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The 21st Century

Canadian cabinet, Canadian Senate, Ontario Court of Appeal, Bloc Quebecois, Jean Chretien

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>  Rise of the Conservatives

Chretienís Liberal Party held firmly onto power in the November 2000 election, increasing its parliamentary delegation to a comfortable majority. Jean Chretien, who called the election just three and a half years into his five-year term, became the first Canadian leader since World War II (1939-1945) to win a third consecutive majority government. Chretien gambled that a strong budget surplus and high ratings for his government in public opinion polls would bolster support for his party. The Liberals gained seats in eastern Canada and Quebec, reducing the power of the Bloc Quebecois. The Canadian Alliance won additional seats in western provinces, solidifying its position as the main party on the right.

Facing a Liberal Party convention and a vote of confidence on his leadership in February 2003, Chretien expressed his desire in January 2002 to continue leading the party. Seven months later, however, Chretien announced his decision to retire. The end came when he fired Finance Minister Paul Martin, his long-term rival for Liberal Party leadership, in June 2002. The move backfired as Liberal Party members of parliament came to Martinís defense and called on Chretien to step down. Chretien resigned as Liberal Party head, and therefore, as prime minister, in December 2003. Martin succeeded him as Canadaís 21st prime minister.

Beginning in 2003 Canada moved toward permitting homosexual marriages. In June of that year Chretien and the Canadian cabinet approved a new policy to legalize same-sex marriages. The same month the Ontario Court of Appeal declared that the federal governmentís existing definition of marriage as a union between a man and a woman discriminated against homosexuals and violated the equal rights provisions of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The effect of the ruling was to immediately make same-sex marriages legal in Ontario, Canadaís most populous province. In July 2005 the Canadian Senate passed a bill making same-sex marriage legal throughout the country. Canada became the fourth nation to enact such a law and the first outside of Europe.

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