Chrétien's rise to the top of Canadian politics was long in coming. Throughout his career he has held most of the top cabinet positions in Canada's government. In July 1965, after being reelected to the House of Commons, Chrétien was appointed parliamentary secretary of Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson. Over the next decade and a half, he served in a variety of ministerial posts, including national revenue, Indian affairs and northern development, treasury, industry, trade and commerce, finance, justice, constitutional negotiations, and energy and resources. Thus, before becoming prime minister, he had gained experience in virtually every facet of Canadian government.
On 16 June 1984, Chrétien unsuccessfully ran for the leadership of the Liberal Party against John Turner. After the election, Turner appointed him to serve as deputy prime minister and secretary of state for external affairs. Unfortunately, Turner's government was short lived. In September 1984 the Liberals were swept from power by the Conservative Party, led by Brian Mulroney. The Conservatives won 211 seats in the House of Commons, the largest majority ever in Canadian politics. There were angry recriminations after this crushing defeat, with Turner accusing Chrétien of not fully supporting him in the election. Exasperated, Chrétien resigned from the Conservative-dominated House of Commons in February 1986 and returned to the practice of law. However, Chrétien was still powerfully attracted to politics, and polls indicated that he remained one of the most popular politicians in Canada. Thus, when John Turner announced his resignation as Liberal Party leader in May 1989, Chrétien declared his candidacy. On 23 June 1990, Chrétien was elected leader of the Liberal Party. In December 1990, he was elected to Parliament and sworn in as leader of the opposition on 21 December.
Brian Mulroney resigned as prime minister in June 1993, his popularity at an all-time low. His position had become untenable because of the deteriorating economy, which was suffering under the burdens of low growth, high unemployment, and massive deficits. Mulroney was replaced by Kim Campbell, whose survival depended upon her ability to convince Canadians that her party had a viable strategy for economic renewal. As elections had to be held by November according to the Constitution, Campbell was left with little time to develop and implement her own policies. In the October elections, the Conservatives were rejected outright. Campbell lost her own seat, and the party retained only two of the 153 seats it held. Chrétien's Liberal Party won 178 seats, guaranteeing it a comfortable majority. On 4 November 1993, Jean Chrétien was sworn in as prime minister, 30 years after he first entered Parliament. He was reelected in 2001. Chrétien has announced his intention to step down in February 2004 when his current term expires.