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Sketches of Canada for May 22nd!

Canadian History for Kids: Joe Clark

May 22, 1979 – Federal Election – Joe Clark leads Progressive Conservative Party of Canada (PCs) to minority power.

This Canadian History for Kids exclusive looks at Canada’s 16th Prime Minister, Joe Clark.

Joe Who?

Joe Clark!

Charles Joseph “Joe” Clark, the youngest prime minister to take office, was born June 5, 1939 at High River, Alberta.

At the University of Alberta, he became the national Progressive Conservative student president. He taught himself French and worked for the Party in Ottawa, before being elected an MP in 1972. In 1973 he married Maureen McTeer, a lawyer.

Even though he was inexperienced, Clark rose quickly in federal politics, entering the House of Commons in the 1972 election and winning the leadership of the Progressive Conservative Party in 1976.

He came to power in the 1979 election, defeating the Liberal government of Pierre Trudeau and ending sixteen continuous years of Liberal rule. Taking office the day before his 40th birthday, Clark is the youngest person to become Prime Minister.

In December 1979, Clark’s finance minister tabled his first budget calling for “short term pain for long term gain.” Three days later, the government fell on a vote of non confidence

In the 1980 election Clark again faced Pierre Trudeau, who had returned to lead the Liberals. Clark suffered from a public image of weakness and inexperience. In an astonishing turnabout, the Liberals won a majority government. From 1980 to 1983 Clark led the Opposition. Clark appeared headed for victory in the next federal election, but in 1983 he tried to silence his critics in the party by calling for a leadership convention. In it he lost to Brian Mulroney on the fourth ballot.

Oddly, Clark won greater national respect after his defeat. He was an effective Minister of External Affairs in the Mulroney cabinet. After the failure of the Meech Lake Accord, the prime minister called upon Clark to build national consensus for constitutional reform.

He became one of the chief architects of the Charlottetown Accord, which also failed. Citing exhaustion from the long constitutional debate, Joe Clark announced in February 1993 that he would not run in the next election.

Still relatively young in political terms, he had become one of Canada’s “elder statesmen.”

And that’s this week’s Canadian History for Kids, exclusive!

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