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Charles Joseph Clark was born in High River Alberta, just south of Calgary, on June 5th, 1939. His early life was spent around his fathers newspaper business, the High River Times, delivering newspapers and helping where ever he could. He was initially attracted to the idea of a career in journalism but when he entered the University of Alberta he was quickly swept up by politics and joined the Conservative Party. He quickly rose in the ranks of the young Conservatives and became the  National President of the Progressive Conservative Student Federation.

Clark was ready and willing to travel anywhere and work on any Conservative campaign. In three years he worked on Alan Lazerte's provincial campaign in Alberta, Diefenbaker's national campaign, Davie Fulton in British Columbia and then back to Alberta Provincial politics and Peter Lougheed's campaign. He finally decided to through his own hat in the ring during the 1967 Provincial Election in Alberta and went up against one f the toughest opponents in the race, the speaker of the house but lost by only 462 votes. Without missing a beat Clark once again charged ahead campaigning for Davey Fulton when he challenged to replace Diefenbaker for the leadership of the Conservative Party. Although Fulton lost, Clark was recruited by the winner, Robert Stanfield and ran in High River in 1972 as a Federal MP.

 
 

Clark was recognized as an up and coming member of the Conservative caucus and after repeated losses to Trudeau, Robert Stanfield stepped down and Clark ran for the leadership of the Federal Conservatives against many strong candidates including Flora MacDonald, Claude Wagner and Brian Mulroney. Clark won and after 4 years as opposition leader had his chance at the Prime Ministership when Trudeau called an election.

 

The country had grown disillusioned with Trudeau and in 1979, Clark managed to win a minority government and at 39 became the youngest Prime Minister in Canadian history. Things looked promising for Clark when Trudeau announced his retirement and the Conservatives pressed ahead with their agenda facing a leaderless, confused and largely directionless opposition in the Liberals. Clark began to believe that he was gaining the confidence of the Canadian people and when he was threatened with a vote of non-confidence which would trigger an election he refused to back down. He may have indeed won a larger minority or even a majority government if the Liberals had turned to anyone else as a leader but in a move that was engineered by Jim Coutts, Trudeau was convince to come back one more time and with the looming threat of a separatist vote in Quebec, Clark was swept from power and Trudeau returned as Prime Minister once again. 

Clark waited for his next chance to campaign against the Liberals but in 1983 Clark stated that the 66.9% approval in a leadership review vote was not high enough and he would call a leadership convention. He did not achieve that 65% and in 1984 Brian Mulroney replaced him as Conservative leader. Clark accepted what must have been a bitter defeat with grace and style and when the Conservatives took power he served as Minister of External Affairs and Minister of Constitutional Affairs.

In 1993 with a Conservative loss at the polls he retired from politics and looked forward to a life of teaching and consulting but the Conservatives had been left a shell after the Mulroney years and quickly disintegrated as the Reform Party challenged for the right wing vote. By 1998 the Conservative Party was in need of urgent help and he returned to try and revive it. He was chosen as leader of the PC's and quickly won a by-election in Nova Scotia. A General election came shortly thereafter and he was once again in the House leading a group of 16 MPs. 

Clark battled the idea of merging with the Canadian Alliance Party which was the new version of the Reform Party but by 2002 he had been beaten down by various politic intrigues and pressures and once again announced that he would retire at the end of the term. Peter MacKay was elected new leader of the Conservative Party but as he planned to hand over the party to the Alliance, Clark and Andre Bachand decided to sit as independent Progressive Conservatives.

 

On his last day in the House of Commons Clark stated "I'm very troubled by the disappearance of my party." He must of regretted the capture of the once proud and powerful Conservative Party by those right wingers who were focused on social issues. Clark has gained an immense amount of respect in his latter years and is viewed by many Canadians as an elder statesmen that always fought for Canada and not for personal gain. Today he is a teacher at several prestigious institutions and oversees his consulting business.

 


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