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The Right Honourable Joe Clark

16th Prime Minister of Canada
June 4, 1979 -March 3, 1980

"We will not take this nation by storm, by stealth or by surprise. We will win it by work."

Charles Joseph Clark, February 1976


  • June 5, 1939 in High River, Alberta
  • University of Alberta , B.A. 1960, M.A. Political Science 1973
The Right Honourable Joe Clark
The Right Honourable
Joe Clark
Personal Status
  • Married 1973, Maureen McTeer (b.1952)
  • One daughter
Professional Life
  • 1966-1967 Director Organization, Alberta Progressive Conservative Party
  • 1967 Special Assistant, Davie Fulton, M.P.
  • 1967-1970 Executive Assistant, Robert Stanfield, M.P.
  • Author
  • Consultant
  • Progressive Conservative
  • 1976-1983, 1998-2003 Party Leader
  • 1972-1979 Rocky Mountain, Alberta
  • 1979-1993 Yellowhead, Alberta
  • 2000 King's Hants, Nova Scotia
  • 2000-2004 Calgary Centre, Alberta
Other Ministries
  • 1984-1991 External Affairs
  • 1991-1993 President of the Privy Council and Minister Responsible for Constitutional Affairs
The Right Honourable Joe Clark
The Right Honourable
Joe Clark in 2016
Political Record
  • Leader of the Opposition 1976-1979
  • Appointed first black cabinet minister 1979 (Lincoln Alexander)
  • Canada's embassy in Iran sheltered American embassy staff 1979-1980
  • Leader of Opposition 1980-1983
  • Constitutional Accord (Charlottetown Agreement) 1992

Where is he now?
As of 2012, The Right Honourable Joe Clark is President of Joe Clark & Associates Limited, an international consulting company; and co-founder of Clark Sustainable Resources Developments, which recently joined forces with Triton Logging harvest underwater forests around the world. He is currently Vice-Chairman of the Global Leadership Foundation, a member of the Inter-American Dialogue, and Professor of Practice for Public-Private Sector Partnerships in the Institute for the Study of International Development, McGill University.

Descriptive Biography

Such a modest, straightforward approach is unusual in politics, but entirely characterstic of Joe Clark. Hard work at the grassroots of the Conservative party led him to become its leader and prime minister of Canada. Despite a short term in office and dethronement as Conservative leader, Clark continued to serve the party with a career distinguished by sterling efforts behind the scenes.

Charles Joseph Clark was born in High River, Alberta in 1939, the son of a newspaper owner and editor. He began in journalism at a young age, delivering his father's High River Times, editing the high school newspaper and working as a sports writer for the Calgary Herald one summer. But politics soon proved to be a greater passion than journalism. At the University of Alberta he studied history, English and political science. Active in student politics, Clark's first taste of professional politics came in 1958 when he worked for Alan Lazerte, who was campaigning for leadership of the Alberta Progressive Conservative party.

Like many youths in the 60s, Clark took his time settling down to career. After graduating in 1960, he travelled through Europe for a year. In 1962, he worked for Diefenbaker's election campaign. After a year in law school at Dalhousie, Clark transferred to the University of British Columbia, but concluded that law was too dull for him. In between, he continued to write freelance newspaper articles. Clark's political activities carried on; he served as President of the Progressive Conservative Student Federation, as well as working for Davie Fulton in the B.C. election in 1963. The following year, Clark began an M.A. in political science at the University of Alberta, but was soon working for Peter Lougheed, the new provincial leader of the Conservatives. By this time, Clark's election experience was considerable and he was a key organizer in communications as well as contributing significantly to policy and strategy. Clark himself ran in the provincial election in 1967, for Calgary South. Held by the Social Credit Speaker of the legislature, it was a "suicide" seat, but Clark came within 462 seats of winning.

Davie Fulton's federal leadership bid was Clark's next project. Fulton lost, but Clark was invited to work for the winner, Robert Stanfield. By 1971, Clark was back in Alberta trying to finish his M.A. but was again enticed by another political challenge: Conservative candidate for the federal riding of Rocky Mountain. He won the nomination and the Commons seat in 1972.

In 1976, Clark entered the Conservative leadership race and won against political heavyweights such as Claude Wagner and Flora MacDonald. As leader of the Opposition, he set about reuniting his party, badly split since the Diefenbaker years, and reorganizing its structure. Party fundraising was overhauled and Clark introduced executive caucus meetings to concentrate Conservative attacks on government policy in the Commons. Like the previous P.C. leader, Robert Stanfield, Clark found Trudeau's charismatic image a difficult one to counter. Although adroit at parlimentary debate and a good organizer, Clark was lampooned by the media as awkward and inept.

Nevertheless, in 1979, the Conservatives won a minority government, and at the age of thirty-nine, Clark became Canada's youngest prime minister. After the extravagant public spending of the Liberals, the Conservatives were intent on fiscal restraint and one of their first pieces of legislation was a stringent budget of program cuts and tax increases. The New Democratic party would not support it and Clark's government was defeated, just seven months after they were elected. Clark's prime ministerial legacy was not publicly evident: he reorganized the structure of Cabinet committees and introduced a system of expenditure control that was retained by the returning Liberals. In addition, the Conservative's Freedom of Information Act, which was drafted but not yet introduced in the Commons, was also adopted by the next government.

The 1980 election returned Clark and his party to the Opposition. His major role here was delaying Trudeau's 1981 constitutional reforms until federal- provincial agreement and judicial review had been reached. In 1983, a leadership review challenged Clark's position. He called for a convention and lost to Brian Mulroney. Despite the bitterness such a situation can create, Clark remained in the party as an M.P. and strove to preserve party unity. When the Conservatives returned to power in 1984, Clark was made Minister of External Affairs. In 1991, he took on an even more important ministry of Constitutional Affairs. In the aftermath of the failure of the Meech Lake Accord, Clark was instrumental in drafting the Charlottetown Accord and gaining its approval from the provincial premiers.

He retired from politics in 1993 and took a position teaching at the University of California.

In November 1998, Clark once again became leader of the federal Progressive Conservative party to replace outgoing leader Jean Charest and earned a seat in the House of Commons in September 2000. He stepped down as leader of the party in 2003 and chose not to run for re-election as a Member of Parliament when a general election was called in June 2004.

SOURCE: Library and Archives Canada.

See also
Former Prime Ministers of Canada

External Links
Joe Clark & Associates Limited

Copyright Craig I.W. Marlatt