Calgary, Alberta , Canada
|| June 05, 1939
Nov 20, 2020 12:07am
Moderate-to-Liberal - Anti-Labor - Pro Free Trade - Pro Marijuana Legalization - Pro-Choice - Married - Catholic -
|Info||Charles Joseph "Joe" Clark was born on June 5, 1939, in the cowboy country of High River, Alta. His father owned and edited a newspaper, so young Joe's first paying job was delivering the High River Times. |
He flirted with a career in journalism, writing freelance sports stories, but as a student at the University of Alberta in the 1960s Clark realized his life calling would be politics. It was during his time there that he became national president of the PC Student Federation.
He was a backroom worker during his early years in politics. His first taste of active campaigning came in his teens, when he worked for Alan Lazerte, a candidate for the leadership of the Alberta Conservatives. Next he worked for John Diefenbaker's 1962 federal campaign, then for Davie Fulton in British Columbia in 1963, and Peter Lougheed in Alberta in 1964.
Clark tried running for office himself in the 1967 provincial election in Alberta, going up against the Social Credit Speaker of the legislature in what was considered a "suicide seat." Clark made a battle of it, losing by only 462 votes.
He supported Fulton's 1967 campaign to lead the Conservatives, and when Robert Stanfield won the race he recruited Clark to work for him. Clark decided to return to Alberta to complete a post-graduate degree, but he quickly became enmeshed in politics again, winning as a Conservative candidate in the 1972 federal election.
In 1973, Clark married Maureen McTeer, a prominent lawyer and champion of the rights of women and children. They had one daughter, Catherine.
Clark contested the Conservative leadership in 1976, running and winning against Claude Wagner, Flora MacDonald and Brian Mulroney. As Opposition leader, Clark had the unfortunate task of standing across the Commons floor from the charismatic Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau. But Clark's dogged determination, and a backlash against Trudeau, propelled Clark and the Tories to win the 1979 election, forming a minority government.
He was always known as young Joe Clark. When he became prime minister in June 1979, heading a minority Conservative government, Clark was only 39, the youngest prime minister in Canada's history. His tenure as prime minister lasted only seven months.
The 1980 election returned Clark to the Opposition benches. Three years later, a leadership review resulted in a leadership convention and Clark lost to Brian Mulroney. Clark loyally backed the new leader, and when the Mulroney Tories took power in 1984, Clark became minister of external affairs, a portfolio he held until 1991 when he became minister of constitutional affairs.
Clark retired from politics in 1993, supposedly for good. He did consulting and teaching, including a stint as a lecturer at the University of California. But the lure of politics brought him back in 1998 and, at the age of 61, he prepared for the rigours of another federal election.
He was re-elected leader of the federal PC party before winning a byelection in Nova Scotia's Kings-Hants riding. In the federal election two months later he was elected in the Alberta riding of Calgary Centre. Back in the House of Commons, Clark led a party that had been reduced to 16 members, a mere corporal's guard compared with the landslide numbers achieved by John Diefenbaker, one of Clark's early heroes.
With the party a shadow of its Mulroney-era glory days, Clark spent much energy fighting a proposed merger with the Canadian Alliance party. Both parties hit rock-bottom in terms of popular support and a merger was seen as the only way to establish a strong right-of-centre party.
Clark vehemently opposed the "unite the right" idea, and reasoned that a merger would forever weaken the Progressive Conservative party and ensure continued domination by the Liberals for years to come.
"The country does not need another opposition party," Clark said in 1998. "The country needs another government."
In 2002, Clark announced his retirement from politics. He summed up his decision in this way: "I suppose I could have sat back and clung to office, to no one's advantage. I think that there are times in public life when you have to put your party's interest and your country's interest first, and that's what I've tried to do."
When his Progressive Conservative party, under new leader Peter MacKay, merged with the Canadian Alliance, Clark decided not to sit with the new Conservative party. He and André Bachand sat as independent Progressive Conservatives.
"I'm very troubled by the disappearance of my party," Clark said on his last day sitting in the House, May 13, 2004.
But in the end, Clark spoke about the privilege of working for Parliament.
"I hope my colleagues in this house can draw as much satisfaction from public service as I have in mine," he said.
His voice broke as he thanked his wife, Maureen McTeer, and daughter Catherine for their support.
"Maureen and I look forward to the next chapters in our lives," said Clark.
MPs of all political stripes paid tribute to his decades of political service.
"His commitment to progressive conservatism has never wavered," said deputy prime minister Anne McLellan (emphasis hers).
NDP parliamentary House leader Bill Blaikie said Clark knew the importance of "doing the nation's business in this chamber," and was championing equality of women "before it was popular to do so."
Even Conservative Leader Stephen Harper, whose leadership on social issues Clark has questioned, said such differences "should not blind us to the accomplishments of others."
Clark denied rumours that his criticism of Harper was a signal that he's hoping for a Senate seat or other government position.
"I'm not seeking a federal appointment of any kind," he said outside the Centre Block.
Clark said he and his wife plan to live outside of Canada – in Washington, Los Angeles or London, perhaps – while he writes his memoirs.