In 1979, Joe Clark became the youngest prime minister in Canadian history, ending 16 years of Liberal rule and forming a minority Progressive Conservative government.
And though his time as prime minister was brief, Clark remained active in Canada politics — serving as a senior cabinet minister in Brian Mulroney’s government in 1984 and becoming leader of the Progressive Conservatives again in 1998.
Clark, who was born in High River, Alta., remains the only prime minister born and raised in Alberta. He told Kathleen Petty on CBC’s West of Centre podcast that in many ways, Alberta is still the place he knew well growing up.
“But like everywhere, it’s changing quite, quite dramatically,” Clark said. “And it also suffers from caricature. I think a lot of places do, but Alberta certainly does.
“We’ve always been a more progressive place than the caricature attached to us.”
- Listen to this week’s full episode of West of Centre here:
West of Centre46:05From prime minister to statesman Joe Clark
Being a ‘full partner in the Canadian family’
Growing up, Clark’s mother was a teacher and his father and grandfather ran weekly newspapers. He recalled people like George Guy Weadick, founder of the Calgary Stampede, would often stop by the family home.
“I had the opportunity to meet large parts of the country, through the connections and the weekly newspapers,” Clark said. “I was very lucky growing up.”
Clark became involved in politics while attending the University of Alberta, going on to serve as national president of the Progressive Conservative Student Federation.
After an unsuccessful bid at provincial politics in 1967, Clark eventually went on to win the leadership of the Progressive Conservative party in 1976 before becoming prime minister in 1979.
“I don’t want to dwell on the fact as to where former prime ministers were born, but it is kind of a reflection on the weight of a region in the country,” Clark said.
“If in a country as old as ours, only two of us [including British Columbia-born Kim Campbell] were really born and raised in the specific environments of Western Canada, I think [that’s] a reality that we understand.”
Clark said he thinks Alberta has been unfairly stereotyped, which contributes to a sense among those from the province that they are not a “full partner in the Canadian family.”
In Clark’s view, the current Liberal government has not taken Alberta’s distinctive interests as seriously as they should.
“I think earlier parties were more inclined to be able to speak to and engage with people who disagreed with them than is the case now,” he said. “The Liberal Party is naturally looking to where it can win seats. And it thinks that there are some sort of atypical Alberta ridings where it might have a chance.
“But I haven’t seen much effort to engage the whole range of legitimate Alberta interests as seriously as they have in some other provinces.”
Criticisms of current leadership
In 2003, Clark said he would not join the new Conservative Party of Canada after the Progressive Conservatives and the Canadian Alliance merged.
As the 2004 election approached, he said he would rather see Prime Minister Paul Martin lead the country than Conservative Leader Stephen Harper.
“In those choices, I would be extremely worried about Mr. Harper. I personally would prefer to go with the devil we know,” he said at the time.
Speaking to West of Centre, Clark said he hoped that Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole could make his party a national party again, and criticized the current federal government.
“I think that the present Liberal government is very shallow. It does have some strong individuals, but it is not as thoughtful or as conscientious, or as serious, in my view, as some of its predecessors were,” he said.
In Clark’s view, the current Liberal Party may claim to be progressive and internationalist, but tends to be more inclined to “statements than to action.”
“But the Liberal Party in the past, like the Progressive Conservative party in the past, used to be much broader — it used to reflect the whole of the country,” he said. “So it was a reconciling instrument in a country that always needs reconciliation.
“And I’m quite disappointed about all the parties in that sense. In fact, I think our system requires some fairly significant changes, because the world is changing faster than we are.”
WATCH | Former prime minister Joe Clark tells CBC’s West of Centre what he thinks about Canada’s current political situation:
A politics of ‘us and them’
Clark told West of Centre that he’s noticed a significant change in the nature of the national political parties as of late — one that he said has an impact on the participation and contentment of the populous.
“It’s partly ideological, but there’s a real sense of ‘us and them,'” Clark said. “And there used to be a much stronger sense of ‘us.'”
When taking the view of Alberta specifically, Clark cited the opinion held in the energy industry that its interests were not being taken seriously in Ottawa.
“I had hoped that it might be possible for a range of private meetings to be held by the prime minister or others with a variety of Albertans who disagreed with them, but were not unreasonable — just to find some common ground,” Clark said.
“That may be less possible in a modern media age. Sometimes that requires a profile lower than is possible now, but I don’t have the sense that that was broadly or seriously undertaken.”
