With another Canadian federal election taking place on October 21, 2019, this is another repost from my facebook page. I am absolutely NOT a conservative nor would ever vote for one, but I can respect someone with principles, honesty and dignity. Former Canadian Prime Minister Joe Clark was a conservative in the traditional sense: balanced budgets and unwilling to change, but also arguing from the same facts as political opponents. (Take Germany’s Angela Merkel, for example.)
On May 22, 1979, forty years ago, Canada held its 31st federal election. Joe Clark (born June 5, 1939, age 80) became Canada’s sixteenth and youngest Prime Minister after the Progressive Conservatives won the most seats, but not a majority, 136 out of 282. Clark made the decision to “govern like a majority” rather than seek consensus with the Liberal and New Democratic parties. The Liberals and NDP opposed Clark’s budget and some of his plans (e.g. de-nationalization of PetroCanada), leading to a non-confidence vote in December 1979, and another federal election in February 1980. Clark would never be Prime Minister again.
The far right Social Credit party had six seats, which would have been enough to give Clark a thin coalition majority, but they did not want to cooperate. They paid for it in the subsequent election, losing all six seats and never winning another seat in three subsequent elections before disbanding. Voters were frustrated and turned away from them. Even the provincial Social Credit parties have disappeared from the political landscape.
This would mark the last time a traditional Progressive Conservative would govern Canada. Brian “the walking jaw” Mulroney destroyed the PC party with his ineptitude and corruption, leading to right wing extremist “populism” and ignorance that continues today.
Although some regard Clark as a failure, disagree with his planned policies and call him “uncharismatic”, he remains a respected figure. His reputation and legacy are one of honesty, principle, and willingness to do the right thing – even when it cost him politically.
The Iranian Hostage Crisis began on November 4, 1979, and it was Clark’s government that planned and and executed the rescue of six Americans from the Canadian embassy in Tehran on January 27, 1980, the “Canadian Caper” as it was called. Yes, Canadians were involved despite what hollywood claimed.
Clark’s other lasting legacy of his short premiership was his handling of the Boat People crisis of 1979, providing citizenship and funding to settle 60,000 refugees from Vietnam, Cambodia and elsewhere. Compare that to how the rest of the world treats boat people, refugees and migrants today. Would Justin Trudeau have settled 20,000 Syrian refugees without Clark’s legacy to live up to?
In 1992, Clark negotiated the Charlottetown Accord, bringing all the provincial and territorial premiers to agreement (conservatives, liberals, socialists and Quebec separatists), as well as the leaders of Canada’s First Nations people, a Sisyphean task equivalent to herding cats. The Accord failed because of Brian Mulroney’s toxic personality – the voters rejected him more than Clark’s Accord.