The Real Kim Campbell
E. KAYE FULTON
Kim Campbell knew how to become a celebrity long before she learned how to be an effective politician. When she joined the race to succeed British Columbia Premier William Bennett in 1986, she was a policy adviser in his office. While her 11 opponents revelled in traditional campaign hoopla, serving free food and beer, Campbell greeted delegates in a tent with a string quartet. Her opponents marched into the arena with bands and banners; Campbell entered behind a lone piper to deliver a stinging assault upon the race’s clear leader, William Vander Zalm. When she came last on the first ballot, with just 14 votes out of 1,294 cast, she threw her support behind Vander Zalm’s chief opponent. According to conventional political wisdom, she did everything wrong. But the delegates and the media remembered the determined woman who had audaciously reached beyond her station. As Victoria Times-Colonist political columnist Jim Hume noted at the time: “She was the star of the show.”
That brash self-assurance captures the pattern of a lifetime. Kim Campbell has always dared to take risks and to reach for new challenges. Rules do not confine her; her own interests and her own agenda often take precedence over the traditions of any group. Her political career path begins at the Vancouver school board in 1980 and climbs steadily past the provincial legislature in Victoria to Parliament Hill in 1988. Each step along the way was shrewdly calculated to bring increased power and public recognition. But Campbell has rarely lingered long enough at any level to compile the record of accomplishments that her bold style seems to promise. Even at her strongest, in the federal justice portfolio, she was better known for her compromises than for the substance of her achievements. Now, after little more than four years in cabinet, she is reaching past more experienced politicians for the ultimate Canadian electoral prize: the job of Prime Minister. Even before she announced her candidacy she was the favorite, and she still holds an impressive lead. Last week, Southam News estimated that Campbell has the support of 45 per cent of the delegates chosen to attend the June 9 to 13 convention.
The 46-year-old Campbell brings formidable assets to her quest. Tough-minded and articulate, she has withstood criticism over such policies as the $4.4-billion purchase of antisubmarine helicopters. Stylish and astute, she contends that she will “change the way we do politics in this country.” She can master issues with ease and flair; she can charm an audience with self-deprecating humor and biting wit. She has demonstrated a lifelong dedication to learning. Says political analyst Gerry Kristianson, the president of Pacific Public Affairs Ltd. in Victoria: “She is one of the few people in politics that I know who actually grows in the job and changes.”
Intelligent, brash, calculating and often lonely, she has always been driven to succeed
But there is another, less laudable side to Campbell’s ambition. She is loath to change her mind once she takes a position. If her opponents are adamant or ill-informed, she often responds with brusque disdain. At times, she seems to resent her critics as much as she does their criticism. As former B.C. premier William Vander Zalm told Maclean’s: “There used to be a joke: ‘If it isn’t Kim’s idea, it probably isn’t any good.’”
That drive to take credit—and to take control—appears to be a pivotal force in Campbell’s life. She presents herself as a gifted and determined woman who has excelled at almost everything she has attempted. But, as a monthlong Maclean’s exploration of Campbell’s life reveals, she has enhanced that sunny image by adroitly concealing details and editing facts. Campbell, her immediate family and her two former husbands refuse to discuss personal traumas such as her divorces. In an unusual step, she has compiled lists of friends, from childhood to the present, who willingly recite harmless anecdotes about her life to reporters. And when she recounts her achievements, she often takes subtle credit for far more than she actually accomplished. Although she has often disputed unflattering accounts of her experiences, she has not corrected frequent erroneous reports that she has postgraduate degrees in political science. She has also been credited with proficiency in German, Russian, French and, most recently, Yiddish—but only her French is at the functional level.
