KIM CAMPBELL BECOMES CANADA’S FIRST FEMALE DEFENCE MINISTER IN AN ELECTIONYEAR SHUFFLE
E. KAYE FULTONJanuary181993
THE RISING STAR
KIM CAMPBELL BECOMES CANADA’S FIRST FEMALE DEFENCE MINISTER IN AN ELECTIONYEAR SHUFFLE
E. KAYE FULTON
It was an arrangement of obvious mutual benefit. After three tumultuous years as federal minister of justice, Kim Campbell was ready for a new assignment. At the same time, Prime Minister Brian Mulroney needed a high-profile centrepiece for an otherwise minor cabinet shuffle to launch an election year. The result: one day before 10 Conservative MPs were sworn into their new posts on Jan. 4, Mulroney offered Campbell the highprofile job as Canada’s minister of national defence. Despite persistent speculation that placed her at the forefront of a list of potential leadership contenders—if Mulroney steps down—Campbell has proven to be a valued team player. Indeed, after the ceremony, the Vancouver MP dismissed speculation about her leadership potential as “silly.” Three days later, Campbell used humor to rephrase her denial. “Who needs a leadership race? I’ll just stage a military coup,” the fledgling defence minister told Maclean’s, adding: “Don’t mess with me. I have tanks.”
stage. Campbell’s view of the importance of her new appointment is without equivocation. Said the new defence minister: “This discussion about the Prime Minister trying to clip my wings is so off the mark. He knows when we look good, Äe looks good.”
In fact, Maclean ’shas learned that Mulroney plans to build a key election platform around the combined forces of Campbell and External Affairs Minister Barbara McDougall. Aided by General John de Chastelain, appointed last week as Canada’s ambassador to the United States (page 14), the two cabinet ministers are to merge Canada’s separate defence and foreign policies into a comprehensive international policy that likely will include a reassessment of the country’s traditional peacekeeping role (page 22). Stating that most Canadians are unaware of the high costs necessary to train
and maintain peacekeeping troops, Campbell vowed to hold “public discussions” to determine what Canadians want from the military. Declared the minister: “Foreign policy cannot be independent of military capability. You cannot write cheques that you can’t cash.”
Such self-assurance after only days in the portfolio is rooted in Campbell’s lifelong interest in international affairs. Last week, as aides helped her strip her Justice office bare of personal belongings, Campbell was clearly anxious to pack up and go. “In my head, I’ve already started my new job.” The allure of the portfolio, she added, is the shifting world order that calls for a realignment of defence and foreign-policy priorities. Said Campbell: “The removal of the nuclear threat has in many ways made the world less safe. There are all sorts of ways in which the new world configurations
Beneath the humor lies a kernel of truth. A rookie MP, the 45-year-old former litigation lawyer and political philosophy teacher has emerged as one of the tottering Conservative government’s most valuable assets. In addition to becoming Canada’s first—and NATO’s only—female defence minister, Campbell also becomes the first minister to handle both that department as well as the department of veterans’ affairs. And the defence portfolio provides her with a politically powerful seat, denied her as justice minister, at the 12-member inner cabinet table. Indeed, in the run-up to this year’s election, some specialists consider the downtown Vancouver MP as one of the few marketable figures of any federal party.
That much of the cabinet shuffle debate last week focused on whether Campbell’s appointment was a reward or a punishment is evidence of her emergence on the national political
can create problems. For the first time in my lifetime we have the capacity to make some real changes.”
Campbell said that she learned from Mulroney in early December that she was likely to be shifted to a new portfolio, but added that she had no idea what it would be. “I am just flabbergasted,” Campbell said. “When he told me, I probably said, ‘Holy Cow, Prime Minister. Leapin’ Lizards, Daddy Warbucks.’ He was just as pleased as punch with himself.”
As a teenager in Vancouver, Campbell’s goal was to be the first female UN secretary general. An interest in politics led to a master’s degree in political science from the University of British Columbia and two years at the London School of Economics. “I wasn’t born with a silver spoon in my mouth, but I had a fine education,” recalled Campbell. “That’s a great joy of being a Canadian of my generation.” By the age of 39, Campbell had been a lecturer at UBC, a lawyer, Vancouver school board chairman, a defeated provincial Social Credit candidate, a policy adviser to Socred Premier William Bennett and a Socred leadership candidate. She had spent three months studying domestic politics in the Soviet Union and could speak passable Russian, German, and fluent French.
Campbell tries to avoid publicly discussing her personal life, arguing that the media unfairly subject the private worlds of female public
figures to greater scrutiny than those of male politicians. But she has revealed some essential details of her life, starting with what she describes as an unhappy childhood. Born Avril Phaedra Campbell, the new defence minister adopted Kim as a nickname when she was 12, but still retains her legal name. That year, her mother, Phyllis, ran off for several years and worked on boats in the Mediterranean and West Indies. From that point, Campbell and her older sister were raised by her father, George, a Crown prosecutor.
