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1980: Pierre Trudeau triumphs, Joe Clark concedes

The Story

It's all over for Joe Clark's Progressive Conservatives. In May 1979, Canadians elected the party to a minority government and made Clark prime minister. But seven months later his government fell in a no-confidence vote, forcing an election on Feb. 18, 1980. When the votes are counted, Pierre Trudeau's Liberals capture a majority of seats, sending Clark back to the Opposition benches. In this CBC election-night report, Clark's disappointed supporters boo as he wishes Trudeau well. The Progressive Conservatives were turfed due to high energy prices and an unpopular budget. But re-elected Newfoundland MP John Crosbie, Clark's finance minister, says the Liberals will have to confront the same tough issues. "The Liberal party that wins this election is going to go into a fantastic decline," predicts Crosbie. "They're going to be assassinated, abominated. They're going to lose beyond all description in the next election."

Medium: Television
Program: The National
Broadcast Date: Feb. 18, 1980
Guests: Ed Broadbent, Joe Clark, John Crosbie, Pierre Elliott Trudeau
Host: George McLean
Reporter: Fred Langan
Duration: 3:31
This clip has poor audio.

Did You know?

• The Progressive Conservatives under Joe Clark were elected to a minority government in the general election of May 22, 1979. The Tories won 136 seats to the Liberals' 114, the NDP's 26 and Social Credit's six.

• John Crosbie, formerly a minister in the Newfoundland provincial government, was appointed finance minister in the new government. One of his tasks was to draft a budget that would tackle inflation and force Canadians to cut back energy use.

• Crosbie introduced his budget to Parliament on Dec. 11, 1979. Among its measures were an immediate boost in gas taxes of four cents per litre, increases in taxes on cigarettes and alcohol, and a controlled four-year rise in the price of a barrel of oil.

• Two days later, the budget came before a confidence vote. The Liberals and NDP united against it, and the final result was 139 opposed, 133 in favour. Clark's government was defeated.

• Three weeks earlier, on Nov. 21, 1979, Pierre Trudeau had announced his intention to step down as Liberal leader. But with no new leader in place and an election looming, the Liberal caucus convinced Trudeau to change his mind.

• During the ensuing campaign, Trudeau's Liberals promised lower prices for Canadian oil than the Tories had outlined in their budget. Energy prices turned out to be the main issue in the election.

• "Well, welcome to the 1980s," said Trudeau on election night, addressing his supporters.

• Once the final results were tallied in the 1980 election, the seat count was 147 for the Liberals, 103 for the Tories and 32 for the NDP. Social Credit was shut out. Only two of the Liberals' seats were located west of Ontario - both in Manitoba.

• Joe Clark remained leader of the Opposition until June 1983, when he lost the Progressive Conservative leadership to Brian Mulroney.

• Clark's low personal popularity may have contributed to his party's loss in the 1980 election. In polling, he consistently ranked behind Trudeau and NDP leader Ed Broadbent. Clark drew Trudeau's "grudging admiration" after the election. "He has shown immense dedication to his country," said Trudeau. "He has proved in this campaign that he is a man of great stamina."

• John Crosbie's election-night remarks proved to be prescient. In the next general election, on Sept. 4, 1984, the Liberals lost under new leader John Turner. With 211 of 282 seats, the Tories won the biggest majority in Canadian history.


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