 election. The scandal led to long-running, deep investigations by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, a federal inquiry, the Gomery Commission, chaired by Justice John Gomery (called by Prime Minister Paul Martin in 2005), and several prosecutions and convictions; the legal process was still ongoing in late 2009, more than a decade after the scandal began.

Goods and Services Tax

Chrétien came under fire for failing to accomplish some of the Liberal goals outlined in the Red Book, most notably the retooling of the Goods and Services Tax (GST). It was eventually replaced with the Harmonized Sales Tax in three Atlantic provinces. Chrétien claimed that the fiscal situation was far worse than expected. Despite slipping poll numbers, he advised the Governor General to call an election in 1997, a year ahead of schedule. Many of his own MPs criticized him for this move, especially in light of the devastating Red River Flood. He was reelected with a considerably reduced mandate. However, they still finished with 95 more seats than the next-largest party. The Liberals rebounded in the 2000 election, nearly tying their 1993 total.

Confrontation with protester

In 1996, Chrétien was confronted by a protester, Bill Clennett, during a walkabout in Hull, Quebec. The prime minister responded with a choke-hold. The press referred to it as the "Shawinigan Handshake" (from the name of his home town).[15]

APEC confrontation

Chrétien was involved in a controversy again in November 1997, when the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit was held on the University of British Columbia campus in Vancouver. The APEC summit was a summit of many Asian and Pacific countries, and students on UBC's campus protested the meeting of some of these leaders because of their poor human rights practices. One of the leaders most criticized was then Indonesian President Suharto. Demonstrators tore down a barrier and were pepper-sprayed by the RCMP. Other peaceful demonstrators were subsequently pepper-sprayed as well. There was debate over whether the action was necessary. Chrétien responded to the media's questions about the incident at a press conference. He was asked about the pepper spraying by a Vancouver-based comedic reporter known as "Nardwuar the Human Serviette", a frequent contributor to Canada's MuchMusic network, known for his high pitched voice and odd attire, who told Chrétien that there was a song released by a punk rock band called "The Nomads" (a fictitious band Nardwuar had made up) called "The Suharto Stomp".[16][unreliable source?] Nardwuar then asked Chrétien "Do you think, if you were say 40-years younger, that you too would be writing punk songs about Suharto and protesting against APEC?" Chrétien replied that he himself had protested as a student, and that in a democracy, protests were to be expected. Nardwuar followed up by telling the Prime Minister that "Some of the protesters were maced." Chrétien asked "what do you mean by that?" Nardwuar then clarified "Mace? Pepper spray?" Chrétien then stated abrubtly "I don't know, these techniques did not exist in those days", which received big laughs from everyone in the room. Nardwuar simply smiled at Chrétien's joke, and the Prime Minister concluded his answer by adding "For me, pepper, I put it on my plate", with a smile while pantomiming shaking pepper onto a plate. This line also received laughter. However, allegations soon arose that someone in the Prime Minister's Office or Chrétien himself gave the go-ahead for the pepper spraying of protestors. Chrétien denied any involvement, and it has never been proven.[17]


Stéphane Dion makes a speech on October 10, 2008, in Brampton West. Former Prime Minister Jean Chrétien was among notable Liberals at this rally; this was his first time campaigning for anyone, since retirement.

Relationships between Chrétien and Martin were frequently strained, and Martin was reportedly angling to replace Chrétien as early as 1997. In the summer of 2002, Chrétien tried to curtail Martin's by-now open campaign for the leadership of the party. Some said that Chrétien dismissed Martin from Cabinet, while others say that Martin resigned. In any case, the departure generated a severe backlash from Martin's supporters, who largely controlled the party machinery, and all signs indicated that they were prepared to oust Chrétien at a leadership review in January 2003. After less than half the caucus committed to support him, Chrétien announced that he would not lead the party into the next election, and set his resignation date for February 2004.

Chrétien maintained a high approval rating near the end of his term thanks to several developments. The cooperation of federal, provincial, and municipal governments enabled Vancouver to win the right to host the 2010 Winter Olympics. The election victory of the federalist Jean Charest in Quebec was largely seen by the rest of the provinces as a vote of confidence in Chrétien's unity efforts.[citation needed] His decision not to participate in the Iraq war was popular with a large majority of Canadians but was also criticized as potentially hurting Canadian business interests with the US.

Chrétien's final sitting in the House of Commons took place November 6, 2003. He made an emotional farewell to the party on November 13 at the 2003 Liberal leadership convention. The following day his rival Martin was elected his successor. U2 lead singer Bono attended the convention and made a speech, joking "I'm the only thing these two can agree upon."

