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Canada In 1979

Canadians voted for change in 1979

Pierre Elliott Trudeau had made national unity a theme throughout his 11 years in office, and continued to stress unity during the spring 1979 campaign. Progressive Conservative leader Joe Clark said that the Liberals' insistence on a strong federal government had actually contributed to disunity. The Progressive Conservatives also attacked the Liberals' economic policies, which they said had led to rising inflation and unemployment. The two party leaders also presented greatly different personalities. Trudeau, a Scotch-Frenchman from Quebec, was known for his sophistication and wit. Clark, a native of Alberta, presented a youthful, rural image.

Pierre Trudeau shakes hands of supporters
Pierre Trudeau

Charles Joseph (Joe) Clark
Charles Joseph (Joe) Clark

In the voting on May 22, Quebec and other French-speaking districts turned out for Trudeau and the Liberals, while Ontario and the western provinces voted for the Progressive Conservatives and Clark. The final results were: Progressive Conservative Party, 136 seats; Liberal Party, 114; New Democratic Party, 26; Social Credit Party, 6. Joe Clark became Prime Minister, but he would need support from the other parties to stay in power.

Trudeau gives a speech in Ottawa following his party's defeat
Pierre Trudeau

Joe Clark and his wife greet backers after his party's victory
the Clarks celebrate his win

In his first months in office, Clark set spending ceilings on government departments, and Newfoundland was given control of the oil and other mineral resources off its shores. Opposition to some of his measures began to mount in the fall. In December, Clark presented a budget that called for increased taxes on gasoline and other items. A confidence vote was brought on the issue of the budget, which went against the Clark government. New elections were set for February 18, 1980.

In the Year 1979

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This page was last updated on 02/16/2017.