In 1983, when she was the 35-year-old Vancouver school board chairman, Campbell told a reporter for The Vancouver Sun that her abundance of natural talents—“by virtue of my genes”—made it difficult to decide what to do with her life. In the same interview, she described her adolescence as “very unhappy.” Few of Campbell’s childhood friends disagreed with the first statement. But most were perplexed by the second. They remembered her as a cheerful, outgoing companion. Few even questioned her motives when she suddenly announced, at the age of 13, that she no longer wished to be known as Avril Phaedra, the names that her mother chose for her. From then on, she was to be called Kim. Says Vancouver accountant April Marshall, Campbell’s best friend in public school: “I was aware that her parents broke up and that her mom left. Kim didn’t make it a big thing. However she felt about it, she internalized it.” Perhaps Campbell concealed her feelings because divorce seemed so unusual in her middle-class Vancouver suburb of Kerrisdale. It was 1959 when her parents’ marriage ended, One of the most popular television shows was Father Knows Best, with its saccharine-sweet portrayal of family harmony. Outwardly, at least, Campbell’s friends lived well-adjusted lives in an orderly world. Her own quarrelling parents, George and Lissa, attempted to insulate their daughters, Avril, 12, and Alix, 14, from the pressures of their marriage by sending them to boarding school in Victoria while they tried to work out their differences. Before the school year ended, Lissa had fled, first to England, and then to the Mediteranean and the Caribbean to crew sailboats with the man that she would later marry, William Vroom.
The Campbell marriage, like many of that period, was founded on wartime romance. A soldier with the Seaforth Highlanders, George Campbell met Lissa Cook in 1943 while he was stationed in Port Alberni on Vancouver Island. She left to become a wire less operator at such stations as Halifax and Ottawa. He was posted to Truro, N.S. Their relationship survived, through letters and visits, until they married, shortly before George Campbell went overseas in September, 1944. Wounded on the Italian front four months later, he returned to British Columbia in May, 1945—to be greeted by his new wife and his three-month-old daughter, Alix. The couple had lofty dreams. They planned to live on Lissa’s income from secretarial jobs while George enrolled in a general arts program at Victoria College. On March 10, 1947, in Port Alberni, Avril Phaedra arrived, bearing the lyrical names that her mother selected in the hope that her daughter would become an author.
Six months later, the young family moved to Vancouver, where Campbell completed his arts degree at the University of British Columbia. His marks were too low for his first ambition, medicine, but he was accepted into the law faculty. The Campbells settled into an outwardly traditional pattern. After several moves, the upwardly mobile family moved in 1954 into a rambling white stucco and brown-trimmed home on a corner lot in Kerrisdale. George Campbell, who was called to the bar in 1953, set up a general law practice. Alix took up ballet, while Avril studied the piano and highland dancing. Their father captured their achievements on eight-millimetre film. As George Campbell told Maclean’s: “I was brought up to be seen and not heard. We were going to be more enlightened.”
But the marriage was dissolving. Although the Campbells were Anglican, they sent their girls to St. Ann’s Academy, a Roman Catholic boarding school. April Marshall recalls that her friend would not talk about the trauma of leaving home. “I remember asking her, ‘Are you scared?’ No, she wanted to go. She viewed it as a marvelous adventure,” says Marshall. “She wanted to find out what it would be like at a girls’ school, to wear a uniform.”
At St. Ann’s, the Campbell sisters lived in a residence with 50 other boarders who dressed alike in crisp white blouses and blue tunics. In the midst of that imposed uniformity, Campbell topped her class of 30 Grade 8
‘She just kind of gritted her teeth and went on with it’
students. Her teacher, Sister Eileen Gallagher, remembers the vibrant girl with the cropped blond hair as her best student in 39 years—the only one who correctly answered all questions on an IQ test. “I never saw anyone who absorbed so much,” Gallagher told Maclean’s. “We couldn’t evaluate her IQ because she made a perfect score. It worked out to be 153 but that was inaccurate because we couldn’t find the ceiling.”
According to the nun, her prize student never mentioned her parents’ marital difficulties—even when her mother left home, midway through the school year. In public, Campbell remained the outgoing May Queen who staged impromptu cancans in front of her classmates. In private, the stricken daughter huddled over the telephone in the hall with her sister, imploring their father, now alone in Vancouver, to let them come home. “I made them stay in school to finish their year,” says George Campbell. “I thought it was kind of cute that they wanted to look after their dad.”
