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The day after Brian Mulroney beat Joe Clark for the PC leadership

Joe Clark had been the PC leader since 1976 and took the party to a federal election win in 1979. But it all came to an end for him in June 1983.

Conventioneers left Ottawa pledging party unity

Convention's over for departing PC delegates

Digital Archives

38 years agoVideo
1:38
People attending the 1983 Progressive Conservative convention leave Ottawa after electing new party leader Brian Mulroney. 1:38

Joe Clark had been the Progressive Conservative leader since 1976 and took the party to a federal election win in 1979. But it all came to an end for him in June 1983.

On June 12 that year, CBC reporter Terry Milewski caught up with delegates who pledged support for the new leader, Brian Mulroney, at a leadership convention that Clark had called

Regardless of who they had originally cast ballots for, party members departing from the Ottawa airport said they would stand behind Mulroney. 

"I've always been loyal to my leader and I'll be loyal to Brian," said Clark campaigner and Brampton, Ont., MP John McDermid, at the airport the day after the final ballot. "If I see any of my colleagues that are disgruntled, we'll probably be having chats with them, suggesting that they tone it down."

'A lot of optimism'

Party delegates check in for flights at the Ottawa airport the day after Brian Mulroney's Progressive Conservative leadership win. (The National/CBC Archives)

A supporter of the third-place finisher, Newfoundland MP John Crosbie, said the election of Mulroney boded well for the next election.

"With a ... fluently bilingual leader in Mr. Mulroney, I have a lot of optimism for the hopes of our party," said Ian Seph.

Many delegates were seen toting convention souvenirs, like a yellow umbrella from the campaign of former Toronto mayor David Crombie.

"I've got a yellow sweatshirt, a green tie and a Mulroney visor," said Robin Dow, who described himself as a "true Technicolor Tory."

And he was "happy" with Mulroney's victory.

"We're going to blow the Grits right out of the water," he told Milewski.

'We're not losers'

Clark concedes loss to Mulroney

38 years agoVideo
2:03
Former PC leader Joe Clark calls for party unity after losing the 1983 leadership race to Brian Mulroney. 2:03
 

On the same edition of CBC's Sunday Report, correspondent Bill Casey took viewers back to the previous evening, after Mulroney's fourth-ballot win, when the defeated Joe Clark addressed a roomful of his supporters.

At the event that had turned out to be "a farewell party for his leadership ambitions," Clark spoke to the crowd, his wife Maureen McTeer by his side, after they chanted his name as he entered.

"We're not losers," he said to supporters, referring to a comment made by Mulroney.

According to the Globe and Mail, Mulroney had told delegates the party was viewed as "a bunch of losers" because of their weakness in French Canada.

But he went on to ask for "party unity," said Casey.

"I expect all of us to extend to Brian that loyalty—" said Clark, pausing to scold those who has started to boo.

'No no, none of that. None of that," he said, repeating the phrase twice more.

He also said that he, in turn, would not stand by if he saw his own delegates "suffer" for having supported him.

Time for healing

A Joe Clark supporter reaches up to wipe away a tear at the PC convention in Ottawa on Jun 11, 1983. (The National/CBC Archives)

After his speech, when Clark was seen stepping down from the stage, a woman in the crowd wiped away a tear.

"Even though his party had rejected him, his followers showed that they had not," said Casey.

Everyone sang as Clark made his way through the crowd, hugging his supporters.

"The time for fighting was over. The time for healing had begun."

Maureen McTeer, with Conservative Party leadership convention badge removed, sits quietly beside her husband Joe Clark after his fourth ballot defeat to Brian Mulroney for the Tory leadership in Ottawa on June 11, 1983. (Ron Poling/Canadian Press)

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