Mr. Chrétien has dedicated the better part of his life in service of Canada. In fact, this year marks 50 years since his first election to the House of Commons in 1963.
In the Pearson and Trudeau administrations, he served in key cabinet posts including National Revenue, Indian and Northern Affairs, Treasury Board, Industry and Finance. As Minister of Justice in the early 1980s, Mr. Chrétien was deeply instrumental in the negotiations that led to the adoption of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Elected prime minister in 1993, Mr. Chrétien would go on to win majorities in three consecutive elections – an achievement that had not occurred since Sir Wilfrid Laurier.
His administration oversaw a government-wide effort to address the staggering $42-billion deficit created by the Conservatives and left in its place a legacy of six consecutive budget surpluses and a $36-billion reduction in the national debt.
A proud and passionate defender of federalism, Mr. Chrétien brought in the Clarity Act to strengthen national unity.
His government crafted a long list of progressive social achievements, including the Canada Child Tax Benefit, the Canada Education Savings Grant, the Canada Learning Bond, Millennium scholarships and extended parental leave benefits.
He modernized same-sex rights and benefits and initiated legislation that ultimately legalized same-sex marriage everywhere in Canada.
On the world stage, Mr. Chrétien guided the successful adoption of the land mines treaty, pushed for the establishment of the International Criminal Court and pioneered the very successful “Team Canada” model for trade missions. Despite intense international pressure, he kept Canada out of the war in Iraq.
In 2009, Mr. Chrétien was personally selected by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth to be awarded the Order of Merit – a rare honour limited to only 24 living recipients worldwide.
On behalf of Liberals everywhere, I am pleased to extend our best wishes and say happy birthday, Jean!