When the sisters returned to Vancouver at the end of June, their mother had all but vanished from their lives. Ten years would pass before Kim Campbell saw her again. Campbell would later credit her mother as her earliest feminist influence. But as a teenager, the sting of apparent rejection ran deep. Recalls George Campbell: “Kim had a tender heart. She didn’t cry much. But she would feel it just the same.” In Grade 10, at Prince of Wales Secondary School in Vancouver, Campbell gave a gold bracelet, engraved with her nickname ‘Ave’—a gift from her mother—to schoolmate Ralph White, whom she had begun dating a year earlier. She did not
bother to retrieve it when she and White parted in Grade 11. As for her change of name, Campbell told Maclean’s: “I look back on it as the classic manifestation of adolescent trauma: distancing yourself from those things that are painful.”
She tackled the aspects of her life that she could control with boundless energy. She was president of the student council and valedictorian for the class of 1964. She organized skits for high-school assemblies and wrote lyrics to music that she composed on the piano and the guitar. Her poems were published in the school’s annual literary supplement. Says former boyfriend White, now a production manager at Pacific Press in Vancouver: “She has always been a very strong person. She just kind of gritted her teeth and went on with it.”
At home, there was a new face at the table. Although George Campbell declines to discuss his “martrimonial difficulties,” friends recall that he was briefly married to a woman named Ginny, barely older than Alix. “They were like three sisters when Ginny came on the scene,” says a family friend. Still, there was friction, partly because Campbell believed that it was Ginny’s job to discipline the children. Added the friend: “If you are George with two young daughters who are coming in late at night, how do you get your young wife to control them?” Ginny has now vanished from the Campbell biographies. The family does not discuss her.
Despite Campbell’s veneer of self-confidence, she did not know what she wanted to do with her life. Under the category of “future” in her high school yearbook, she listed “medicine or political science at UBC, then travel.” Her ambivalence continued for the next five years while she earned an honors degree in political science. That training provided the framework for her emerging conservatism. The UBC campus, like many universities in the late 1960s, was a battleground. There were rallies against the Vietnam War and calls for free love. As vicepresident of the student government, Campbell positioned herself as a moderate and a traditionalist. She found comfort in the writings of Edmund Burke, the 18th-century British political philosopher who lauded tradition, social stability and responsible leadership by the aristocracy. Her pomposity irked her more radical colleagues. “She looked like a straight right-winger, well-dressed, with fluffy blond hair,” fellow student council member Stan Persky, now a political columnist, recalls. “I thought, ‘Oh God. Here’s the ancient regime.’”
But the strongest influence on Campbell’s intellectual life was her new boyfriend, Nathan Divinsky, a flamboyant UBC mathematics professor. According to friends, the two began to date in 1967, the year that Divinsky divorced his first wife Elizabeth. Campbell was 20. Divinsky, known to his friends as ‘Tuzie,” was the 42-year-old father of three daughters. The relationship introduced Campbell to a colorful life of intellectual elitism and exuberant eccentricity. Divinsky, a chess and bridge expert from Winnipeg’s north end, boasts that he once played Soviet chess master Boris Spassky to a draw—and that Cuban President Fidel Castro presented him with a chess set. At dinner parties, he defended Britain’s rigid class system and flaunted his right-wing views.
Divinsky’s impact upon her was more profound than Campbell today acknowledges. Campbell’s official biographies have often stated that she did postgraduate work in the summer of 1969 at the University of Oregon in Eugene. In fact, she took one undergraduate course—a fourth-year political science course on revolution—which could be applied towards a postgraduate degree. Campbell was in Oregon because Divinsky was
there. The avuncular professor had taught summer institute sessions at the University of Oregon since 1960.
In 1969, he taught two postgraduate courses, in mathematical analysis and algebraic systems. The two shared a furnished apartment in a small complex with a swimming pool.
They partied with Divinsky’s faculty colleagues, taking the male and female leads in impromptu performances of Gilbert and Sullivan operettas. Recalls their friend Betty Niven, who is married to former University of Oregon mathematics professor Ivan Niven: “I noticed during those times with Tuzie that she was very self-confident and had a lot of presence. After all, they were not married yet. That’s common now. Nobody was looking down their nose, but there were not a lot of people in that situation.”
