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'Yesterday's man' voted today's Liberal leader

It was a hardscrabble climb to the top for Jean Chrétien. "The little guy from Shawinigan" surprised everyone - except himself - by finding his way to the summit of Canadian politics. From the pool hall political debates of his childhood to the opulent offices of Ottawa, CBC Radio and Television capture the long, colourful career of Canada's 20th prime minister.

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It's Jean Chrétien's second attempt at the Liberal party's top job. This time, Chrétien easily wins the leadership race on the very first ballot. On June 23, 1990, a triumphant Chrétien stands among his fellow candidates -- Sheila Copps, John Nunziata and second place finisher and rival Paul Martin, as seen in this TV report. As the newly elected leader of the Liberal party, Chrétien calls for unity within the party.
• A decisive moment in the leadership race took place at an all-candidates debate in Montreal, where the Meech Lake Accord quickly dominated the debate. Chrétien's rival, Paul Martin, pressed Chrétien to declare for or against the deal. When Chrétien failed to make a categorical endorsement, frustrated young Liberal delegates began chanting "vendu" ("sell out" in French) and "Judas." Martin denied orchestrating the demonstration but the relationship between the two rivals would remain rocky.

• For more on Paul Martin and his rocky relationship with Jean Chrétien visit: Paul Martin: Prime Minister in Waiting

• The 1990 Liberal leadership convention took place a day after the death of the Meech Lake Accord and a day before Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day, Quebec's national holiday.

• Jean Chrétien replaced retiring John Turner as the leader of the Liberal Party of Canada. Chrétien's principle opponent, Paul Martin, was seen as the ideological heir to Turner, while Chrétien was seen as Pierre Trudeau's heir. According to the Globe and Mail, Turner who had defeated Chrétien in the 1984 leadership race, looked glum during Chrétien's victory speech and did not applaud in contrast to Trudeau who cheered loudly.

• Chrétien was elected Member of Parliament in the December 1990 by-election in the riding of Beauséjour, New Brunswick.

• Chrétien was sworn in as Leader of the Opposition in the House of Commons on December 21, 1990.Chretien
Medium: Television
Program: CBC Television News
Broadcast Date: June 23, 1990
Reporter: Keith Boag
Duration: 2:26

Last updated: March 4, 2014

Page consulted on September 10, 2014

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