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Running again

"Joe Who?" read a newspaper headline when Alberta's Joe Clark claimed the leadership of the Progressive Conservatives in 1976. Three years later, Clark became Canada's youngest prime minister, at age 39, but his minority government lasted just nine months. Forced out as leader in 1983, Clark took on high-profile cabinet posts in foreign affairs and constitutional change. In 1998, he returned to lead the decimated Tories and fight off efforts to unite the right. CBC Archives looks at Joe Clark's life in politics.

media clip
Fifteen years after he was rejected as leader of the Progressive Conservatives, Joe Clark is taking another crack at it. Though the party is in better shape than it was in 1993, when it won just two seats, it's still sitting fifth in Parliament. Former PC leader Jean Charest has been wooed away by the Quebec Liberals, leaving a gap that Clark says it's his duty to try to fill. In this CBC clip, Clark denies that he's "yesterday's man."
• In the 1997 election, under leader Jean Charest, the Progressive Conservatives increased their numbers in Parliament to 20.
• Charest, who had replaced Kim Campbell, left the party in March 1998 to head the Quebec Liberals.
• In an Angus Reid poll of 1,516 Canadians taken later that month, 26 per cent of Canadians said Alberta premier Ralph Klein would best replace Charest. Another 16 per cent chose Joe Clark.

• According to the Globe and Mail, the campaign to bring back Clark as Tory leader began on the website of Montrealer Zack Taylor. At first, Clark thought it was a joke. But soon others in the party were encouraging him to make another run.
• Clark was consistently the frontrunner in the race. His opponents were former Tory strategist Hugh Segal, former Manitoba cabinet minister Brian Pallister, free trade fighter David Orchard and Quebec lawyer Michael Fortier.

• The five candidates campaigned across the country, holding five leaders debates and selling as many $10 party memberships as they could.
• Unlike past leadership contests, voting took place not by delegates to a convention but by all 30,100 members voting in their home ridings. Each riding received 100 electoral points, which would be distributed to the candidates according to the votes they captured.

• On the first ballot, Clark finished first with 48.5 per cent of the vote. But the margin wasn't wide enough to win. Pallister, Segal and Fortier dropped out, setting up Clark and Orchard for a rematch three weeks later.
• On the second ballot, Clark won 78 per cent of the vote. He said his first priority was to erase the party's debts and make the most of the momentum it had gained during the race.

• Clark immediately attacked the Reform Party and its leader Preston Manning, taking aim at their TV commercials in the last election. In them, Reform suggested Quebec politicians had dominated the Canadian political scene for too long.
• Clark said the ads could prompt more Quebecers to vote for the Parti Québécois in an upcoming provincial election. "Too many Quebecers may believe that Mr. Manning and his party... speak for the whole of Canada."

See a CBC Archives clip in which Clark wins the leadership contest on Nov. 14, 1998.
• Clark's 24-year-old daughter, Catherine Clark, was frequently at her father's side during the 2000 federal election campaign. Newspapers described the pretty blonde as "the campaign's unexpected star" and "Joe's secret weapon," to which she replied: "I'm not so secret, and I don't think I'm a weapon." 
Medium: Television
Program: The National
Broadcast Date: June 28, 1998
Guest(s): Joe Clark, Ron Ghitter, David Taras
Host: Peter Mansbridge
Reporter: Kelly Crowe
Duration: 3:42

Last updated: January 16, 2012

Page consulted on September 10, 2014

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