Clark said he hoped the federal government would begin reaching out on a more regular basis, adding that Alberta had more to offer beyond the caricature it frequently inhabits.
“One element of Alberta’s concern, one important element is that they are real. The other element is that they are exacerbated when they appear to be ignored,” Clark said.
“And if we’re going to get to any kind of reconciliation, one has to talk to people with whom you disagree.”
- Listen to the complete West of Centre podcast series right here.
Morning Brief: 'Playing politics' – iPolitics.ca
Today’s Morning Brief is brought to you by GCT’s #BetterDeltaport campaign. The Port of Vancouver’s multi-billion-dollar, taxpayer-funded RBT2 project will create unneeded capacity, uncompetitive port rates and will cause damage that, according to Environment Canada, is “permanent, irreversible, and continuous.” Fortunately, there is a way to #buildbackbetter. Learn more.
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Good morning, and happy March.
— Liberals accuse Tories of ‘playing politics’: Liberal MPs are accusing the Conservatives of blocking the government’s legislative agenda almost to the point of obstruction. While all parties say they do not want an election amid the pandemic, the Canadian Press looks at how the Conservatives might be pursuing a strategy that would give the Liberals reason to call one.
— Kady O’Malley looks ahead to the day in politics with iPolitics AM: “With daily Commons proceedings on pause until next Monday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will start his week with a virtual visit to Nova Scotia’s Eastern Passage, where, as per his official itinerary, he’ll join local MP Darrell Samson for a closed-door video chat with members of the Island View High School student council. Also on the prime ministerial to-do list today: A huddle with his front bench team, as well as other unspecified ‘private meetings.’”
— Blinken on two Michaels: The U.S. Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, says his country will continue to stand with Canada in its efforts to secure the release of Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor from Chinese detention.
“It’s a lot harder for China to ignore our collective voice and our collective weight than it is for China to ignore each of us individually,” he said, adding that he had brought the two Michaels up in his own conversations with Chinese counterparts.
— Kremlin-linked Twitter accounts targeted Canada: Canada and Canadian political leaders were targeted more than 300 times by social media accounts that have now been shut down by Twitter due to their links to the Russian government or its proxies. Many tweets made by the now-suspended accounts were focused on undermining confidence in NATO, The Globe and Mail reports, citing data from DisinfoWatch.org.
— Woman behind Vance allegations speaks out: Maj. Kellie Brennan, the woman at the centre of allegations of inappropriate behaviour against Gen. Jonathan Vance, is calling for an independent investigation to fix systemic problems within the Canadian armed forces. Since sharing her story publicly with Global News a week ago, she says she has been flooded with messages from others who allege they have experienced misconduct in the military.
— Divorce Act changes take effect: New rules meant to put an end to the winner-loser mentality of family law come into effect today. Divorcing spouses now have a legal “duty” to use other channels, rather than the courts — such as negotiation, collaborative law, or mediation — “to the extent that it is appropriate to do so.” The aim is to avoid drawn-out court battles that could harm the children of separating parents.
— Coming up: Meng Wanzhou is due back in the British Columbia Supreme Court today. Her lawyers are expected to argue for admission of evidence to support their case.
News tip? Let us know: [email protected]
AROUND THE WORLD
— Protests in Hong Kong: Crowds gathered outside a courthouse in Hong Kong in the territory’s biggest protests in months. They demonstrated to support 47 pro-democracy activists charged with subversion under the national security law.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken called for the release of the campaigners in a tweet yesterday.
— Tehran rejects talks: Iran rejected proposed nuclear negotiations with the U.S., which the European Union had offered to broker. Tehran insists that the U.S. must lift all unilateral sanctions before the two sides can come to the table, while Washington says Iran must make the first move and return to compliance with the 2015 deal.
— U.S. House passes $1.9 trillion relief package: The stimulus bill is now headed to the U.S. Senate, after the House passed it early on Saturday.
— Myanmar military fires on protesters: Myanmar soldiers opened fire on protesters over the weekend, killing at least 18 people in the deadliest day of protests since the coup last month.
This morning, Aung San Suu Kyi appeared in court via a video link, the first time she’s been seen publicly since being detained in the coup.
— Elsewhere: The U.S. approved Johnson & Johnson‘s vaccine. Europe’s AstraZeneca stockpile mounts as citizens snub the jab. Indian PM Modi got his COVID-19 shot. Amnesty International says Eritrean troops killed hundreds of Ethiopian civilians. Gunmen in Nigeria released 27 schoolboys who were kidnapped the week before last, but the search is ongoing for more than 300 schoolgirls abducted on Friday. Trump blasted Biden in a CPAC speech.
