1983 Progressive Conservative Leadership

1983 Progressive Conservative Leadership

June 11, 1983

Ottawa Civic Centre

Chairs: Pat Carney (MP for Vancouver Centre, B.C.) and Peter Elzinga (party president and MP for Pembina, Alta.)

More than two-thirds of Tories at a January 1983 convention voted against reviewing Clark’s leadership. The former prime minister still wanted a fresh mandate from the party, and resigned to run for his job anew.


Brian Mulroney ran for the second time, taking aim at Clark and Crosbie before the convention and highlighting the party's weakness among francophone and immigrant voters. But he had never held elected office.

Mulroney promised to include all opponents on his team after winning. He also pledged more private-sector growth and foreign investment but expressed skepticism of free trade.

Joe Clark warned the party would lose its recent boost in popular support with a new leader and was the best bet to defeat the Liberals.

He said free trade would be “very dangerous” to Ontario and other manufacturing centres. Clark also pointed to his experience in Parliament.

John Crosbie supported more open U.S. economic relations and pointed to nearly 20 years of political experience, but faced questions about his lack of French. He promised to learn if victorious, but took flak for comments comparing French to Chinese or German.

David Crombie, a former Toronto mayor and health minister under Clark, ran on the party’s left wing.

Michael Wilson, a junior cabinet minister in the Clark government, hoped to be the second choice of delegates later in the convention.

Peter Pocklington, businessman and owner of the Edmonton Oilers, called for a lower Canadian dollar and considered supporting Wilson if he dropped out.

Toronto-area MP John Gamble ran but believed Crosbie was the actual candidate to beat.

Neil Fraser ran on an anti-metric system platform.


Clark was seen to have the first-ballot lead as delegates headed for Ottawa. But could he attract votes on later ballots?

Mulroney and Crosbie followed. Both men played up polls showing growing support. Mulroney was welcomed at Thursday night receptions for Pocklington and Crombie, after the convention opened with policy sessions on economic, social, and foreign policies.

Mulroney had 700 volunteers on hand, with headquarters in a former bank building.

Clark received the longest ovation at Thursday’s candidate introductions. But he was the only one to hear boos as well, from Mulroney’s section.

Each candidate had 25 minutes on Friday evening to deliver a presentation, after earlier policy sessions with delegates. The speaking order: Mulroney, Wilson, Crosbie, Pocklington, Clark, Gamble, Crombie, and Fraser.

Said Mulroney: "It matters not as Conservatives whom you support tonight; it matters only that you care about Canada and that you care about this party and that is absolutely good enough. We have got to capture the best minds, the best sense of talent that exists in this country."

Clark promised that "if we resolve to stop fighting ourselves and to keep building our base, then we can win national elections well into the future."


There were 3,137 eligible voters. Nearly one-third were thought to be under 30 years old.

Voting began just after noon on Saturday, amidst tremendous heat inside the arena. Stricter security measures were in place than previous conventions.

As reported by Patrick Martin, Allan Gregg, and George Perlin, the “Anyone But Mulroney” movement was housed almost entirely within Clark’s camp. Anti-Clark sentiment, however, was spread among Mulroney and Crosbie supporters. (Contenders: The Tory Quest for Power)

Fraser and Gamble supported Crosbie after being eliminated. Pocklington and Wilson decided to exit the race and move to Mulroney after being initially inclined to support Crosbie and stop Clark. Quebec delegates for Clark and Mulroney made an agreement to stop Crosbie if necessary. Pocklington's delegates split evenly between Crosbie and Mulroney, while Wilson's camp skewed towards Mulroney.

Clark lost votes on the second ballot, while Mulroney rose 17 per cent. Clark would not entertain an alliance with Crosbie, despite entreaties from Newfoundland Premier Brian Peckford.

Crombie decided to support Crosbie, who remained in third place but failed to lure enough Clark delegates.

Crosbie was eliminated after the third ballot. The gap between Clark and Mulroney was just 64 votes.

Crosbie released his delegates, most of whom voted for Mulroney on the fourth ballot. He did not issue an endorsement, preferring not to be a “bridesmaid.”

The 44-year-old Mulroney was the ultimate winner, with the final results coming at 9:20 p.m.


  • Mulroney met the following day with several of the other leadership candidates.
  • The candidates spent a combined $4 million on their campaigns, according to The Canadian Press.
  • Mulroney won an August by-election in Central Nova, N.S. Elmer MacKay resigned so the new leader could run for a seat in the House of Commons.
  • Mulroney and Clark both spent an estimated $1.9 million on their campaigns.