Jean Chrétien (Joseph Jacques Jean Chrétien) (zhōsĕf´ zhäk zhäN krātyăN´), 1934–, Canadian politician and prime minister (1993–2003), b. Quebec. He received his legal education at Quebec's Laval Univ. and was a practicing lawyer until his 1963 election to parliament. A member of the Liberal party, he served (1963–84) in various ministerial posts under Lester Pearson and Pierre Trudeau. He lost a bid for his party's leadership in 1984 but served briefly as deputy prime minister under John Turner. Chrétien was successful in his 1990 try for the party leadership and became prime minister in 1993 after he led the Liberals to victory at the polls. In office he attempted to ameliorate Canada's unemployment, improve trade relations, and to restructure Canada's economy and preserve its unity. He faced criticism from all sides, however, for having failed to recognize how close Quebec would come to seceding from Canada in the Oct., 1995, referendum; for offering Quebec either too much or too little while shortchanging other provinces; and for lacking anything more than an improvised plan for Canadian unity. He led the Liberals to victory again in 1997, against a fragmented opposition. In 1998, Chrétien introduced Canada's first balanced budget since 1970. He led the Liberals to a third consecutive victory at the polls in 2000, again aided by a fragmented conservative opposition. In Oct., 2002, following a year of ethics scandals, cabinet changes, and increasingly open opposition to Chrétien within the Liberal party, he announced that he would not seek a fourth term as prime minister. He resigned as prime minister and as a member of parliament in Dec., 2003, and was succeeded as prime minister by Paul Martin.
See his autobiographies (1985, 2007).