In the fall of 1969, the two returned to UBC where Campbell began work on her master’s degree at the Institute of International Relations. She was an excellent student. Retired UBC associate professor Jan Solecki taught her Soviet economics and elementary Russian. “Once in a while, you would get a student with a computer-like mind,” he recalls. “Not only do those students
understand what you teach them, they always relate to it and see that the orderly pattern comes out correct.” But Campbell never completed her master’s degree. In 1969, she applied for a Canada Council doctoral fellowship. (Coincidentally, Divinsky was an evaluator on the Canada Council selection committee for 1969-1970.) Campbell won. In October, 1970, she abandoned UBC—and moved to England with a four-year doctoral fellowship, worth between $3,500 and $5,500 per year, for studies in Soviet government at the London School of Economics.
Campbell’s studies at LSE reinforced her conservative views. Her doctoral supervisor was historian Leonard Schapiro, a brilliant sovietologist who shepherded his students on a
In London, she acquired a loathing for leftist ideology
three-month tour of the Soviet Union. Campbell emerged from his influence with a loathing for leftist dogma—and a profound respect for the law. But, once again, she abandoned her studies. Divinsky had moved to London in 1972 as a visiting professor at Queen Mary College at the University of London. The couple married that September. When his sabbatical ended in August, 1973, Campbell returned home.
She found herself languishing at the bottom rung of the academic hierarchy—a place that would become uncomfortably familiar.
More recently, Campbell has disparaged universities as “the last bastion of great sexism in this country.” But her lack of a postgraduate degree certainly hindered her prospects. According to Campbell, university officials did not respond to her application for a teaching position in Soviet studies. Instead, in January, 1975, after an 18-month hiatus as wife and stepmother, she joined the lowly ranks of UBC’s sessional lecturers. In 1977-1978 she taught two courses: Contemporary Ideology 202 and International Politics 204.
Campbell maintains that she was an excellent teacher. The experience, she recalls, was “like watering flowers.” Still, she was not offered a tenured position. “It didn’t matter how good I was,” Campbell complains. “People would say to me that if I finished my PhD, I would get a permanent job. I would point out
that the last five people they hired were hired without a PhD.” Despite that claim, universities rarely appoint sessional lecturers who lack postgraduate degrees to tenured positions.
ampbell’s career was stalled. But instead of resuming postgraduate work to improve her chances for advancement, she did something that has since become familiar: she ricocheted into another position. In 1978, she found a job at the Langara Campus of Vancouver Community College, teaching politics and history. Although some faculty members grumbled that she lacked proper credentials, she replaced a full-time teacher who was on sabbatical. When that faculty member returned in 1979, the 32-year-old Campbell was relegated to part-time status, teaching three night courses. Recalls Campbell: “I said to myself, I don’t want to be 40 years old, wondering whether I am going to have a full teaching load. The writing was on the wall.”
It was a message that prompted her to change the direction of her life. Although she did not aspire to a career in law, “I knew that there was a lot that you could do with a law degree. I had in
the back of my mind the idea of going into politics some day.” During her three years at UBC law school, she was known for asking incisive questions—and she earned good marks. But law did not satisfy her craving for achievement and recognition. In 1980, after only two months in law school, Campbell won a position as trustee on the Vancouver school board. In theory, it was a low-level political role. But most trustees on the nine-member Vancouver board played politics as though it were guerrilla warfare. It was a natural fit for the headstrong Campbell. She preached fiscal restraint and demanded more programs for gifted students.
She was now carrying an onerous work load. She was a full-time law student, and, until Christmas, 1981, she continued to teach at 'Langara. As she began to eclipse her husband, they drifted apart. In 1983, they divorced. Divinsky, now retired, told Maclean’s that his 11-year marriage to Campbell “is a seven-letter word called ‘silence’.”
Despite the stress of divorce, Campbell’s political career flourished. In 1983, in her final year of law school, she was chairman of the Vancouver school board. In that partisan arena, she gave as good as she got. When unionized teachers refused to surrender a day’s pay to preserve the jobs of non-unionized substitute teachers, she lashed out at “the unacceptable face of trade unionism.” She chided a parent who asked why the board held its $174-million budget talks in secret, responding that the queries “were smarmy at best.” Those sessions revealed another side to Campbell. Kenneth Denike, the board’s present chairman and a Campbell ally at the time, recalls that she had a disconcerting tendency to agree to one policy behind closed doors— and then espouse another in public. Once, Denike, Campbell and a third candidate
agreed before a public meeting that the board should use funds from the sale of school property, rather than lay off teachers, to meet its operating budget. ,rWe went into the meeting and by the luck of the draw, Kim got the first go,” recounts Denike. “She turned around and tore apart the position that we had all agreed to take. It was like pulling a lanyard and the cannon turns around and blasts you.” Denike added that little was accomplished during Campbell’s tenure: “There was not much substance. It was gallery spectacle theatre.”
