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Joe Clark

Joe Clark
Term:June 4, 1979 - March 3 1980
Predecessor:Pierre Elliott Trudeau
Successor:Pierre Elliott Trudeau
Date of Birth:June 5, 1939
Place of Birth:High River, Alberta
Spouse:Maureen McTeer
Political Party:Progressive Conservative

Charles Joseph Clark (born June 5, 1939) was the sixteenth Prime Minister of Canada from June 4, 1979 to March 2, 1980 and a prominant Canadian politician until his retirement in 2003. He was born in High River, Alberta.

Joe Clark was the son of the publisher of the local newspaper and attended local schools and the University of Alberta, where he earned a bachelor's and a master's degree in political science. He went on to study law at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, British Columbia. He was active in student politics and eventually left law school to work full time for the Progressive Conservative Party.

Joe Clark married Maureen McTeer, a well-known author and lawyer. Their daughter, Catherine, is an Art History graduate from the University of Toronto.

Politically active, at the Progressive Conservative Party convention in 1976 Clark was a compromise English-speaking candidate. He won as most of the delegates from English Canada moved to him when their favorites were defeated.

Joe Clark's rapid rise from a relatively unknown Alberta MP to the Leader of the Opposition took much of Canada by surprise. "Joe Who?" became a jeering nickname by his critics in the Liberal government. Clark, a young man, contrasted greatly with the previous Conservative Party leader, the elderly former Nova Scotia premier, Robert Stanfield. Much joking was made of Clark's clumsiness and awkward mannerisms. Skinny and tall, editorial cartoonists portrayed him as a sort of walking candy apple, with an enormous head and floppy dog-like ears. Initially, it seemed unlikely that a man that was the source of so much mockery could ever hope to compete against the confident and intellectual Pierre Trudeau.

However, Clark remained belligerent in his attacks on the Trudeau government, angrily clashing with the Prime Minister in Parliament. Trudeau's attempts to brush off Clark were seen by many Canadians as examples of the pompous attitude of a prime minister who had taken his position for granted.

Clark's efforts would prove successful and on June 4, 1979, at age 39, he became Canada's youngest Prime Minister, after defeating Trudeau's Liberal government in the general election of May 1979. Clark was the first Conservative to head a Canadian government since the defeat of John Diefenbaker in 1963.

With his party winning only a minority of seats in the House of Commons, as Prime Minister, Clark had to rely on the support of the Social Credit Party with its 6 seats or the New Democratic Party with its 26 seats. Without this support, he was subject to defeat by the Liberals at any time.

During his election campaign Clark had promised to cut taxes to stimulate the economy. But once in office he adopted a budget designed to curb inflation by slowing economic activity, and he also proposed additional taxes to help conserve energy. In December the minor parties combined with the Liberals to defeat a gasoline tax increase, and Clark resigned. In February 1980 new elections swept Trudeau and the Liberal party back into power with 146 seats, against 103 for Clark and the Progressive Conservatives.

Joe Clark during his second term as Tory leader in 2001

Shortly after his defeat, he was dumped as party leader and replaced by arch-rival Brian Mulroney, who would return the PCs to power in 1984. Despite their personal and ideological differences, Clark served in Mulroney's cabinet as Secretary of State for External Affairs, Minister of Justice and later as President of the Privy Council and Minister Responsible for Constitutional Affairs. The latter position saw him play a leading role in the drafting of the failed Charlottetown Accord. He retired from politics in 1993, sidestepping the PC meltdown that occurred in the elections of that year.

In 1998, Clark was re-elected to the leadership of the Progressive Conservatives after the previous leader, Jean Charest, left federal politics to become leader of the Quebec Liberal Party. Clark was elected as Member of Parliament for Kings-Hants, Nova Scotia in a by-election on September 11, 2000, and in the general election two months later for Calgary Centre, Alberta.

Clark announced his intention to step down as PC leader on August 6, 2002 and was replaced by Peter MacKay on May 31, 2003.

On December 8, 2003, the day that the Progressive Conservatives merged with the Canadian Alliance to incorporate the new Conservative Party of Canada, Clark was one of three MPs -- the other two were André Bachand and John Herron -- to announce that they would not join the new caucus, but would serve out their terms as Independent MPs.

External Link: Joe Clark (Progressive Conservative Party of Canada)

Preceded by:
Pierre Trudeau
Prime Minister of Canada Followed by:
Pierre Trudeau