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Paul Martin Becomes Canada's New Prime Minister - 2003-12-13

Paul Martin has been sworn in Friday as Canada's 21st prime minister, replacing his Liberal Party colleague, Jean Chretien.

His swearing-in ceremony as the country's 21st prime minister ends Paul Martin's 15-year quest for the job his father wanted in the mid-Sixties. Paul Martin senior lost to Pierre Trudeau.

Paul Martin junior became the leader of the governing Liberal Party almost unopposed last month. In the parliamentary system, the leader of the party with the most seats automatically becomes prime minister. Mr. Martin is expected to call an election in the spring for his own mandate, an election the liberals are expected to win, although there has been a recent increase in the popularity of the Socialist Party and the two right of center parties merged just last week.

Jean Chretien, who had been prime minister for the past 10 years, announced a year and a half ago that he would retire and he did so Friday, ending a 40 year political career that includes three successive majority governments, something no other Canadian leader has accomplished in a century.

Mr. Martin himself is a marked contrast to the more homespun Mr. Chretien, who is famous for his trouble speaking either of the country's official languages, English and French.

Mr. Martin speaks both, flawlessly. He plans to call President Bush on Monday to begin improving relations between Canada and the United States, which have been strained lately, most notably because of Mr. Chretien's refusal to commit Canadian troops to the U.S.-led coalition forces in Iraq.

Mr. Martin says he wants to strengthen Canada's economy and increase its profile internationally.