In the spring of 1983, Campbell applied to article at the respected Vancouver law firm of Ladner Downs. Her former legal colleague and current B.C. campaign manager, David Camp, recalls that some senior partners were worried that she was not committed to a life-
time legal career. They accepted her when she explained that
she was going to step down as school board chairman. But several weeks later,
Social Credit party officials asked the highprofile Campbell to run in Vancouver Centre riding in the April, 1983, provincial election. To Camp’s amazement, she accepted. “She said at the time, ‘Don’t worry about it. I won’t win’,” recalls Camp. Campbell did lose, but her political ambitions endured. After graduating and completing her articling year, she bought a $210,000 three-storey home overlooking False Creek in downtown Vancouver. But her heart was not in her job. Asked by B.C. Premier Bennett to work in his office in September, 1985, she leapt at the chance.
When Bennett resigned in May, 1986, Campbell launched her quixotic quest to replace him. She ran against her own boss, Bennett’s principal secretary, Bud Smith. And she denounced the future premier, Vander Zalm, with the warning: “Charisma without substance is a dangerous thing.” Vander Zalm fumed. Undeterred, Campbell defeated his chosen candidate for the Social Credit nomination in the riding of Vancouver/Point Grey. In October, 1986, she won her seat in the legislature, already an outcast in the winner’s caucus.
There was, however, a new measure of stability in her personal life. Campbell had met Howard Eddy, a lawyer for the B.C. attorney general’s ministry, when she worked in Bennett’s office. Eddy was a quiet, reserved former UBC law professor. They married in August, 1986, commuting between her Vancouver home and a 46-foot former provincial work boat, called the Western Yew, which they moored in a marina near Victoria.
The next two years were politically turbulent. Campbell became aligned with an influential group of dissidents who opposed
Vander Zalm’s desire to imprint his fundamentalist Christian principles on government policies. When the Premier announced that he was unilaterally suspending public funding for abortions, she denounced him. That clash was enough to ensure that the ambitious MLA would never get her coveted cabinet post.
But as Campbell’s career stagnated in Victoria, néw opportunities beckoned in Ottawa. Campbell’s former law partner, Camp, is the son of Tory adviser Dalton Camp and the nephew of Senator Norman Atkins, the party’s master strategist. In 1983, Campbell asked David Camp to introduce her to his uncle. Camp arranged dinner. Although Campbell gave no hint of her federal ambitions, she grilled Atkins about politics, public life and organization. Atkins was impressed enough to keep in touch. In 1987, Atkins asked her to challenge then-Liberal Leader John Turner in his riding of Vancouver Quadra. Atkins reasoned that Campbell was a strong local candidate who would distract Turner from his national campaign. Campbell was flattered but she was not going to resign her provincial seat to run in a riding that she could not win.
'I have made some very strong initiatives'
Another opportunity soon arose. On Sept. 26, 1988, Vancouver Centre MP Patricia Carney announced her retirement. Five days later, Mulroney called an election for Nov. 21. Carney’s campaign chairman, lawyer Lyall Knott, says that the high-profile Campbell was an obvious replacement but that she was initially reluctant to enter the race. “Ottawa is a long, way from home—five hours in the air and three time zones,” he recounts. “And she had a nice lifestyle.” That hesitation dissolved when Campbell watched Turner denounce the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement. The pact’s strongest B.C. defender, former international trade minister Carney, was retiring. Says Knott: “It was the opportunity to lead the charge on free trade.”