On December 12, 2003, Chrétien formally resigned as prime minister, handing power over to Paul Martin. According to Canadian protocol, as a former prime minister, he is styled "The Right Honourable" for life. Mr. Chrétien joined the law firm of Heenan Blaikie on January 5, 2004, as counsel. The firm announced he would work out of its Ottawa offices four days per week and make a weekly visit to the Montreal office.

Jean Chrétien testified for the Gomery commission regarding the sponsorship scandal in 2005. Earlier that year his lawyers tried, but failed, to have Justice John Gomery removed from the commission, arguing that he lacked objectivity.[18] Chrétien contends that the Gomery commission was set up to make him look bad, and that it was not a fair investigation. He cites comments Gomery made calling him "small town cheap", referring to the management of the sponsorship program as "catastrophically bad", and calling Chuck Guité, a "charming scamp". Subsequent to the release of the first report, Chrétien has decided to take an action in Federal Court to review the commission report on the grounds that Gomery showed a "reasonable apprehension of bias", and that some conclusions didn't have an "evidentiary" basis.[19] Chrétien believes that the appointment of Bernard Roy, a former chief of staff to former Progressive Conservative prime minister Brian Mulroney, as chief counsel for the commission was a mistake, as he failed to call some relevant witnesses such as Don Boudria and Ralph Goodale.

In November 2008, Chrétien and former NDP leader Ed Broadbent came out of retirement to negotiate a formal coalition agreement between the Liberals, the New Democratic Party and the Bloc Québécois, the first power-sharing coalition since World War I, in a bid to form a new government to replace the government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Harper's request to prorogue parliament was granted by Governor General Michaëlle Jean, staving off the opposition's scheduled motion of non-confidence.[20]

Supreme Court appointments

Chrétien chose the following jurists to be appointed as justices of the Supreme Court of Canada by the governor general:

  • Michel Bastarache (September 30, 1997 – June 30, 2008)
  • William Ian Corneil Binnie (January 8, 1998 – October 21, 2011)
  • Louise Arbour (September 15, 1999 – June 30, 2004)
  • Louis LeBel (January 7, 2000–present)
  • Beverly McLachlin (as Chief Justice, July 7, 2000 – present; appointed a Puisne Justice under Prime Minister Mulroney, March 30, 1989)
  • Marie Deschamps (August 7, 2002 – present)
  • Morris J. Fish (August 5, 2003 – present)


In general, Chrétien supported Pierre Trudeau's ideals of official bilingualism and multiculturalism, but his government oversaw the erosion of the welfare state established, and built, under William Lyon Mackenzie King, Louis St. Laurent, Lester Pearson and Pierre Trudeau. His government advocated neo-liberal policies on a number of economic fronts, cutting transfer payments to the provinces and social programs, supporting globalization and free trade and implementing large personal and corporate tax cuts. However, in 1999 his government negotiated the Social Union Framework Agreement, which promoted common standards for social programs across Canada.[21]

Chrétien was repeatedly attacked by both his opponents and supporters for failing to live up to key election promises, such as eliminating the so-called "golden handshake" by which politicians receive a substantial life-time pension after serving a mere five years in elected office. Other unkept election promises included replacing the GST and renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Some point to the "No" result of the 1995 Quebec referendum on separation 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, was responsible. However, some argue that his post-referendum efforts at addressing the separatist issue, notably through the Clarity Act, will cement his legacy as a staunchly federalist prime minister.

One of the most pressing issues in Chrétien's final years in office was Canada's relationship with the United States. Chrétien had a close relationship with President Bill Clinton, after attacking Brian Mulroney for being too friendly with both Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush, but when George W. Bush took office in the United States, relations began to cool. Very soon after his retirement, Chrétien's legacy was marred by the sponsorship scandal. Nevertheless, many of his closest and longtime political allies were fired from government jobs by his successor Paul Martin, with whom he had fought a bitter leadership battle. The scandal also put a question mark over Chrétien's preferred style of governance, which had been in question long before his retirement due to various scandals, particularly involving cabinet minister Alfonso Gagliano.

Martin, who was cleared by Justice Gomery, moved to sharply distance himself from the Chrétien legacy, although this was also due to the at times bitter political rivalry between the two men. Chrétien's supporters have accused Martin of trying to elude responsibility by blaming the scandal on the former. In an unprecedented move, many of Chrétien's most loyal ministers were not included in Martin's cabinet and many of those were also forced to contest their nominations in uphill contests against Martin's appointed candidates. As a result, most of them were forced to retire, although Sheila Copps contested and lost the Liberal nomination in her riding. The Chrétien-Martin rift has also divided the Liberals in the 2004 and 2006 elections, with some Chrétien supporters complaining of being sidelined despite their extensive campaign expertise.

