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Alone at the Top
The Path to Power
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Charles Joseph Clark.


Portrait of a politician as a young man

Joe Clark got a first-hand view of politics in action at a young age. In 1956, when he was in Grade 11, he won a Rotary Club public-speaking scholarship. The prize was a trip to Ottawa. Instead of visiting museums, Joe headed for the House of Commons. Here he met the Conservative leader George Drew and after several hours of waiting, he managed to see Alberta Senator Donald Cameron and John Diefenbaker, M.P. for Prince Albert, who was soon to become party leader and prime minister.

Sitting in the visitor's [sic] gallery in the House of Commons, Joe was witness to the historic Pipeline Debate and the Liberals' invocation of closure to end the clamorous objections of the Opposition. Joe returned home somewhat troubled by this experience. He thought these political events demonstrated that there was no democracy in Canada and he was convinced that government needed a strong, effective Opposition.

Little did he know that he was destined to fulfill that very role under similar circumstances. In 1981, Joe Clark was Leader of the Opposition when Liberals tried to invoke closure to pass their constitutional reforms. Such was the protest from the Conservatives that passage of the bill was delayed and it was sent to parliamentary committee for review.

Source: Canada's Prime Ministers, 1867 - 1994: Biographies and Anecdotes. [Ottawa]: National Archives of Canada, [1994]. 40 p.

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