And how Campbell charged. She resigned her legislature seat, secured the uncontested nomination and plunged into the race. Her spirited defence of the free-trade pact caught
the attention of Mulroney. Throughout the 1988 campaign, the Prime Minister monitored the fortunes of about 10 younger candidates, including Campbell. When Campbell defeated her NDP
opponent, Johanna den Hertog, by 269 votes, Mulroney was delighted. Explains a senior Tory: “He really did view Campbell as a very attractive star for the party.”
The new MP and her husband moved to Ottawa. Although they retained their Vancouver home, they also took over the lease on Carney’s apartment in downtown Ottawa. Carney bequeathed furniture, bedding, towels, dishes and a vacuum cleaner. Campbell brought only her computer, her favorite books, Inuit carvings and an evocative print of Vancouver harbor. While Campbell explored Parliament Hill, Eddy found work as a legal adviser to the Immigration and Refugee Board.
Within Ottawa’s intricate hierarchy, Campbell was quickly marked as a potential star.
Mulroney named her to the junior ranks of his new cabinet as minister of state for Indian affairs and northern development. But he also deliberately positioned her to learn how Ottawa operated. Campbell was on two cabinet committees, including the special committee of council, which approved all federal appointments and regulations, the nuts and bolts of government. More important, she worked with two of Ottawa’s most skilled civil servants, deputy minister Harry Swain and associate deputy minister Fred Drummie.
As always, Campbell jumped at the chance to learn. Every Monday morning, she visited Swain’s office for hourlong briefings on the federal government. A fan of the British television series Yes, Minister, she nicknamed both men “Sir Humphrey”—an affectionate tribute to the show’s conniving senior civil servant. “Between the two of us,” Drummie recalls, “we gave her access to much experience—in short, how to find her way around. She came to the department as a highly accomplished political scientist and I guess we were providing the graduate school. She very quickly understood what the issues were.”
The Prime Minister obviously agreed. In February, 1990, he chose Campbell to be Canada’s first female attorney general and justice minister. For the opinionated Campbell, the job was not easy. To get her legislation through Parliament, she had to learn to compromise and to treat her colleagues’ views with respect. Her most painful learning experience was the 17-month debate over her proposals to strengthen Canada’s gun control legislation. Many urban MPs wanted stronger measures; many rural MPs viewed tougher gun control as a regulatory nightmare. The minister adjusted and readjusted her legislation until it finally passed in November, 1991. Calgary MP Barbara (Bobbi) Sparrow, who led an internal party revolt against the original bill, is now a strong Campbell supporter. “Kim has become more open, but that is through experience,” Sparrow says.
But Campbell paid a heavy personal price for those lessons. She worked from early morning until late evening, almost every day of the week. Her
husband, meanwhile, was a middle-level bureaucrat with little status and even less clout.. In March, 1991, Eddy left. (The two filed for divorce last January.) Campbell fled to her sister’s home in Victoria where she and Alix, a provincial government lawyer, spent the week listening to 1950s rock ’n’ roll records.
Then, with her lifelong pattern of discipline, Campbell went back to work. On her few free evenings, she dined with colleagues such as External Affairs Minister Barbara McDougall, guardedly sharing her depression. But outsiders saw only the ever-buoyant achiever who cracked jokes, imitated her colleagues and raced, full-tilt, up the parliamentary staircases. Campbell says that she read reports of her political ambitions during that period with a rueful grimace. “It seemed ironic to me,” she recalls. “Because of the breakup of my marriage and the loneliness, I was wondering if I wanted to continue doing this at all.” Campbell survived and eventually thrived. She transformed her Vancouver home into a showcase of antiques and Canadian art. The front garden is a spring confection of white rhododendrons, purple thyme and clematis. Every Christmas Eve, George and his third wife, Marguerite, and Alix and her family sing
carols around the grand piano in her living room. Her mother, widowed
since 1978, visits on separate occasions. Vancouver remains Campbell’s refuge. In her third-floor den, which
overlooks her riding, she keeps a cello that Divinsky gave her for her 30th birthday. “When she wants to have solace and comfort and relaxation,” says her friend Diane Farris, a Vancouver art gallery owner, “she looks out over the city up there and plays her cello.”