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After North Korea closed its borders to trains as part of its COVID-19 measures, a group of Russian diplomats seeking to leave Pyongyang were forced to do so via a hand-pushed rail trolley.
Conservatives accused of 'playing politics' in the House, raising questions about pandemic election – CBC.ca
All federal party leaders maintain they don’t want an election in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, but the Conservatives appear to be pursuing a strategy that could give the Liberals justification for calling one.
Liberals are accusing the Conservatives of systematically blocking the government’s legislative agenda, including bills authorizing billions of dollars in pandemic-related aid and special measures for safely conducting a national election.
The Conservatives counter that the Liberals have not used the control they have over the House of Commons agenda to prioritize the right bills, while other parties say both the government and the Official Opposition share the blame.
“They’re playing politics all the time in the House. It’s delay, delay, delay — and eventually that delay becomes obstruction,” Government House leader Pablo Rodriguez said in an interview, referring to the Conservatives.
“It’s absurd. I think it’s insulting to Canadians, and I think people should be worried because those important programs may not come into force … because of the games played by the Conservatives.”
Conservatives blocking legislative agenda, Liberals say
Rodriguez pointed to the three hours last week that the Commons spent discussing a months-old, three-sentence committee report affirming the competence of the new Canadian Tourism Commission president.
That was forced by a Conservative procedural manoeuvre, upending the government’s plan to finally start debate on the pandemic election bill. It contains measures the chief electoral officer has said are urgent given that the minority Liberal government could fall at any time if the opposition parties unite against it.
A week earlier, MPs spent three hours discussing a committee report recommending a national awareness day for human trafficking — something Rodriguez said had unanimous support and could have been dealt with “in a second.”
That debate, also prompted by the Conservatives, prevented any progress on Bill C-14, legislation flowing from last fall’s economic statement with billions in expanded emergency aid programs and new targeted aid for hard-hit industries.
That bill was introduced in December but stalled at second reading, with Conservative MPs talking out the clock each time it did come up for debate. After eight days of sporadic debate — more than is normally accorded for a full-fledged budget, Rodriguez noted — Conservatives finally agreed on Friday to let the bill proceed to committee for scrutiny.
‘Modest debate’ warranted: O’Toole
Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole has argued that “modest debate” is warranted on C-14, which he maintains is aimed a fixing errors in previous rushed emergency aid legislation.
Last December, the Conservatives dragged out debate on Bill C-7, a measure to expand medical assistance in dying in compliance with a 2019 court ruling.
For three straight days last week, they refused consent to extend sitting hours to debate a motion laying out the government’s response to Senate amendments to C-7, despite a looming court deadline that was extended Thursday to March 26.
Conservatives say they offered the previous week to extend the hours to allow a thorough debate, but the government waited five days before tabling its response to the amendments.
Liberals can’t cut debates short alone
For Rodriguez, it all adds up to “a pattern” of obstruction aimed at blocking the government’s legislative agenda.
Procedural machinations are commonly used by opposition parties to tie up legislation. But Rodriguez argued it’s inappropriate in a pandemic, when “people are dying by the dozens every day.”
If the government held a majority of seats in the Commons, it could impose closure on debates. But in the current minority situation, it would need the support of one of the main opposition parties to cut short debate — something it’s not likely to get.
In a minority Parliament, Rodriguez argued, all parties share responsibility for ensuring that legislation can at least get to a vote.
Opposition parties point fingers
But Conservative House leader Gérard Deltell lays the blame for the legislative impasse squarely on Rodriguez.
“The government House leader has failed to set clear priorities and has therefore failed to manage the legislative agenda,” he said in a statement to The Canadian Press, adding that “my door is always open for frank and constructive discussions.”
Bloc Québécois House leader Alain Therrien agrees that the Liberals have “mismanaged the legislative calendar and must take their responsibilities.” But he doesn’t exempt the Conservatives.
He said their obstruction of the assisted-dying bill and another that would ban forcible conversion therapy aimed at altering a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity is “deplorable.”
“These are files that require compassion and rigour. It is inexcusable to hold the House hostage on such matters,” Therrien said in an email, suggesting that O’Toole is having trouble controlling the “religious right” in his caucus.
As far as NDP House leader Peter Julian is concerned, both the Liberals and Conservatives are trying to trigger an election.