During his tenure as Prime Minister, Chrétien was active on the world stage and formed close relationships with world leaders such as Jacques Chirac, John Major, and Bill Clinton. His name was rumoured as a replacement for Kofi Annan as Secretary General of the United Nations.[22]

He was appointed to the Order of Merit by Queen Elizabeth II in July 2009,[23] and received the insignia of the order from the Queen on October 20, 2009.[24]

Jean Chrétien is an Honorary Member of The International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation.[25]

Chrétien was ranked #9 greatest Prime Minister in a survey of Canadian historians in 1999 that ranked them all through his time in office. The survey appeared in Prime Ministers: Ranking Canada's Leaders by J.L. Granatstein and Norman Hillmer.

Order of Canada Citation

Chrétien was appointed a Companion of the Order of Canada on June 29, 2007.[26] His citation reads:[27]

Before becoming Canada's 20th prime minister, Jean Chrétien had an active political career, holding a dozen ministerial portfolios. As justice minister, he was instrumental in repatriating the Constitution and adopting the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. As prime minister, he led the Liberal Party during three consecutive majority governments that stressed balanced budgets, national unity and Canada's place in the world. His government's legacy includes a number of social reform and humanitarian initiatives, such as recognition of same-sex unions and the abolition of landmines.

Honorary degrees

Personal life

Jean and Aline Chrétien at the 300th anniversary of Saint Petersburg celebrations on May 30, 2003.

Chrétien married Aline Chaîné of Shawinigan on September 10, 1957. They met when they were just 13 years old. They have three children. Their eldest is daughter France Chrétien Desmarais (b. 1958), who is a lawyer, and is married to André Desmarais, the son of Paul Desmarais, Sr., and the President and Co-Chief Executive Officer of his father's founding company the Power Corporation, based in Montreal, Canada. France and André have four children.

Jean and Aline Chrétien also have two sons: Hubert (b. 1965) and Michel Chrétien (b. 1968).

Hubert is a scuba diving instructor and a pioneer in teaching scuba diving to people with disabilities.

Michel, Chrétien's youngest child, was adopted as a Gwichʼin child from an Inuvik orphanage by Jean and Aline in 1970. At the time, Jean Chrétien was the Minister of Indian Affairs. He was born with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. In addition to past heroin and cocaine addictions, Michel is an admitted alcoholic and was arrested for drinking and driving in 1988 and 1998. He received a nine-month suspended sentence after pleading guilty to assault after throwing an object at a former girlfriend's six-year-old son in 1998. In the 1990s, he was sentenced to three years in prison for sexually assaulting a 27-year-old Montreal woman. He spent the three years between trial and incarceration with his birth mother, Anne Kendi, a counsellor at a Yellowknife detox centre. She had recognised her son, then 23, from pictures in a newspaper during his trial. Michel is a talented graphic artist and has worked as a furniture designer.

Former Premier of New Brunswick and Canadian Ambassador to the United States, Frank McKenna said "In terms of the personality of Jean Chrétien, what you see is what you get, with few surprises. As a political leader, what you need to know about him is that, more than anything else, he is a pragmatist."

Chrétien would often make light of his humble, small-town origins, calling himself “le petit gars de Shawinigan”, or the “little guy from Shawinigan”.

Upon his first election in 1962, Chrétien did not speak English. While in parliament, he found two mentors who were anglophone: Mitchell Sharp and Lester B. Pearson. He didn't learn to speak English until age 30.

His nephew, Raymond Chrétien, was appointed by his uncle as the Ambassador to the United States.

Post-political personal life


In April 2007, Chrétien and Canadian book publishers Knopf Canada and Éditions du Boréal announced they would be publishing his memoirs, My Years As Prime Minister, which will recount Chrétien's years as Prime Minister. The book was announced under the title of A Passion for Politics. It arrived in bookstores in October 2007, in both English and French, but the promotional tour was delayed due to heart surgery. As well Straight From the Heart was republished with a new preface and two additional chapters detailing his return to politics as the leader of the Liberal Party and his victory in the election of 1993. Publisher Key Porter Books timed the re-issuing to coincide with the publication of My Years As Prime Minister.