I n Ottawa, Campbell mas tered her portfolio. Be tween February, 1990, and January, 1993, she steered 26 bills through Parliament. Most of
those laws were pragmatic compromises. Although she has always supported a woman's unconditional right to abortion, she capitulated
to the anti-abortion forces when she took
over the Justice portfolio. She inherited—and promoted—legislation that restored abortion to the Criminal Code with the stipulation that doctors could only perform the procedure when the woman’s health was in danger. (The Senate defeated that bill in January, 1991.) She introduced laws to increase penalties for young offenders, reduce the appeal process for extradition and curtail the presentation of a rape victim’s sexual history. Her final major initiative as justice minister was typical of her approach. She introduced legislation that prohibited discrimination against homosexuals—but which also outlawed same-sex marriage. (That bill is unlikely to pass before the next election.) “I don’t think you can take away from me,” Campbell insists, “that I have made some very strong initiatives.” In fact, some critics argue that Campbell’s legislative record was driven more by the need to respond to court decisions than by personal conviction.
It was in Justice that Campbell first espoused the only theme of her leadership campaign: inclusion. At the London School of Economics, she had absorbed an abiding respect for the principles of law and the rights of the individual. But in Ottawa, she argued that the law was not a neutral system; it was bi-
ased in favor of white men. “There is no question that sexism, racism and other forms of discrimination are clearly systemic problems in the justice system,” she told a Vancouver symposium on women and the law in 1991.
As the minister’s public stature grew, her behind-the-scenes political role also expanded, with mixed results. The move to the Justice portfolio brought membership in eight powerful cabinet committees. Campbell diligently attended most meetings, armed with pointed questions and firm views on many subjects
that were not within her portfolio. One of her allies, former communications minister Marcel Masse, says that she ardently defended his cultural programs against cost-cutting colleagues. “It was obvious that she had read her briefs, she had notes and she knew what we were talking about,” says the Quebec nationalist.“We had good discussions from film to archeology, from research in the cultural sector to book publishing.” But Campbell’s willingness to take issue with her fellow ministers aroused resentment. Constitutional Affairs Minister Joe Clark, for one, complained privately during last summer’s constitutional negotiations that Campbell was interfering with constant advice on the talks.
Campbell also aroused indignation among Conservatives in her role as political minister for British Columbia. As the chief overseer of her province’s interests and her party’s fortunes, she promoted the costliest scientific project in Canadian history, the proposed KAON physics laboratory at the University of British Columbia for the advanced study of subatomic particles. At Campbell’s urging,
Ottawa offered to contribute $236 million towards the $l-billion construction tab in September, 1991, and then offered to fund a third of the annual operating tab, estimated at $100 million. When the B.C. government demanded even more money, Ottawa secretly decided to withdraw from the project. The federal cabinet agreed that it would announce an investigation into the extent of international support and funding for the scheme. It would then use that lack of international support as an excuse to delay—forever—the
commitment of funds. That agreement has never been publicized.
As a member of cabinet, Campbell was bound to accept the decision. But even after the June, 1992, meeting, she continued to promote herself publicly as an avid KAON backer who was fighting to deliver the federal goods to her region. An embittered science department bureaucrat complained to Maclean’s that Campbell works for herself, not for the government: “That experience told me that she was a pragmatic opportunist.”
Nevertheless, Campbell impressed the only power broker who really mattered, Mulroney. Last January, he selected her as Canada’s first female defence minister. That cabinet shift sent a clear signal that
Mulroney recognized her talents—and wanted her to join the ranks of possible successors. Seven weeks later, the Prime Minister announced his resignation.
The founder of the European Community, French statesman Jean Monnet, often quoted an adage, “There are two kinds of people in politics: those who want to be somebody, and those who want to do something." So far, there is little indication that Campbell has an agenda that she would pursue if she became Prime Minister. She has little economic training or experience. She has talked about how she would include the public in the decision-making process but she has unveiled few concrete policies to unite and invigorate Canada’s conflicting regions and special-interest groups. Her record in the Justice portfolio provides some evidence that she can forge agreement on substantive action. But her instinctive flair for self-promotion, her desire to be somebody, often takes precedence over the interests of her team and the need to do something. Campbell has shown that she has the makings of a political star. She must now convince Canadians that there is substance beneath that style. The lifelong learner must prove that there is something that she longs to do.