When Joe Clark became prime minister at age 39

The Progressive Conservative Party under Alberta's Joe Clark won a minority government in 1979, giving Canada its youngest-ever prime minister.

Tory leader had hoped for a majority, but would instead lead a minority government

Joe Clark becomes Canada's youngest prime minister at 39

44 years ago
Duration 2:05
The Tories under Clark win a minority in 1979, giving Canada its youngest prime minister in history.

In just seven years, Joe Clark went from being a rookie MP to party leader to prime minister of Canada.

In May 1979, Clark led the Progressive Conservatives to the end of 16 years of Liberal rule. His party won 136 seats to the Liberals' 114, the NDP's 26 and six for Social Credit.

The election fell days before Clark celebrated his 40th birthday. And Clark became the youngest-ever prime minister in Canadian history.

When the election was called in March 1979, Clark told reporters he was "quite sure" his party would win a majority.

One month earlier, a Gallup poll put the Liberals and Progressive Conservatives in a dead heat with 39 and 38 per cent support, respectively.

When Joe Clark won the 1979 election at age 39, former prime minister John Diefenbaker remarked: "Canada celebrated the [United Nations] Year of the Child by electing Joe Clark as prime minister." (Fred Chartrand/Canadian Press)

Clark, who had been assured of his party's support at a leadership review in November 1977, largely focused on attacking the Liberals' economic record.

His campaign also aimed to convince Canadians of the need for change.

The weekend before the election, the parties were still virtually tied: the Liberals and Progressive Conservatives each had 37.5 per cent, with the NDP at 19 per cent. 

The Liberals' support was much higher in Quebec, meaning the Tories were in the lead nationally.

The Progressive Conservatives won 57 of Ontario's 95 seats in the election. Their nationwide total of 136 was just seven seats shy of a majority.

The Man from High River, Alberta

45 years ago
Duration 2:52
Joe Clark battles with his wooden image, his comparative obscurity, and the doomsday scenario.