Former Prime Minister Joe Clark lauds Mulcair, criticizes Harper foreign policy

Andy Radia
Politics Reporter
Canada Politics

No one would use the term charismatic to describe former Prime Minister Joe Clark. He couldn't captivate an audience like Pierre Trudeau could, or charm political colleagues the way Brian Mulroney did.

Renowned journalist Peter C. Newman once said of Clark: 'he would never set the world on fire, except by accident.'

Even without the gift of charisma, however, Clark was able to carve out an impressive political career that spanned over three decades.

He was Canada's youngest ever Prime Minister - albeit for a short time - and went on to earn Canadians' trust and respect as foreign affairs minister in the Mulroney cabinet.

In his post-political life, Clark hasn't sought out political attention the way Jean Chrétien has.

So when Joe Clark speaks people listen.

At a recent event organized by McGill University's Institute for the Study of International Development, the former prime minister shared his opinions about the Harper government and about the NDP's newly elected leader.

Clark, who opposed the Progressive Conservative/Reform Alliance merger, says it's clear that the "strong and positive traditions" of the Progressive Conservatives have been forced aside.

"It's certainly clear in international affairs, where its focus has been very narrow on the military and on trade," he said according to the McGill Daily.

"Much of the emphasis upon CIDA, which had been upon actual development dealing with poverty, has been replaced now by a supportive role [in] trade arrangements, not necessarily in the poorest countries.

"Our relations with many parts of the world where we had historically strong partnerships have deteriorated."

Clark, 72,  was also critical of Harper's dictatorial style.

"I'm astounded, frankly astounded, by the degree to which Parliament and Cabinet acquiesce in following, without any apparent questioning, the prime minister's lead," he said in a rare display of candor.

"Prime ministers have always been strong in our system, but almost all others have respected their parties and their parliaments more than Prime Minister Harper does."

On the other hand, Clark says he's impressed with NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair.

"I don't know [NDP leader Thomas] Mulcair, except to watch him, and I've been very impressed. I think, if he is a difficult personality, as some people say, this grueling leadership campaign was very good for him, because it forced him to come to terms with his critics and his challenges," Clark said.

"And he's clearly able to take on a strong parliamentarian [like Stephen Harper]. I'm interested in his potential, and we'll just see what happens."

(CP photo)