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1979 leaders’ debate

The Story

Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau and New Democrat Ed Broadbent pile on Progressive Conservative Joe Clark in this 1979 leaders' debate. Trudeau hammers away on what he calls Clark's indecisiveness and lack of strong vision for Canada, but Trudeau is also fighting to save his own job in a time of high inflation with nearly one million Canadians unemployed.

Medium: Television
Program: CBC Television News Special
Broadcast Date: May 13, 1979
Guest(s): Ed Broadbent, Joe Clark, Pierre Elliott Trudeau
Moderator: David Johnston
Panellist: David Halton, Peter Desbarats, Bruce Phillips
Duration: 1:55:23

Did You know?

• The federal election of 1979 was held on May 22nd. At dissolution, the House of Commons had 282 seats.

• After the broadcast, the Toronto Star couldn't help but describe the debate as a prize-fight: "They had him on the ropes last night, but Tory leader Joe Clark punched defensively through to the end of his TV bout with Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau and Ed Broadbent...".

• Reporting on the debate, the Globe and Mail polled several undecided voters in a Toronto riding who all felt that New Democrat Ed Broadbent came out on top in the debate while Joe Clark was most unimpressive. Of Clark and Trudeau, one respondent said, "It's really disheartening that we have two potential leaders of Canada and all they can do is call each other names and catch each other's slip-ups."

• Final election results: Progressive Conservative Party 136, Liberal Party 114, New Democratic Party 26, Social Credit Party six.


Leaders' Debates 1968-2011: Arguing for Canada more