Joe Clark: From Alberta to Nova Scotia and back
By ALLISON DUNFIELD
Globe and Mail Update
Once called a “noble failure” by Dalton Camp, former president of the national Progressive Conservative Party, Joe Clark has had a tumultuous ride as long-time member and leader of the party.
Mr. Clark, with his less-than-flashy approach to politics, has nonetheless maintained his presence in Canadian politics for two decades.
“I distrust words like vision and grand design,” he said in 1976 after he became national leader of the party.
And Mr. Clark has stayed true to that mantra throughout his career.
In a by-election Sept. 11, he won a 53-per-cent majority in the region of Kings-Hants in Wolfville, N.S. and returned to the House of Commons for the first time since 1993. He was elected party leader in November, 1998.
Mr. Clark's return to politics has been fraught with difficulty. Even on the day he should have been celebrating his by-election victory and Commons comeback, two of his MPs defected to the Liberal party.
He also lost a stream of federal Tories to the Alliance before Stockwell Day, now the Leader of the Official Opposition, won a by-election and a seat in the House of Commons.
Just a month ago, reports that former party president Peter Van Loan was canvassing to review Mr. Clark's leadership led to Mr. Van Loan's resignation and further turmoil within the party. Party vice-president Jacques Léger then took over.
The party, now fifth in the House of Commons with 15 seats, has had a slow climb back from the fall of 1993, when it won only two seats from a majority of 169 under prime minister Kim Campbell.
Mr. Clark has already begun his election campaign for a federal election he deemed “expensive and unnecessary,” after attending a Tory nomination convention in New Brunswick Southwest Saturday.
“This is a $200-million expense that Canada doesn't need.”
Mr. Clark has hinted that the party's platform would include ending federal gun registration, eliminating the capital gains tax to stop the flow of professionals to the United States and ensuring that health care is properly funded.
Born June 5, 1939 in High River, Alta., as Charles Joseph, he studied at the University of Alberta, where he served as national president of the PC Student Federation.
Mr. Clark began his official career in politics in 1972 at age 32. He was elected MP for Rocky Mountain in Alberta, and won re-election five times.
He became national leader of the Progressive Conservative party in 1976. When the PCs won the 1979 elections, Mr. Clark became the youngest prime minister at age 39 - leading a minority government that he said he would govern like a majority. But his time at the top was short lived. His government was defeated on a budget vote, but Mr. Clark was confident he'd be re-elected.
In February, 1980, Mr. Clark, calling Canada a “community of communities,” was beaten in a general election by Pierre Trudeau and his Liberals.
He served in prime minister Brian Mulroney's cabinet for nine years as a senior minister, and decided not to run in 1993.
After he left politics, Mr. Clark wrote A Nation Too Good to Lose: Renewing the Purpose of Canada in 1994.
He also served as chairman of Calgary-based SMG Canada, which operates trade and convention centres in North America, and of CANOP International Resource Ventures Inc., an Alberta-based oil and gas company seeking resource opportunities in Africa.
In November, 1998, Mr. Clark was elected the leader of the Progressive Conservatives after a seven-year absence from politics. His rise came after the departure of then-leader Jean Charest to the Liberal party to become Opposition Liberal Leader of Quebec.
Mr. Clark owns a consulting firm, Joe Clark & Associates in Calgary, a joint venture with his wife, Maureen McTeer, an author and lawyer, and they have one daughter.