Campbell was the first — and so far only — female Prime Minister of Canada, the first baby boomer Prime Minister and the first Prime Minister born in British Columbia. She was only the second woman in history to sit at the table of the Group of Eight leaders, after British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, and the third woman to serve as a head of government in North America, after Eugenia Charles of Dominica and Violeta Chamorro of Nicaragua.
While in her pre-teens, Campbell was a host and reporter on the CBC children's program Junior Television Club.
She is currently in a common law marriage to Hershey Felder, an actor, playwright, composer, and concert pianist. Though she has no children of her own, she remains close to Nathan Divinsky's daughter Pamela.
The couple currently reside in Paris, France.
A few years later, Campbell resigned from the legislature to run in the 1988 federal election as a Progressive Conservative in Vancouver Centre, in downtown Vancouver. She won and immediately joined the cabinet, becoming Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development (1989-1990), and later became Canada's first female Minister of Justice and Attorney-General (1990-1993). She was then appointed as the first female Minister of National Defence after Mulroney shuffled his cabinet in 1993.
In February, Prime Minister Brian Mulroney announced his retirement from politics. Campbell defeated Jean Charest at the Progressive Conservative leadership convention that June, and Governor General Ray Hnatyshyn formally appointed her Prime Minister on June 25. As a concession to Charest, Campbell appointed him to the posts of Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Industry, Science and Technology, the first a largely symbolic, and the second a significant, cabinet portfolio.
Also in 1993, Campbell and Eddy were divorced, although the divorce was finalized before she was sworn in as Prime Minister.
In an unrelated story, Campbell was the Canadian Justice Minister at the time of David Milgaard's release from prison after serving 23 years for a crime he did not commit. In her time as Justice Minister, Campbell repressed several appeal requests from Milgaard's lawyers, and also disregarded a public address from Milgaard's mother, Joyce Milgaard. She came under heavy criticism for her position.
Campbell did extensive campaigning during the summer, touring the nation and attending barbecues and other events. By the end of the summer, her personal popularity had increased greatly, far surpassing that of Liberal Party leader Jean Chrétien. Support for the Progressive Conservative Party had also increased, and they were only a few points behind the Liberals, while the Reform Party had been reduced to single digits.
Campbell also became the only Canadian Prime Minister not to have resided at 24 Sussex Drive since that address became the official home of the Prime Minister of Canada in 1951. Initially, Campbell's predecessor Brian Mulroney remained at 24 Sussex while renovations on his new home in Montreal were being completed. Campbell instead took up residence at Harrington Lake, and did not move into 24 Sussex after Mulroney left.
However, Campbell's initial popularity soon declined due to public-relations mistakes committed after the writ was dropped. When she was running for the party leadership, Campbell's frank honesty was seen as an important asset and a sharp contrast from Mulroney's highly-polished style. However, that backfired when she told reporters at a Rideau Hall event that it was unlikely that the deficit or unemployment would be much reduced before the "end of the century." During the election campaign, she stated that discussing a complete overhaul of Canada's social policies in all their complexities could not be done in just 47 days (the time allotted to an election campaign). However, a reporter truncated this comment to "an election is no time to discuss serious issues."
Some have attempted to point to her gender as a major contributing factor to her historic loss, but there is scant evidence to support that assertion. Analysis of the press coverage of the campaign reveals that a constant theme of the coverage itself was its unfairness. Journalists wrote openly about the double standard applied to Campbell, but there was little or no attempt to analyze why this was the case. Scholarly analysis by experts such as Richard Johnston of the University of British Columbia asserts that Campbell's "47 days" comment (a response to a journalist's attempt to charge her with a hidden agenda) was not the key factor in the vote decline, but was made after the trend had shifted. Rather, the attempt to attribute a hidden agenda on social programs to her in and of itself reminded voters of what they believed about Mulroney – that he would say one thing but do another. Without time to establish a new record for her government, Campbell remained vulnerable to the negative perceptions people had of her predecessor.
The Conservatives' support tailed off rapidly as the campaign progressed. By October, it was obvious that Campbell and the Tories would not be re-elected. All polls showed the Liberals were on their way to at least a minority government, and would probably win a majority without dramatic measures. However, Campbell was still personally more popular than Chrétien. Knowing this, the Conservative campaign team put together a series of ads attacking the Liberal leader. The second ad appeared to mock Chrétien's Bell's Palsy facial paralysis, and generated a severe backlash from all sides. Even some Tory candidates called for the ad to be pulled from the air. Campbell claims to have not been directly responsible for the ad, and to have ordered it off the air over her staff's objections. However, she did not apologize and thus lost a chance to contain the fallout from the ad.
The ad flap was widely regarded as the final nail in Campbell's prime ministerial coffin. Conservative support plummeted into the teens, all but assuring that the Liberals would win a majority government short of a complete meltdown in the dying days of the campaign. Canadian humourist Will Ferguson suggested that this incident meant Campbell should receive "some of the blame" for her party's losses, though "taking over the party leadership from Brian (Mulroney) was a lot like taking over the controls of a 747 just before it plunges into the Rockies.
The Somalia Affair took place during her "watch" as Minister of National Defence and became a handicap during her subsequent period of public life. When the Liberal Party of Canada took power, the incident became the subject of a lengthy public inquiry, aimed further at embarrassing Campbell and the PCs.
