Joe Clark was a respected Conservative politician who gave long service to his nation, though he governed it for only a few months in 1979. He was elected to the House of Commons a total of eight times, and became Conservative Party leader again in 1998 after a hiatus from active political service. He retired in 2004 after the Conservatives joined with the Canadian Alliance Party.
When the Conservatives won the election in 1979, he was only 39, the youngest Prime Minister ever, and a record still held by him. Leading a minority government, he was defeated on a non-confidence motion just eight months into this mandate. His proposed budget of service cuts and tax raises was not acceptable to Parliament.
After the Trudeau Liberals returned to power to patriate the constitution in 1980, the Conservatives took power again in 1984. Joe Clark served on the cabinet of Brian Mulroney as Secretary of State for External Affairs and Minister of Constitutional Affairs. As well he took on the duties of Acting Minister of National Defence and Acting Minister of Justice.
Mr. Clark's public service has extended well beyond partisan politics and beyond Canada's borders. He is a member of the board of the Lester B. Pearson World College of the Pacific, a member of the Inter-American Dialogue and a Member of the Advisory Board of the Institute for International Development at McGill University.
Joe Clark, once jocularly called "Joe Who?" by a press more interested in reporting on the charismatic Pierre Trudeau, has worked steadily and often quietly behind the scenes and is now a recognized leader.
He has been a Special Representative to the UN, and has worked with a number of NGOs. He has also earned numerous honorary degrees as well as national and international awards. Mr Clark has the honour of being a Companion of the Order of Canada. This is the highest of three levels of this Order, and recognizes "a lifetime of outstanding achievement and merit of the highest degree, especially in service to Canada or humanity at large."
He was also the first to receive the Vimy Award, given for "outstanding contribution to the security of Canada and the preservation of its democratic values."
A native Albertan, Clark was one of the few Prime Ministers with roots in the West.