At age 25, Campbell married a mathematics professor 20 years her senior, a man she describes as one of her first mentors. He brought three teenage daughters to the union, and although Campbell divorced their father, she says that she remains close to the children. Campbell remarried in 1986, to Vancouver lawyer Howard Eddy. After her election in 1988, the two maintained three residences— one in Ottawa, one overlooking False Creek in Vancouver, where Campbell still lives, and another on a 42-foot boat docked at Vancouver Island—until separating in 1990. The minister, who has no children of her own, says that throughout her marriages, she maintained a strong measure of independence. Added Campbell, who worked as a high-school teacher to pay her way through law school: “I have never been married to a man who brought his whole paycheque home. I don’t have the luxury of living on somebody else’s income.”
That sense of individualism and pride ushered Campbell into the arena of partisan politics. In 1986, Campbell, then an adviser to Bennett, ignored the advice of friends and ran for the Socred leadership to replace him. Bill Vander Zalm won, and she placed last in a field of 12 with only 14 votes. Said David Camp, a Vancouver lawyer who worked on her leadership bid and provincial and federal election campaigns: “She told us she would come last, but that she was running on a point of principle. From that experience, however, she became the master practitioner of the new, issue| driven politics.”
Still, Campbell paid a political price for her principles. Her convention speech, highlighted by the epithet “charisma without substance is a dangerous thing,” was aimed directly at Vander Zalm. Later, she attacked the premier for his threat to cut funding for all legal abortions. Elected to the provincial legislature in 1986, Campbell lingered on the backbenches. Said the minister: “We all make mistakes and must restrain our instincts to be completely candid.” Two years later, after constant public bickering with Vander Zalm, Campbell jumped into the federal arena by running successfully in Vancouver Centre, a traditional swing riding vacated by ailing Tory International Trade Minister Pat Carney.
Taking pains to turn aside media descriptions of her as an aloof intellectual, Campbell once wrote a letter of correction to a newspaper that mistakenly identified her as a member of Mensa, a club restricted to people with exceptionally high IQs. For her part, the minister said: “I do not define myself as an intellectu-
al. I have intellectual interests.” And during the 1986 provincial leadership race, Campbell was quoted as saying that “I like to socialize with people who read the same things I do and have a similar level of education, but I genuinely like ordinary people.” Said B.C. New Democrat MP Lynn Hunter: “She is the only one I have ever heard [in Parliament] quote Plato. I mean, give me a break, Kim. This is the House of Commons, not academia.”
The flip side of the cool intellectual image is a quick-witted, cello-playing comedienne. In 1983, as a 35-year-old UBC law student, then the director of the school’s annual amateur cabaret, Campbell told The Vancouver Sun, “What I’d really like to do is make lots and lots of money and just be a writer of comedies and sit at home with a lampshade on my head.” Almost a decade later, the senior cabinet minister provoked nationwide controversy in the fall when a picture she had posed for two years earlier, bare-shouldered behind her legal robes, was published in a book of photographs of successful Canadian women.
When the NDP’s Hunter described her as “the Madonna of Canadian politics,” Campbell tartly responded, “A comparison between Madonna and me is a comparison between a strapless evening gown and a gownless evening strap.” Said CBC radio host Vicki Gabereau, a childhood friend of Campbell’s: “Kim adjusts to the situation around her, which is part of her genius. If it calls for down and dirty, she’s down and dirty. If it calls for funny, she’s funny.”
In Ottawa, Campbell has built a political reputation of being stridently partisan while maintaining her intellectual honesty. A self-
avowed feminist, she said that before her appointment to the Justice portfolio she was “comfortable” that there was no law defining when women could have access to abortions. Yet as a law-making minister, she oversaw the Commons passage of controversial legislation to recriminalize abortion, carrying her fight to the Senate, where the bill was ultimately defeated in January, 1991. Described by more than one aide as a quick-tempered boss who insists on her own way, Campbell in contrast cites public participation in the policy-making process as a hallmark of her Justice tenure. Said Campbell: “The important thing is to put processes in place that can’t be turned back. I
had enough time to make changes in the department and in the Canadian legal landscape that are permanent.” In the uncertainties of an election year, there are no such luxuries of time for Campbell in her new role. Last week’s cabinet shuffle left few clues about Mulroney’s intentions. As the Prime Minister left for a 10-day vacation in Florida, he said that more changes will be made before an election is called. But the retirements of five cabinet ministers, announced at the time of the shuffle—including former energy minister Jake Epp, former defence minister Marcel Masse and former secretary of state Robert de Cotret— are the vanguard of the possible dismantlement of the eight-year-old Tory regime. Still, last week’s changes, which included the elevation of Pierre Blais from Consumer and Corporate Affairs to take on Campbell’s former Justice portfolio, did nothing to stem the speculation over who will take the Conservatives into the next election. But for her part, Campbell said that she is happy to have Mulroney continue as leader. “The Prime Minister has no doubts about my loyalty,” she said. Nor, presumably, any doubts about her ambition. E. KAYE FULTON with HAL QUINN in Vancouver, LUKE FISHER and NANCY WOOD in Ottawa
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