On election night, the Conservatives were swept from power in a massive Liberal landslide. Campbell herself was defeated in Vancouver Centre by rookie Liberal Hedy Fry. It was only the third time in Canadian history that a sitting prime minister was unseated at the same time that his or her party lost an election. In 1921, Arthur Meighen was unseated in his Manitoba riding at the same time that his Conservatives were defeated; this recurred in 1926 to end his second brief tenure as prime minister. Mackenzie King led the Liberals to victory in the 1925 election, but lost his seat and had to win a by-election to get back into Parliament. Except for Jean Charest, every Cabinet member running for re-election lost their seat. With few exceptions, the Tories' previous support in the west moved to Reform, while the Bloc Québécois inherited most Tory support in Quebec. In some cases, the Bloc pushed Cabinet ministers from Quebec into third place.
The Tories still finished with over two million votes, taking third place in the popular vote, and falling only two percentage points short of Reform for second place. However, due to quirks in the first past the post system, Tory support was not concentrated in enough areas to translate into victories in individual ridings. In contrast, the geographic concentration of support for Reform in the West and the Bloc in Quebec garnered them significant numbers of parliamentary seats. As a result, the Tories won only two seats compared to Reform's 52 and the Bloc's 54. It was the worst defeat in party history, and the worst defeat ever suffered by a governing party at the federal level.
Campbell faced hurdles that she blamed as being insurmountable despite evidence to the contrary. Mulroney left office as one of the most (and according to Campbell, the most) unpopular prime ministers since opinion polling began in the 1940s. He considerably hampered his own party's campaign effort by staging a very lavish international farewell tour at taxpayer expense and staying in office until only two and a half months were left in his mandate. Under the circumstances, Campbell came into office with almost no room to make mistakes. Nonetheless, Campbell's pre-election summer tour did put the Progressive Conservatives back up in the polls to only a few points behind the Liberals.
By the time she dropped the writ for the 1993 election, she was only a few days from becoming the first prime minister to allow a Parliament to expire. Another factor was that the race was a five-way contest with Reform and the Bloc competing with the three traditional parties for votes. There was no issue like the Canada-US Free Trade Agreement five years earlier to make support for such parties seem risky.
Soon after the defeat, Campbell resigned as party leader; Jean Charest succeeded her.
In 1997, Campbell collaborated with her third husband, composer, playwright and actor Hershey Felder, on the production of a musical, Noah's Ark in Los Angeles. From 2001 to 2004, she lectured at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. She continues as an Honorary Fellow at the Center for Public Leadership at the Kennedy School. She also is the director of several publicly traded companies in high technology and biotechnology.
From 1999 to 2003 she chaired the Council of Women World Leaders, a network of women who hold or have held the office of president or prime minister. She was succeeded by former Irish President Mary Robinson. From 2003 until 2005 she served as President of the International Women's Forum, a global organization of women of preeminent achievement whose headquarters is in Washington, D.C.
Campbell serves on the Board of the International Crisis Group and the Forum of Federations, and is on the advisory bodies of numerous international organizations. In 2004, she was included in the list of 50 most important political leaders in history in the Almanac of World History compiled by the National Geographic Society. She was cited for her status as the only woman head of government of a North American country (defined variously), but controversy ensued among academics in Canada over the merit of this honour since she had not won an election and because many senior ministers in the Mulroney government had not contested the leadership convention.
She was a founding member of the Club of Madrid, an independent organization whose main purpose is to strengthen democracy in the world. Its membership is by invitation only and consists of former Heads of State and Government. In 2004 Campbell assumed the role of Secretary General of the organization.
On 30 November 2004, Campbell's official portrait for the parliamentary Prime Minister's gallery was unveiled. The painting was created by Victoria, British Columbia artist David Goatley. Kim Campbell said she was "deeply honoured" to be the only woman to have her picture in the Prime Ministers' corridor, stating: "I really look forward to the day when there are many other female faces." The painting shows a pensive Campbell sitting on a chair with richly coloured Haida capes and robes in the background, symbolizing her time as a cabinet minister and as an academic. The unveiling took place amidst protests against President George W. Bush's state visit to Canada.
During the 2006 election campaign, Campbell endorsed the candidacy of Tony Fogarassy, the Conservative candidate in Campbell's former riding of Vancouver Centre. Campbell also clarified to reporters that she is a supporter of the new Conservative Party. Fogarassy lost the election, placing a distant third.
Campbell now lives in France and recently joined the Board of Trustees of the Ukrainian Foundation for Effective Governance, an NGO formed in September 2007 with the aid of Ukrainian businessman Rinat Akhmetov.
Campbell has harshly criticized Mulroney for not handing power to her sooner than June 1993. In her view, when she finally became prime minister, she had almost no time or chance to make up ground on the Liberals once her initial popularity wore off. In her memoirs, Time and Chance as well as her response to The Secret Mulroney Tapes, Campbell even suggested that Mulroney knew the Tories would be defeated in the upcoming election, and wanted a "scapegoat who would bear the burden of his unpopularity" rather than a true successor. The cause of the 1993 debacle remains disputed, with some arguing that the election results were a vote against Mulroney rather than a rejection of Campbell, and others suggesting that the poorly-run Campbell campaign was the key factor in the result.
Although the Progressive Conservatives survived as a distinct political party for another ten years after the 1993 debacle, they never recovered their previous standing. During that period they were led by Jean Charest (1993-1998) and then, for the second time, by Joe Clark (1998-2003). By then the party had voted to merge with the Canadian Alliance to form the Conservative Party of Canada in 2003, thus formally ceasing to exist. Joe Clark continued to sit as a "Progressive Conservative" into 2004, and the new brand of Conservatives gained power in the election of 2006, thus the "Tory" nickname lives on in the federal politics of Canada.
Campbell remains one of the youngest women to have ever assumed the office of Prime Minister in any country, and thus also one of the youngest to have left the office.
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