“We believe that is absolutely inappropriate, completely inappropriate given the pandemic, given the fact that so many Canadians are suffering,” he said in an interview.
Julian accused the Liberals of bringing forward unnecessary legislation, such as the election bill, while “vitally important” bills, including one implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and another on net-zero carbon emissions, languish.
The intention of the Liberals, he said, is to eventually say there must be an election because of “all these important things we couldn’t get done.” And the Conservatives “seem to want to play into this narrative” by blocking the bills the government does put forward.
Rodriguez must be at ‘wits end’: May
Veteran Green Party MP Elizabeth May, however, agrees with Rodriguez, who she says must be “at his wits’ end.”
“What I see is obstructionism, pure and simple,” she said in an interview.
She blames the Conservatives primarily for the procedural “tomfoolery” but accuses both the Bloc and NDP of being “in cahoots,” putting up speakers to help drag out time-wasting debates on old committee reports.
“It’s mostly the Conservatives, but they’re in league,” May said.
“They are all trying to keep anything orderly from happening that might possibly let the Liberals say we’ve accomplished a legislative agenda. Whether the bills are good, bad or indifferent is irrelevant in this strategy.”
Politics Chat: Former President Trump To Speak At CPAC – NPR
LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:
* And there he was…
GARCIA-NAVARRO: …This time in the form of a golden statue rolling through the Hyatt Hotel last week in Orlando, Fla., as the Conservative Political Action Conference kicked off. The gleaming figure of former President Donald Trump looks like a cousin of Shoney’s big boy, except with a red tie, stars-and-stripes swim trunks, flip flops and the Constitution in one very shiny hand and a wand – maybe a wand – in the other. The real Donald Trump speaks today as CPAC wraps up. Meanwhile, the man who beat him in November, President Joe Biden, is himself courting Republicans in an effort to ensure the success of his political agenda. Joining me now to talk about all this is NPR White House reporter Ayesha Rascoe.
AYESHA RASCOE, BYLINE: Good morning.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: The speech by the former president is unusual for former presidents – not so unusual for this former president, who has made it clear he plans to try and remain relevant.
RASCOE: Yeah, Trump never adhered to norms as president, and he’s still not doing it. But we should say it is really unprecedented. Presidents who lose reelection and even those that don’t generally try to stay out of the spotlight after leaving the White House. The reason why it’s worth paying attention to Trump at this moment is because he has so much influence on people who are still in power and those running for office.
There are some high-profile Republicans, like Congresswoman Liz Cheney, who have said that it’s time for the GOP to move on from Trump, but it doesn’t seem like Republicans are ready to quit him just yet. And people like Senator Lindsey Graham have basically said, yes, Trump’s a handful, but there’s no way Republicans win without him. Most Republicans seem to agree with Senator Graham. So this is the first time that Trump is making this sort of speech since he left office. And it’s a big deal because he’s able to really dictate the direction of the Republican Party.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: So what are we expecting to hear from him?
RASCOE: We are expecting him to declare himself the leader of the Republican Party. Beyond that, he will almost certainly lay into his perceived enemies. I mentioned Liz Cheney, who voted for his impeachment. He’s already come out against Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. So expect to hear him on the attack. He will almost certainly want to relitigate the 2020 election, especially considering he never stopped talking about the 2016 election, and he won that one. So everyone will be waiting to hear whether he teases a 2024 run.
With Trump in the picture, he’s really freezing the Republican field right now. And I should remind everyone that it was at CPAC a few years ago that Trump talked for almost two hours and hugged the flag and did all of that. So it would not be surprising to see Trump do something like that again. With no social media megaphone, he probably has a lot to get off of his chest. But what his advisers and probably a number of Republicans will want Trump to do in this speech is to go after President Biden, especially on the issue of immigration, which is sort of – which is the sort of issue that can really rally the base. We will see whether that happens.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: So not exactly healing the divides within his own party. Let’s turn to the actual president, Biden. He’s set to meet virtually with Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador. Border policy is on the agenda.
RASCOE: Yes, this meeting comes as Biden has been facing pressure from the left because of the surge in unaccompanied minors at the border. The White House has defended its handling of the situation, but some progressives have raised concerns about the conditions of the facilities where these children are being held. So this is an issue that’s going to be on the agenda when he talks to Lopez Obrador in Biden’s second virtual meeting with a foreign leader.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: That’s NPR White House reporter Ayesha Rascoe.
Thank you so much.
RASCOE: Thank you.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.
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