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Brian Mulroney wins Tory leadership

In 1984, Brian Mulroney led the federal Conservatives to the biggest election victory in Canadian history. Almost a decade later, the man described as having "Robert Redford eyes and Paul Newman hair," would leave the Prime Minister's Office as the most unpopular prime minister in Canada's recent memory. Mulroney's bold leadership on controversial issues such as free trade, GST and Meech Lake would drastically alter the political landscape of this country.

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The fourth and final ballot results are in: Brian Muroney 1,584 votes. Joe Clark 1,325 votes. On June 11, 1983, amidst the sweltering heat of the Ottawa Civic Centre, Mulroney is elected the new leader of the federal Progressive Conservative Party. After five months of frenzied campaigning, Mulroney defeats longtime rival and incumbent leader Clark - the same man who had beaten him back in 1976. 
• When Brian Mulroney added his name to the leadership race in March 1983, he jokingly promised to be "less slick and less friendly to big business."

• Having learnt from his 1976 loss, Mulroney ran a low key and cautious campaign. He emphasized his Quebec roots, saying he could secure votes in his native province.

• Eight candidates fought for the top job at the 1983 leadership convention including Joe Clark, John Crosbie, Michael Wilson, David Crombie and Peter Pocklington.

• The anti-Mulroney forces started up the ABM or Anybody-But-Mulroney movement at the Ottawa convention.

• Historians J.L. Granatstein and Norman Hillmer wrote in their 1999 book Prime Ministers: Ranking Canada's Leaders that: "Delegates at the Ottawa convention did not think he [Mulroney] was the best or even the most attractive candidate. Nevertheless, he was able to convince them that he had the right mix of business acumen, social conscience and commitment to individual enterprise. Above all, he was judged a potential winner in a party of losers."

• Having won the leadership race, Mulroney still needed a seat in the House of Commons. On Aug. 29, 1983, he easily won his first byelection in the riding of Central Nova in Nova Scotia.
Medium: Television
Program: The National
Broadcast Date: June 11, 1983
Host: Peter Mansbridge
Reporter: Michael Vaughan
Duration: 3:54

Last updated: June 11, 2014

Page consulted on October 14, 2014

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