Chretien steps down to make way for Martin

Promising sweeping changes within government, Paul Martin will be sworn in as Canada's 21st prime minister Friday

The Jean Chrtien era of Canadian politics came to a close on Friday morning, as the three-term prime minister made his last official move.

Chrtien was head of government when he arrived by limousine at Rideau Hall shortly after 9 a.m. on Friday. After a brief visit with Gov. Gen. Adrienne Clarkson, he walked away a private citizen, his wife Aline at his side.

Under a bright winter Ottawa sky, they walked among the trees on the grounds of the Governor General's residence, and through a mob of cameras and reporters.

Chrtien has also resigned his seat in St. Maurice, Quebec.

He stepped down to make way for Paul Martin, who has arrived at Rideau Hall to be sworn in as the country's 21st prime minister, along with his new cabinet.

Limousines carrying members of the next cabinet began arriving even as the outgoing prime minister met with the Queen's representative.

Martin, 65, overwhelmingly won the leadership of the Liberal party in November.

Chrtien announced in August 2002 he would not run in another election.

Martin promises to make sweeping changes the first major overhaul of the federal government since Chrtien came to power 10 years ago.

Martin has vowed to make government more accountable, improve relations with the United States and create stronger federal-provincial co-operation, especially with the western provinces.

A key step to addressing feelings of western alienation is the expected promotion of two western MPs to high-profile cabinet posts.

Saskatchewan MP Ralph Goodale will become the next finance minister, while Alberta MP Anne McLellan will move from the health portfolio to the more senior role of deputy prime minister, sources say. McLellan is also expected to run Canada's new public safety department.

Martin also plans to collapse or alter certain government departments linked to past political scandals, such as Human Resources Development Canada.

Most of the people being promoted to cabinet have never headed a government department. Many political insiders call this cabinet Martin's "B Team" the team that will get him to the next federal election expected in spring 2004.

Cabinet ministers who perform well during the runup to the election will likely remain in cabinet if the Liberals are elected.

Martin, 65, first entered politics in 1988 after running Canada Steamship Lines (CSL), one of Canada's largest shipping lines. will provide live streaming audio of the swearing in ceremony at 10 a.m. ET, and of the new prime minister's first news conference at 2 p.m. ET.