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Alone at the Top
The Path to Power
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Joseph Jacques Jean Chrétien.


Sir John A. and Jean

At first glance, Canada's first prime minister and twentieth prime minister don't appear to have much in common. They were both born in different centuries. Sir John A. Macdonald was an immigrant Scot and Jean Chrétien is Québécois. One was an anglophone Conservative; the other is a francophone Liberal.

Yet there are similarities, starting with birthdays -- both were born on January 11. Both worked in politics for many years prior to becoming prime minister. Macdonald had been Cabinet minister in a number of portfolios in the provincial government before Confederation. Chrétien's Cabinet experience before prime ministerial office includes twelve ministries.

Both prime ministers faced separatists in Parliament. In Macdonald's day they were Nova Scotian separatists, while today Chrétien's official opposition has included the Bloc Québécois. Both Chrétien and Macdonald believe in a united Canada, held together by a strong central government. And our first and twentieth prime ministers have both enjoyed successive majority governments. In November 2000, Chrétien led his party to a third successive majority government. Macdonald won four consecutive majorities.

In Canadian politics, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Source: Canada's Prime Ministers, 1867 - 1994: Biographies and Anecdotes. [Ottawa]: National Archives of Canada, [1994]. 40 p.

Chrétien: main page

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