On October 1, 2007, Chrétien was playing at the Royal Montreal Golf Club, north of Montreal, at a charity golf event. Playing alongside a cardiologist, he mentioned his discomfort, saying he "had been suffering some symptoms for some time" and the doctor advised he come for a check up. After examination, Chrétien was hospitalized at the Montreal Heart Institute, with unstable angina, a sign a heart attack might be imminent. He underwent quadruple heart bypass surgery as a result on the morning of October 3, 2007. The operation forced Chrétien to delay a promotional tour for his book. He was "expected to have a full and complete recovery".[28]

On August 5, 2010, Chrétien complained of experiencing difficulty walking, and was admitted to a hospital.[29][30] A brain scan was conducted the next day, and it revealed that a 3 centimeter wide subdural hematoma was pushing 1.5 centimeters into his brain. Emergency surgery was then performed that afternoon, and the blood was successfully drained.[30] He was released from hospital, on August 9, 2010. Doctors, who were impressed with the speed of his recovery, ordered him to rest for two to four weeks.[31]

See also

Portal icon Canadian politics portal
  • List of Canadian Prime Ministers


  1. ^ "The Life and Times of Jean Chrétien". Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. 2003. Retrieved 2007-01-29. 
  2. ^ Jean Chrétien (October 6, 1995). Notes by Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, Shawinigan, Quebec. Privy Council Office. Retrieved 2006-12-05. 
  3. ^ (2000-11-28.) "Jean Chrétien: Veteran fighter." BBC News website. Retrieved on 2009-05-12.
  4. ^ Martin, Chrétien, pp. 104-05
  5. ^ a b Canada (2009-01-10). "Jean Pelletier, 73". Toronto: The Globe and Mail. Retrieved 2010-04-20. 
  6. ^ "January 2001 Tax Savings". Archived from the original on 2008-01-08. Retrieved 2008-02-13. 
  7. ^ Bothwell, Robert. "Chrétien, Joseph-Jacques-Jean". The Canadian Encyclopedia. Retrieved May 18, 2011. 
  8. ^ [Senate appointments]
  9. ^ Politics, Procurement Practices, and Procrastination: the CH-124 Sea King Helicopter Replacement Saga[dead link]
  10. ^ "PM defends record on grounded Sea King choppers". 2003-10-30. Retrieved 2011-01-28. 
  11. ^ "Requiem for the Sea King". 2008-11-30. Retrieved 2011-01-28. 
  12. ^ Windsor, The (2008-01-12). "Helicopter delays blamed on Chretien". Retrieved 2011-01-28. 
  13. ^ "CBC News Indepth: Canadian Government". Retrieved 2010-04-20. 
  14. ^ CBC News Auditor General's 2004 Report, Auditor General Report.
  15. ^ "CNN World Mar 2001 "Prescott not the only leader to pack a punch"". 2001-05-18. Retrieved 2010-04-20. 
  16. ^ "Nardwuar vs. Prime Minister Jean Chretien". YouTube. 2006-12-04. Retrieved 2010-04-20. 
  17. ^ Wallace, Bruce (September 21, 1998). "APEC Protest Controversy" (reprint). Macleans Magazine. Retrieved 2006-12-05. 
  18. ^ CBC News (March 3, 2005). "Chrétien lawyers go to court to have Gomery removed". Retrieved 2006-12-05. 
  19. ^ News Staff (November 2, 2005). "Chrétien to challenge Gomery report in court". Retrieved 2006-12-05. 
  20. ^ 2008–2009 Canadian parliamentary dispute, Wikipedia: 2008–2009 Canadian parliamentary dispute.
  21. ^ Government of Canada, Social Union, News Release, "A Framework to Improve the Social Union for Canadians: An Agreement between the Government of Canada and the Governments of the Provinces and Territories, February 4, 1999." Retrieved December 20, 2006.
  22. ^ Francis, Diane (September 16, 2006). "Is Mulroney headed to the U.N.?". National Post. Retrieved 2006-12-05. 
  23. ^ "Queen gives Chrétien Order of Merit". CBC News. July 13, 2009. Retrieved 2009-07-12. 
  24. ^ Taber, Jane (2009-10-20). "Jean Chrétien receives Order of Merit". Toronto: Retrieved 2011-04-24. 
  25. ^ "Fundación Internacional Raoul Wallenberg". Retrieved 2010-04-20. 
  26. ^ "Governor General Announces New Appointments to the Order of Canada". Retrieved 2007-06-29. 
  27. ^ "Order of Canada". 2009-04-30. Retrieved 2011-01-28. 
  28. ^ "Chrétien 'very well' after quadruple bypass". 2007-10-04. Retrieved 2010-04-20. 
  29. ^ "Jean Chrétien in good spirits after emergency brain surgery | Posted | National Post". 2010-05-25. Retrieved 2011-01-28. 
  30. ^ a b "Chrétien doing well after brain surgery". 2010-08-07. Retrieved 2010-08-07. 
  31. ^ "Chrétien released from hospital". 2010-08-09. 

Further reading


External links

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