The Right Honourable
Joseph Jacques
Jean Chrétien


"The art of politics is learning to walk with your back to the wall, your elbows high, and a smile on your face. It's a survival game played under the glare of lights. If you don't learn that, you're quickly finished. It's damn tough and you can't complain; you just have to take it and give it back. The press wants to get you. The opposition wants to get you. Even some of the bureaucrats want to get you. They all may have an interest in making you look bad and they all have ambitions of their own." Jean Chrétien, 1985

Private Life
  • Born: January 11, 1934, Shawinigan, Québec.
    • ('Jean': pronounced like 'John' but with a soft 'J' and a nasal 'N'. 'Chrétien': pronounced 'cray-TYEN' with a nasal 'N')
    • Eighteenth child of a paper mill machinist. (Chrétien shares a birth date with Canada's first prime minister, Sir John A. Macdonald.) The elder Mr. Chrétien was a Liberal organizer, and, by the time Jean was 15 year old, he was distributing political pamphlets and attending Liberal rallies.
  • Education: St. Joseph Seminary, Trois-Rivieres, Quebec, B.A. in 1955; Laval University, LL.L in 1958.
    • At Laval, Chrétien joined the campus Liberal Club. By the 1950's, Liberals in Quebec were an endangered species, but Chrétien persevered and campaigned for Liberal candidates in both provincial and federal elections.
  • Marriage: Aline Chaine (1936-____) in 1957.
    • One daughter and two sons.
  • Called to the Quebec Bar in 1958.
  • Director of the Bar of Trois-Rivieres, 1962-1963.
  • Lawyer, 1986-1990.
  • Author.
  • Died: ____

Political Career
  • Constituencies: St-Maurice - Lafléche, Quebec, 1963-1968; St-Maurice, Quebec, 1968-1986; Beausejour, New Brunswick, 1990-1993; St-Maurice, Quebec, 1993 (to present).
    • Chrétien was asked to run as Liberal candidate for St-Maurice - Lafléche in 1963. The incumbent was a Créditiste (Social Credit, a.k.a. Socred) who had won the previous election by 10,000 votes. Chrétien fought hard and won the election by 2,000 votes.
    • Chrétien spent his first two years in Ottawa as a 'backbencher' where he concentrated on improving his English.
  • The key to Chrétien's success as a politician is the fact that, for almost 30 years, he has served in Parliament with 6 prime ministers as either government or opposition and has held numerous ministerial positions. In the political game, Chrétien knows all the player and all the strategies.
  • By 1960, Chrétien was the principal organizer for Jean Lesage, leader of the Quebec Liberal Party. Lesage became Premier of Quebec that same year.
  • Appointed as a parliamentary secretary by Prime Minister Lester Pearson. Chrétien worked under Finance Minister Mitchell Sharp.
  • Minister Without Portfolio, 1967-1968.
  • Appointed as Minister of National Revenue by Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, 1968.
  • Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, 1968-1974.
    • Created 10 new National Parks from 1968-1972.
    • Created the White Paper on Indian Policy in 1969 dealing with native issues.
    • Set up the Berger Commission in 1972 to make recommendations on a proposed pipeline in the Mackenzie River Valley.
    • Established an office to settle native land claims in 1972.
  • President of the Treasury Board, 1974-1976,
  • Minister of Industry, Trade and Commerce, 1976-1977.
    • Financed the development of the Challenger aircraft.
  • Minister of Finance, 1977-1979.
    • Oversaw the removal of wage and price controls which had been in place since 1975.
  • Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, 1980-1982.
    • Entrenched the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms into the Constitutional Act in 1982.
    • Appointed Bertha Wilson as the first female justice of the Supreme Court of Canada in 1982.
    • Responsible for the 'No' forces in the Quebec Sovereignty Referendum.
  • Minister of State for Social Development, 1980-1982.
  • Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources, 1980-1982.
  • Deputy Prime Minister, 1984.
    • Following Trudeau's resignation, Chrétien ran for party leadership against John Turner. The contest was close (Chrétien had enormous popular support), but Chrétien was ultimately defeated by his association to Trudeau and to the fact that the Liberals had a long tradition of alternating anglophone and francophone party leaders.
    • He served as Deputy Prime Minister for 2 months before retiring in 1986 and returning to practicing law.
  • Secretary of State for External Affairs, 1984.
  • Leader of the Opposition, 1990-1993.
    • When John Turner retired from politics in 1990 after being defeated in 2 elections, Chrétien announced his leadership candidacy and won on the first ballot. Moral was low in the Liberal Party, and the party itself had been divided since Trudeau retired. Chrétien's first order of business was to rebuild and reunite the Liberal Party.
  • By 1993, Canadians were very disillusioned by the Tory (Conservative) government and protested against Prime Minister Kim Campbell (who had inherited the job from retiring Brian Mulroney) by voting for the new Reform and Bloc Québècois parties. The Liberals ran a strong campaign and won a majority of 176 seats, but their traditional opposition, the Tories, had all but been eliminated. (The Conservatives were reduced to only 2 seats.)
  • Chrétien faced the greatest challenge of his career. With the Conservatives out of the picture, the Liberals were now faced with a 'separatist' opposition (Bloc Québècois) with the extremely right-wing Reform Party following very closely behind.

*(Progressive) Conservative *Liberal *Unionist/Conservative

* Macdonald * Mackenzie * Abbott * Thompson * Bowell
* Tupper * Laurier * Borden * Meighen * King
* Bennett * St. Laurent * Diefenbaker * Pearson * Trudeau
* Clark * Turner * Mulroney * Campbell * Chrétien